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Advancement

Leta ObertaczAdvancement

Senior Vice President, Advancement

Executive Coordinator to the SVP for Advancement & General Counsel/VP for Advancement: Anna Haddad, 216.615.7588

Leta Obertacz brings almost 20 years of fundraising experience to The Cleveland Foundation, most recently serving as director of advancement for the Cleveland Zoo Society, where she led numerous highly successful fundraising campaigns dedicated to the best quality animal care, education and meaningful guest experiences, including the Daniel Maltz Rhino Reserve; Bear Hollow; and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Auditorium. This year under Leta's leadership, her team launched the Primate Forest campaign, which, when complete, will result in a 140,000-square-foot world-class destination that will transform and significantly expand the zoo’s rainforest.

Prior to her work at the Zoo Society, Leta spent several years as a fundraising and marketing executive at Career Gear, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide the formerly incarcerated, homeless and veterans with the tools and skills they need to successfully achieve reentry and financial independence.

Leta earned a BA in history with honors from Brown University and a MPA, Pi Alpha Alpha, from Baruch College. She is a co-VP of activities and class officer at Brown. She is also a dedicated community volunteer, serving as the co-VP and advancement chair for EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute and the founding board president for Motogo, a nonprofit that teaches students how to solve problems and build confidence through working on motorcycles.

Over the course of her career, Leta has participated in a number of leadership and professional development programs. She completed Cleveland Leadership Center’s Bridge Builders and Civic Leadership Institute programs and recently participated in the Cleveland Foundation’s Foundations for Philanthropy program. Just this spring, she was recognized as one of Cleveland Magazine’s Women of Distinction.

Leta had the unique opportunity to tour the country as a professional performer with a variety of artists and groups, including the NBA for the Nets. In conjunction, she served as a national dance judge and presented on navigating the performer’s life and living in NYC.

Ginger F. Mlakar

Ginger F. MlakarAdvancement

General Counsel & Vice President, Advancement

Executive Coordinator to the SVP for Advancement & General Counsel/VP for Advancement: Anna Haddad, 216.615.7588

216.615.7187 |  

Ginger Mlakar serves as in-house legal counsel and manages the Foundation's legal affairs. Additionally, she oversees the teams that works with current donors, individuals, business owners, and their professional advisors to identify their charitable objectives and implement simple to complex strategies to accomplish their philanthropic goals. At the same time, Ginger connects non-profits to partnership opportunities with the Foundation. She came to the Cleveland Foundation in July 2009 after 16 years practicing law in estate, trust and charitable gift planning and administration. Her previous positions include partner in the personal succession and planning practice group at Thompson Hine LLP and of counsel in the estate planning and probate practice group at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP. She is also a certified public accountant.

Ginger has served on the boards of several area organizations, including the Girl Scouts of Lake Erie Council, the Estate Planning Council of Cleveland, the Bay Village Education Foundation, the Bay Village Foundation, the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, the Cleveland Leadership Center, and as treasurer for the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation, and Bay Soccer Club. She was the president for the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation. She is currently on the board for the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils and is an AEP® Accredited Estate Planner. She has been a member of advisory groups for University Hospitals, the Cleveland Orchestra, and Case Western Reserve University. Additionally, she is an active fellow of the American College of Estate and Trust Council, and an Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Council member for the Ohio State Bar Association. Ginger is a frequent speaker on legal and tax issues surrounding charitable giving.

Ginger has been named among the Best Lawyers in America and the Top 50 Female Ohio Super Lawyers List by Law and Politics magazine. She was a member of the Leadership Cleveland Class of 2014. Ginger has received the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association's Women in Law Making a Difference and President's Awards, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation's Outstanding Leadership Award, the Estate Planning Council of Cleveland’s 2019 Distinguished Estate Planner Award, and the 2022 Women of Professional Excellence from the YWCA of Greater Cleveland. She graduated summa cum laude from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and earned her juris doctorate from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.


