Meet the Staff
Michelle Gonzalez, Executive Director
Michelle's background is in youth development, mental health, and technology. Prior to joining Pacific Center, Michelle most recently worked at Joyable, a mental health and technology company, and Our Space, a program of Side by Side. She's passionate about making mental health services accessible and inclusive, and is thrilled to work with the amazing team at Pacific Center. Outside of work, she can be found working on a new project in the ceramics studio, swimming, or kayaking.
Taunya Black, Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
For Taunya, mental health is a social justice, equity and inclusion issue. Taunya has over 15 years experience in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion landscape, conceptualizing and facilitating initiatives for educational programs, foundations and non-profit organizations. She has developed content and curriculum, and acted as a think partner for various presentations, keynote speeches, graduate level courses and workshops. Taunya is also the co-founder of The Mosaic Collaborative, LLC., a company devoted to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion work. Prior to DEI work, Taunya served as a Program Director and Executive Director in educational spaces, creating and managing unique academic and arts programming for children and families from under-resourced communities. Taunya hails from Brooklyn, NY. She holds BA degrees in Urban Studies, Dance and Creative Writing, and an MA degree in Counseling Psychology. She also sits on the board of Acta Non Verba, a non-profit dedicated to urban farming and food justice. When she is not at work, Taunya acts as her 12 year old daughter’s personal chauffeur and activities coordinator.
Jared Fields, Deputy Director of Development
Jared is Bay Area transplant and has lived in Oakland since 2011. He came to Oakland to serve as an Americorps with Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley. He then spent several years working with at risk youth in West Oakland. He has a passion for working with youth and is glad he can now be serving the thriving LGBTQ community of the Bay.
Anne Mitchell, Peer & Older Adult Program Manager
Anne was born and raised in Berkeley, starting her relationship with Pacific Center in the late 70’s when she dropped into the “Under 21 Lesbian Rap Group.” Over the years, she earned a BA in English at Smith College and an MSW from University of Kansas and worked with a wide range of populations. She felt like an undercover operative during a long stint working in rural community mental health centers while living on a Kansas cattle ranch. Anne is proud of being featured in the University of Kansas book, No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas, by C.J. Janovy. She landed back in Berkeley in 2012 and has been at Pacific Center in various capacities since, appreciating the daily opportunity to help create and support safe spaces for our community members. Outside of work, she is all about good food, and time outside with her sweetheart, family, friends and dogs.
eddie gesso, Operations Manager
eddie has lived in Oakland since 2003 and joined the staff of Pacific Center in 2008 after completing his BFA at California College of the Arts. eddie’s community involvement includes volunteerism for Lambert House, the Seattle LGBT Community Center, the Queer Cultural Center, National Queer Arts Festival, and Fresh Meat in the Gallery. When not at work eddie enjoys listening to music and painting, making his own creations in the kitchen, hanging out with his kitty cat, endless hours of video games, and going out to listen to his favorite bands live.
Jeannette Biffle, Business and Finance Manager
Jeannette joined the Pacific Center in 2018 after two decades in the corporate sector. She received her MBA from San Francisco State University in 2012. She is a passionate mental health advocate and is proud and delighted to be serving the LGBTQ+ community. When not at work, she can be found performing modern dance, designing and sewing clothing, and occasionally working on large-scale art projects.
Dr. Erin Harrell, PsyD, Clinical Training and Services Coordinator
Erin Harrell, PsyD is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice in the East Bay, who received her Doctorate in Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. As the Clinical Training and Services Coordinator at the Pacific Center in Berkeley, she manages the clinical training program, providing clinical supervision for masters and doctoral level students, as well as managing a team of over 15 supervisors. Dr. Harrell has extensive experience as a training administrator and supervisor, having been a staff supervisor at the Psychological Services Center in Oakland for several years, as well as having served as the Clinical Program Training Director at the Rainbow Community Center in Concord. She has a practice in Oakland where she primarily works with adults and couples, specializing in offering psychotherapy services for LGBTQ+ identified individuals. Dr. Harrell’s passion for clinical work and supervision is informed by relational, attachment, and object relations frameworks. Dr. Harrell also has a background in critical gender studies. On her free time, she enjoys the great outdoors and having adventures in new places.
Vanessa Aczon, Older Adults Program Coordinator
Born and raised in the lovely and ever-changing Bay Area, Vanessa has worked in various settings, from hospitality, direct patient care, and trauma advocacy. Her path had led her to earning a BS in Health Sciences, minor in Biology, and a Master of Public Health. After her graduate program, she searched for an organization that combined her interests in population health, mental health, and the LGBTQ+ community. Luckily for her, she joined the Pacific Center in August 2019, where she happily works with amazing colleagues that share a similar vision in inclusivity, diversity, and equity. Outside of work, Vanessa loves to dabble in drawing, dancing, and spending time with her loved ones, and best canine buddy.
Katie Tims, Clinicial Administrative Assistant
Katie is a Berkeley native who connected with Pacific Center for her Women & Gender Studies’ internship senior year of college and has stayed on since. From the SFSU Queer Alliance secretary to the Queer Yo Mind! conference committee, she fortunately landed work with the LGBTQ+ community in a place that feels like home. She has worn many hats, having been involved in volunteer management, outreach, Peer Groups, Covered California education and Clinic Administration in her time here. She has a passion for cats, the spiritual and occult, open-world RPG video games, J-Pop and K-Pop.
