Marta Álvarez President

Marta Alvarez, an East Palo Alto resident, immigrated to California from Guatemala as an adult. As the single mother of a child in the Oakland school district, she worked as a parent organizer from 1994 to 2003, and since has worked as the coordinator of a domestic violence prevention program with Mujeres Unidas y Activas in Oakland and as a project consultant for the Latina Center in Richmond. Ms. Alvarez has extensive experience as a community mental health promoter and organizer. Most recently, she worked as Parent Organizer at Nuestra Casa, a community-based organization dedicated to increasing civic participation and promoting the economic self-sustainability of the Latino immigrant population of East Palo Alto. In addition, she serves on the Board of Directors of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities of Immigrants (NALACC) and as National Secretary of the National Coalition of Guatemalan Organizations (CONGUATE). 


Claire Morgan Secretary

Claire Morgan has worked with immigrants in East Palo Alto for the past three years. She formerly directed the adult education program at Nuestra Casa, a community-based organization dedicated to increasing civic participation and promoting the economic self-sustainability of the Latino immigrant population of East Palo Alto. In addition, she has taught and mentored East Palo Alto youth and volunteered at Start Up EPA, a non-profit organization that trains and supports entrepreneurs who have limited access to resources to help them create prosperity for themselves and their communities. Claire has also interned as a Latin America program officer at International Development Exchange in San Francisco, where she helped support micro-credit enterprise in Latin America. She is a credentialed teacher and received her master’s degree in International Education Administration and Policy Analysis from the Stanford School of Education. Her interests lie in community self-development and education issues in developing countries and immigrant communities. She has worked in Mexico, Honduras, and Tonga and conducted her master’s thesis research on the role of education in Tongan immigration to San Mateo County. Claire currently works as an education researcher at WestEd.


Gabriela Segura Treasurer

Gabriela (Gaby) Segura immigrated to California from Jalisco, Mexico in 1989. She joined Heaven Sent in 1990 and became a member of the Heaven Sent Board of Directors in 1998. Gaby credits her success with learning English and establishing her own independent housekeeping business to the experience she gained as a member of the Heaven Sent cooperative. She now has more clients than she can handle and has been described as “the best housekeeper I have ever had.” Gaby has used the proceeds from her housekeeping work to help finance her daughter’s education at Stanford University. She lives with her husband and three children in East Palo Alto.


Lizzie Brock Strategic Planning and Policy

Lizzie Brock grew up in Menlo Park. Many years ago, as a UC Berkeley student, she worked with a housecleaning cooperative in Oakland called the Fruitvale Latino Employment Cooperative, and met Marta Alvarez, current PILAS President and co-founder. From 1999 to 2002, she worked for an international human rights organization in Colombia, South America. Upon her return, she became the founding staff person and then Director of East Palo Alto grassroots Latino community and adult education organization, Nuestra Casa, from 2003 to 2006. At Nuestra Casa, she met Claire Morgan (co-founder of PILAS) and worked again with Marta Alvarez in developing adult education, ESL and leadership training programs in the Latino immigrant community. She is currently finishing her thesis for a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing and works as an English instructor at Laney College in Oakland. She lives in San Francisco.



Maria Luisa

Maria Luisa joined Heaven Sent in 1999, the year she immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She was a member of Heaven Sent until 2006, when she established an independent housekeeping business and joined the PILAS Advisory Board. Maria Luisa now helps to train new PILAS cooperative members.

Teresa Verdusco

Teresa is the owner of a 14-year old housecleaning business that has served over 100 satisfied clients. At age 15 she emigrated to the U.S. from Michoacan, Mexico, and through an exemplary work ethic, optimism, and good decision-making has achieved great successes. A single mother of two, Maria Teresa supports herself and her twin teenage boys not only by housecleaning but also through her rental properties. She has trained many new housecleaners and currently oversees a team of three assistants that provides cleaning services for some 30 clients. She continues to service the homes of four of her original clients. She has watched the children of these clients enter kindergarten and now head to college. Maria Teresa’s high quality work is her best advertisement.

Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson is a former professional baseball player who currently works as an Associate at Gold Hill Capital, a venture capital firm headquartered in San Jose. Mr. Johnson has a degree in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley. He has lived and worked in Spain and Mexico and is fluent in Spanish. He has taught and mentored East Palo Alto youth for the past two years. Mr. Johnson lends to the cooperative his expertise in finance, technology, and marketing.

Alan Tidwell

Alan is an attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich Rosatti in Palo Alto working in the areas of corporate litigation. Alan has worked on pro bono projects helping non-profit organizations incorporate. Alan is a seasoned community volunteer and has dedicated hundreds of hours working with the Latino immigrant community in East Palo Alto and beyond as a business advisor, English as a Second Language teacher, and youth mentor. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. Alan holds a B.A. in Finance from Brigham Young University and a J.D. from Stanford University.

Ellen M. Tidwell

Ellen has extensive experience working with the Latino immigrant community in East Palo Alto and surrounding areas in a variety of capacities. In 2003 the results of her research on local Mexican immigrant women with vocational degrees were published in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences. Ellen worked during the last three years as a program director at Start Up, a microenterprise organization in East Palo Alto that trains immigrants in small business operation. A former high school Spanish teacher, she has taught classes in English as a Second Language and business management to immigrants in East Palo Alto. Now raising her daughter full-time, Ellen currently serves as a mentor for several local Latino youth and their families helping them achieve excellence through after school tutoring and private piano lessons. She holds a B.A. in Humanities and secondary education from Brigham Young University and an M.A. in International Educational Administration and Policy Analysis from Stanford University.


Lorena Mendez-Quezada

Lorena is an Investment Manager in Wells Fargo's Community Lending and Investment Group where she manages the bank's non-profit equity investment portfolio. Previously at Wells Fargo, she served as a Relationship Manager in the Asset Based Lending group where she managed a portfolio of middle-market commercial loans. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Lorena was a Senior Consultant at Deloitte & Touche and an Auditor at the CIT Group. Lorena has a BA in International Relations and Economics from Stanford University. She provides English and financial literacy workshops for PILAS members and advises the organization on non-profit financial management.