Michelle Blackford

Michelle BlackfordAdvancement

Philanthropic Advisor

216.615.7145 |

As a Philanthropic Advisor, Michelle Blackford focuses primarily on fostering and strengthening relationships with individuals, families, organizations and corporations who seek to fulfill their charitable giving goals.

Michelle joined the Advancement Team in September 2009, bringing with her more than 10 years of development experience. Prior to joining the foundation, Michelle served as the assistant director for the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, where she played a significant role in advancing the fundraising efforts of the college. Serving in this role, Michelle was responsible for overseeing homecoming and alumni reunion activities, senior class giving initiatives and the alumni student council.

Michelle has served in many volunteer leadership roles, including: co-chair for the PA 50 Best Women in Leadership Award, committee member of the capital campaign for Harrisburg Church and Centennial Planning Committee for Messiah College. She has also served as a committee member for the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio Dessert First Event and as a volunteer for the North Chagrin Reservation for Cleveland Metroparks. Michelle is currently on the Executive Board of Directors for the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Michelle is a Certified Fund Raising Executive and a certified trainer in Family Philanthropy through 21/64. She earned her Graduate Certificate in Philanthropic Studies from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Eastern University in St. David’s, Pennsylvania. Michelle enjoys living in the Edgecliff Neighborhood in Euclid, Ohio with her husband Randy. 

Brenda Cummins

Brenda CumminsAdvancement

Philanthropic Advisor

216.615.7158 |

Brenda Cummins joined the foundation in 2015 and works with donors and organizations to help them plan and achieve their philanthropic objectives. 

Brenda brings senior level development experience from her previous role as director of Foundation Administration and Community Engagement at Summa Health System. In her role, she advanced Summa’s priorities through philanthropy and connected the greater community to the work of the organization. Prior work includes her position as a development officer at the Akron Civic Theatre, where she was responsible for all aspects of fundraising for the 1920’s atmospheric theatre.

Through her first career path as an Audiologist and her community volunteer work in social services, healthcare and the arts, her strength is connecting people to organizations that make an impact in the lives of our greater community. 

Brenda is a certified trainer in Family Philanthropy through 21/64. She is a Stokes Fellow through the Advanced Leadership Institute of the Cleveland Leadership Center and a graduate of Leadership Akron. She has served on the boards of several area non-profits, including Friends of 91.3 The Summit , Summit ArtSpace, Greenleaf Family Center and the Peninsula Foundation. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Northeast Ohio Planned Giving Council. 

Terri Eason

Terri EasonAdvancement

Senior Director, Advancement Equity Initiatives

216.615.7580 |

Terri Bradford Eason is responsible for developing and overseeing the equity initiatives aligned with the foundation’s strategic priorities, as a member of the Advancement Department. Terri is also focused on developing and executing cultivation and fundraising activities that help individuals establish current and deferred philanthropic funds, legacy gifts and charitable giving strategic plans. Additionally, Terri works closely with internal and external partners to identify, create and provide charitable planning options tailored to achieve specific philanthropic goals.

Terri joined the Foundation in October 2008 after gaining two decades of experience in the financial services industry. She had several positions with National City (now PNC) and supported several functions including wealth management, relationship management, new business development, and both private and corporate banking. As director of nonprofit business services, she was responsible for new business development and relationship management of nonprofit and higher education organizations. Throughout her tenure, Terri was dedicated to quality service for which she received the company’s NCC Excel Award for extraordinary client and community service. She also was the recipient of the YWCA Women of Professional Excellence Award, TLOD Status of Women Award, the NCNW Phenomenal Women of Extraordinary Leadership and Service Award and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc.’s Woman of Vision award.