Evan Loofbourrow, Quality Assurance Coordinator
Evan Loofbourrow is in his second year of clinical work at Pacific Center working toward a registered Marriage and Family Therapy license, having come by way of Santa Clara University with a Master’s in Counseling Psychology. Evan balances his client work with his role as Quality Assurance Coordinator, having joined the staff in April of 2019, making sure his and other’s record-keeping is up to par. Evan likes efficiency and is delighted to be able to not only provide guidance to other clinicians but also help improve the overall processes of the clinical training program, clinical charting, and equity among staff and clinicians. In his free time, Evan enjoys escaping to nature for some time off from the city life.
Vanessa Serratos, Volunteer Program Assistant
On a search for volunteer opportunities, Vanessa came across Pacific Center and started off as a volunteer as of October 2018. As months went on she observed the position as the front desk volunteer every 4th Friday of the month and enjoyed it! When the opportunity to become the program assistant opened up- Vanessa was offered and accepted the position almost immediately. Vanessa has enjoyed serving as a proud LGBTQ+ ally and will always continue to do so. Vanessa is currently attending CSU East Bay to obtain her BA degree in Psychology in hopes of making her way up to become a MFT or LCSW. On Vanessa’s free time she enjoys attending concerts, watching anime, and most of all making memories with family and friends.
Meet The Board
Vera Hannush, President
Vera is the Grants Officer at Taube Philanthropies, a hip-hop dance instructor at the Downtown Berkeley YMCA, member of SWANABAQ (South West Asian North African Bay Area Queers), and a volunteer at the YEAH! homeless youth shelter. She is the chair of the board’s Community Committee and a peer group facilitator for FOCMEQWT (feminine-of-center Middle Eastern Queer Womyn and Trans) peer group at Pacific Center.
Donna Woll, Vice President
Donna is currently employed by Alameda County as a child welfare supervisor. She works primarily in the courtroom and acts as a liaison between the Courts and the Social Services Agency. She has worked in the mental health field for over 25 years. Donna served as a therapy intern at the Pacific Center in 1996. Donna has served on two previous boards. The first was for a domestic violence shelter and the second was for a philanthropic organization in Santa Barbara who presents humanitarian awards to outstanding GLBTQ members in the community and offering scholarships to LGBTQ youth. Currently is also the secretary on the board for the East Bay Frontrunners.
George Zamora, Secretary
George is currently a Policy and Program Analyst in Student Affairs at the University of California Office of the President where he provides policy development and decision support on key issues that impact diverse communities throughout the UC system, including LGBT students, faculty, and staff. In that role, George has helped facilitate the implementation of gender-inclusive facilities on every campus, as well as the integration of questions about sexual orientation and gender identity into the admission application. Prior to joining the University, George served as Program Manager at The California Endowment, where he funded projects aimed at improving health equity and access for LGBT, low-income, and communities of color. He also contributed to the creation of a philanthropic affinity group named Queer Leaders in Philanthropy. George earned his BA in Sociology from UC Berkeley and MA in Public Administration from New York University.
Bensen Hayden, Treasurer
Bensen is Vice President and 30-year employee of CH2M, a Fortune 500 global engineering company that provides consulting, design and construction services for corporations and federal, state and local governments. Bensen holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Geotechnical Engineering from Purdue University. Bensen brings an analytical mind and business acumen to the Pacific Center Board of Directors as well as a sincere passion for the advancement of the LGBTQ community.
Uma currently serves as VP, Enterprise Risk Management at Charles Schwab. Prior to that, she held positions in Internal Audit, Regulatory Compliance and Marketing functions within the financial services industry for over 20 years – working in both permanent positions and consulting roles at various institutions including MUFG, Charles Schwab, Morgan Stanley, Bank of the West, Wells Fargo, First Republic Bank, Kaiser Permanente, Protiviti and FICO. She was born and raised in India and moved to the US to earn a Master of Business Administration degree at Virginia Tech. She currently lives in Berkeley with her husband.
Born and raised in Oakland, Brendalynn’s social justice and activist roots are anchored in the East Bay. Brendalynn is an accomplished administrator and social worker with more than 30 years in the fields of mental health, aging, and workforce development. Brendalynn received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Master’s Degree in Social Work from two Bay Area Institutions. She has expertise in the areas of planning, community organization, program administration, and personnel management. Brendalynn has been in a committed and loving relationship with Nancy Hinds for 26½ years. Brendalynn and Nancy was one of the first diverse LGBTQ couples legally married by Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and U.S. Senate Representative Barbara Lee on June 16, 2008. Although retired from the City of Oakland, as the Aging & Adult Services Division Manager, Brendalynn is exploring all options where she can utilize her skills and assets to continue to make a difference in her community.
John Earl Dio
Derek is currently the Director of Program Management for a tech communications company in San Francisco. He has over 20 years of branding and strategic planning experience in the bay area and has held positions with Peet's Coffee, Kimpton Hotels and several global marketing and research firms. Derek has been volunteering for various non-profits for several years, including two years at the Pacific Center. When he's not working or volunteering, he is either navigating the globe or exploring the latest trends in health and fitness. He is originally from a small town in Northern Minnesota and currently lives in Oakland.