Terri has served the nonprofit community as a director on several area nonprofit boards, including Recovery Resources, Junior Achievement, the Women’s City Club Foundation and the Legacy Village Lyndhurst Community Fund Committee. In addition, she is the Former President of the Alpha Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated ®, and Former Chairman of the Alpha Omega Foundation, Incorporated and Former At-Large Director of the AKA Educational Advancement Foundation, Inc. Currently, she serves on the Board of Trustees at Notre Dame College (Board Chair), Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center (Past-Board President), Milestone Autism Resources, Inc., and member of the Board of Trustees for Ohio North First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Former Board Chairman).

Terri is a member of the National Black MBA Association, Inc., NAACP, Estate Planning Council, National Association of Charitable Gift Planners, Northern Ohio Charitable Gift Planners Association, Beta Gamma Sigma National Honor Society, Cleveland Chapter of Links, Inc., Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. (Treasurer). She earned her Master of Business Administration degree from Cleveland State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Penn State University.

Kristen Grabenstein

Kristen GrabensteinAdvancement

Philanthropy Officer

216.615.7154 |

Kristen joined the foundation’s Advancement team in 2019.  She provides strategic advisement and support to a portfolio of donors to ensure their philanthropic activities are aligned with their long-term goals.

Kristen brings more than fifteen years’ experience in corporate citizenship, client service and fund development to the foundation. Most recently, she was Community Relations Manager at Forest City Realty Trust, where she served as a vital liaison between the company and the community, overseeing grantmaking, employee volunteering and community engagement initiatives. She played a key role in re-envisioning the company’s community investment strategy and created programs and policies to support employee community involvement.

Kristen graduated magna cum laude from Miami University with a B.S. in business. She holds an M.A. in arts administration from New York University and an M.S. in accounting from the University of Virginia. Kristen is a 21/64 Certified Advisor for multigenerational family philanthropy. She is an alumnus of the Cleveland Bridge Builders and has served on the board of Dobama Theatre, as a College Now mentor and as co-chair of a corporate chapter of the United Way Young Leaders.

Anna HaddadAdvancement

Executive Coordinator to the SVP for Advancement & General Counsel/VP for Advancement

216.615.7588 |

Anna Haddad joined the Cleveland Foundation in November 2022 as Executive Coordinator to the SVP for Advancement and General Counsel/VP for Advancement. In her current role, Anna provides meeting management support to internal and external partners, oversees department operations, and works collaboratively to ensure the team is positioned to carry out the Advancement strategy.

Prior to joining the foundation, Anna served in various roles focused on project and supply chain management for large global for-profit companies. Most recently, she worked as Transportation Systems Manager for Fortune Brands Home Security (Moen). Prior to that, Anna spent ten years at Henkel, Adhesives Division.

Throughout her career, Anna has been committed to community service, a passion that has inspired her to make a career change that allows her to work in the nonprofit sector and dedicate her professional and personal time to the community. She is currently a volunteer at GiGi’s Playhouse Cleveland, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to change the way the world views Down syndrome and to send a global message of acceptance for all. Anna earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Baldwin Wallace College in 2002 (now Baldwin Wallace University).

Katherine HallAdvancement

Associate, Legal Affairs

216.340.7619 |

Katherine Hall joined the Cleveland Foundation in September 2022. In her role as Legal Affairs Associate, she provides legal support to the Advancement team. Prior to joining the foundation, Katherine held diverse roles that leveraged her background in law and journalism, including working as a corporate and employment law attorney in Chicago and serving as communications manager at one of Cleveland’s largest law firms. Katherine has volunteered with several organizations, including The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, and iMentor, a group that matches high school students with committed college-educated mentors to guide them on their journey to college graduation. She is a member of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and is admitted to practice law in Ohio and Illinois. She graduated with highest distinction from Indiana University Bloomington with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and earned her J.D. from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where she served as Executive Editor of the Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality.

Katherine M. LePar

Katherine M. LeParAdvancement

Manager, Legal Affairs

216.615.7161 |

Kathy LePar is part of the Advancement team of the Cleveland Foundation and is responsible for processing new gifts, supporting the setup of new funds, preparing fund agreements and charitable gift documents, and serving as a liaison with the Finance team and other cross-disciplinary teams.

Kathy has  more than 30 years of experience in the legal profession with specific expertise in the areas of estate planning, probate administrations, and asset liquidation. Before joining the foundation in September 2012, Kathy spent 13 years as a paralegal with the firm of Behm & Henry, LLC. Prior to that, Kathy spent nine years as a legal assistant/paralegal with Bowlus & Bowlus, Ltd. During her employment with Bowlus & Bowlus, Kathy also provided paralegal support for a number of years to Sara J. Sherick, Esq., and Roger W. Hafford, Esq., in the area of probate administrations. 

Kathy is currently working toward obtaining her certified paralegal designation from the National Association of Legal Assistants. 

Danielle MihalceaAdvancement

Research Associate

216.615.7174 |

Danielle Mihalcea joined the Cleveland Foundation in May 2022 as a Research Associate. In her role, Danielle serves as the main research resource for the Advancement team and across various departments to ensure relationships with donors and cultivate potential prospects. Prior to joining the foundation, Danielle worked as a background investigator at Scherzer International where she gained research skills investigating individual’s criminal and financial history, both nationally and internationally. Danielle holds both a Master of Arts in Global Interactions and Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Political Science from Cleveland State University.

Samantha MontañezAdvancement

Development & Gift Planning Coordinator

216.615.7138 |

Samantha (Sam) Montañez is the Development & Gift Planning Coordinator. In her position, Sam plays an important role in supporting and coordinating the work of the development, gift planning and legal staff on the Advancement team. Prior to her current role at the foundation, Sam served as the Public Service Fellow for Strategic Planning through the foundation’s Public Service Fellow Program. Within this role, she was charged with leading the research into community and national private foundation board and staff grant approval levels and processes, lead the development and creation of Cleveland Foundation departmental scorecards used to track progress against key strategic goals, and conducted research related to BIPOC-led grantmaking in the Environment grantmaking portfolio.

Sam studied at Capital University where she tripled majored and received a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology, Sociology, & Psychology in May of 2020. Currently, Sam is studying for an M.A. in Law, Justice & Culture at Ohio University and will graduate in May 2023.  

Sam is also a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.®, a founding board member and volunteer coach for Cleveland Lady Raiders Fastpitch Softball and is a member of the Leaders of Tomorrow Workgroup under the Cleveland Police Commission.

Paul G. Putman

Paul G. PutmanAdvancement

Director, Philanthropic Services

216.615.7583 |

Dr. Paul Putman is responsible for fostering and strengthening relationships with individuals, families and nonprofit organizations that seek to turn their passion into purpose through philanthropy. He has a special focus on improving the foundation’s online interface with donors and improving processes using technology. Before transitioning to his current role on the Advancement team, Paul was a member of the foundation's Program team. 

Paul joined the foundation in October 2008 as a Program Officer on the Community Responsive Grantmaking team where he facilitated grantmaking across multiple sectors by focusing on efforts to strengthen nonprofit organizations and improve access to services for underserved populations. In this capacity, he also coordinated the Fenn Educational Fund and oversaw special projects. Most recently he provided leadership in the review of arts education in the Cleveland schools and supported the Cleveland Foundation summer internship program. Prior to joining the foundation, Paul was the manager of the Center for Leadership and Service at Cleveland State University, where he coordinated leadership development and service-learning experiences.

Paul holds a doctorate in urban education from CSU with a focus on leadership and lifelong learning. He earned his master's in psychology, with a specialization in diversity management from CSU and his master's in education, guidance, and counseling from Eastern Illinois University. Paul earned his bachelor's in English from Kent State University. Paul has published in multiple scholarly journals and authored several book chapters. His most recent work explores the development of strategic leadership competencies. 

Paul remains active in the community. He has continued teaching since earning his doctorate – five years teaching in the Diversity Management master’s program at CSU and more recently, several years teaching undergraduate classes at Baldwin Wallace University in leadership in philanthropy and grant proposal writing. He is a mentor with College Now Greater Cleveland and currently serves on the board of the Cleveland Public Library Foundation.

Brittany Schultz

Brittany SchultzAdvancement

Philanthropic Associate

216.685.2004 |

As Philanthropic Associate, Brittany Schultz provides support to the Philanthropic Services Team through donor stewardship and responsive services. Prior to joining the Cleveland Foundation, Brittany worked at JumpStart Inc. as a Traffic and Events Specialist where she managed marketing projects as well as event planning initiatives including their annual meeting, Startup Scaleup.

Brittany was the Assistant Director, Cleveland Project with Horizon Education Centers where she developed and managed five after-school programs and site coordinators of programs. She directly oversaw the Scranton School after school program and worked on grant proposals for the organization. Brittany has been actively involved with the Cleveland International Film Festival since 2012 and works as an Operations Assistant Manager during the festival. She was on the Shorts Selections Committee from 2013-2016.

Brittany holds a Master of Arts from Carnegie Mellon University in Literary and Cultural Studies and received her Bachelor of Arts from The Ohio State University in English with a concentration on Film Studies and Professional Writing. In addition to her work in the nonprofit sector, Brittany is actively involved in the community, volunteering her time and talent to support initiatives around Cleveland.

 

Melissa Waddell

Melissa WaddellAdvancement

Philanthropic Coordinator

216.615.7193 |

Melissa Waddell joined the Cleveland Foundation in May 2019 as a Philanthropic Coordinator. In this role, she provides administrative support to several Philanthropic Advisors, helping donors meet their philanthropic goals. A Pittsburgh native, Melissa moved to the Cleveland area to attend Baldwin Wallace University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Arts Management and Entrepreneurship with minors in theatre and accounting.

Melissa has extensive experience working and interning with nonprofit organizations in both Pittsburgh and Cleveland, including Little Lake Theatre and Tickets for Kids Charities in Pittsburgh and Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio. Prior to joining the Cleveland Foundation, Melissa worked under the Director of Academic Grants at Baldwin Wallace University, where she engaged with a variety of public and private foundations, conducted prospect research, and crafted compelling proposals in support of various academic programs.

Jason Weiner

Jason WeinerAdvancement

Philanthropic Advisor

216.615.7590 |

Jason Weiner joined the foundation’s Advancement Team in October 2017 where he works to foster and strengthen relationships with individuals, families and organizations seeking to impact the causes and issues they care most about through philanthropy. Jason was introduced to a career in the nonprofit sector as one of the first Cleveland Foundation Summer Interns in 2001.

Jason brings more than eleven years of senior level fundraising experience in arts and human services organizations to the foundation. In his most recent position as Director of Development for Beck Center for the Arts, he was responsible for developing and implementing the fundraising strategy for the organization as well as building and maintaining individual and institutional relationships.

He currently serves as a board member with Ohio Citizens for the Arts and a member of the Cleveland Foundation’s Summer Internship Program Advisory Council. He earned a bachelor of arts in sociology and a master of arts in sociology both from Cleveland State University.

Alicia Wray

Alicia WrayAdvancement

Development Officer

216.685.2013 |

Alicia Wray joined the Cleveland Foundation’s Advancement Team in November 2016. She is responsible for building and cultivating new donor relationships and attracting new audiences to the foundation. In addition, Alicia oversees the success of cultivation and stewardship events for donors, prospects, and professional advisors of the foundation.

Alicia brings 15 years of experience of work in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Prior to joining the foundation she served as Conference and Event Management Coordinator at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, where she was responsible for planning programs for groups of internal and external stakeholders. Prior to her role at the Federal Reserve, Alicia was the Event and Donor Relations Coordinator at YWCA Greater Cleveland.

Alicia earned a Bachelor of Arts in public relations from Baldwin Wallace University. She has completed additional training through the Disney Institute as well as Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management.