Foundation Staff

Karen Bilowith, President & CEO

Karen Bilowith joined The Erie Community Foundation in October 2021. She leads the Foundation’s efforts to inspire, engage and empower donors and communities across the region by working closely with a committed board of trustees and staff.

Karen currently serves on the Erie Action Team and Board of Managers for Infinite Erie and the Board of Directors for both the Nonprofit Partnership and PACFA (Pennsylvania Community Foundation Association). She is also the Team Lead of the Erie Supportive Housing Project, which addresses the increasingly complex needs around homelessness. Karen is a member of the Hamot Health Foundation Board of Corporators and the Erie Women's Fund of The Erie Community Foundation.

Karen has spent her career working in community philanthropy, where generosity is transformed into sustained community impact. She is the past President and CEO of the Idaho Community Foundation, a statewide public charitable foundation with more than $218 million in assets and 640 individual funds providing grants in every county in Idaho. Prior to joining the Idaho Community Foundation in 2016, she held the position of President and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region in Albany, New York. She also held an executive position with United Way of the Greater Capital Region also in upstate New York.

During her time in Idaho, Karen served on the boards of Philanthropy Northwest, the Idaho Nonprofit Center, Bogus Basin Recreational Association, and the International Women’s Forum Idaho Chapter. Formerly, she was appointed to New York Governor Cuomo’s Capital Region Economic Development Council and the Saratoga-Capital District Park, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commission. She was a founding board member of the Women’s Fund of the Capital Region and a member of the Forum for Executive Women. In 2020 she was recognized as a CEO of Influence award by the Idaho Business Review and in June 2013 received the Key4Women Achieve Award.

Karen holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Boston College and is a current board member of Pennsylvania Association of Community Foundations.

Contact for:

  • Institutional and Grant Making Partnerships
  • Strategic Issues
  • Community Relations
  • 814.413.7346
  • Email Karen Bilowith

Lisa A. Bolte, Senior Accountant

Lisa Bolte, Senior Accountant, joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2017. She is responsible for processing gifts made to the Foundation, which averages about $20M on an annual basis. She works closely with the CFO and Controller to prepare the year-end tax schedules, annual audit schedules, monthly financial statements, investment reconciliations, and other financial reports as needed.

Lisa earned an Associate of Arts, Legal Studies degree, and a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from Gannon University. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was a Paralegal at a local law office, where she prepared individual, federal, state, and local income tax returns. She also assisted in estate administration, accounting, and taxation. Lisa gained valuable work experience at BKD, LLP as a Senior Tax Associate. She focused on federal and state nonprofit taxation, estate and trust taxation, and individual federal, state, and local taxation.

Born in Dunkirk, New York, Lisa moved to Erie in 2002. She enjoys traveling and spending time with family.

Contact for:

Olivia Burgess, Philanthropic Services Officer

Olivia Burgess joined The Erie Community Foundation as Executive Coordinator in 2022, and in 2023 was promoted to Philanthropic Services Officer. She works with three of The Foundation’s affinity funds including the Erie Women's Fund, the Young Erie Philanthropists and the LGBT Funds. Olivia supports all aspects of their work, including their grantmaking and development.

Olivia was the valedictorian of her class at Allegheny College in 2021, where she graduated with a BA in English Literature and a minor in Journalism in the Public Interest. She is a proud Union City native who now resides in Erie with her husband.

Contact for:

  • Affinity Funds Strategy and Administration
  • Donor Engagement, Stewardship and Cultivation
  • Erie Women’s Fund, The LGBT Funds of The Erie Community Foundation, and Young Erie Philanthropists
  • 814.413.7358
  • Email Olivia Burgess

Rachel Cacchione, Director of Community Impact

Rachel Cacchione joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2014. In 2021, she was promoted to Director of Community Impact where she works with the Community Impact Team to manage our competitive grant programs. Rachel launched the Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Initiative called HEY!--Hear Erie's Youth. She is the administrator for the Foundation’s online grant management system, oversees the urgent grant program, and is responsible for scheduling pre-application meetings.

Rachel earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Media Studies from Pennsylvania State Erie, The Behrend College. Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked as an Administrative Assistant for the Muscular Dystrophy Association where she was responsible for administrative duties, fundraising and healthcare services.

Rachel is an avid sports fan who was born and raised in Erie, PA, and spends many summer evenings with her family on the beaches of Presque Isle or enjoying the many cultural festivals that highlight the history and diversity of our community.

Contact for:

  • Helping Today grant Program
  • H.E.Y.! Hear Erie's Youth
  • Urgent grant requests
  • 814.413.7354
  • Email Rachel Cacchione

Erin D. Fessler, Vice President of Marketing & Community/Government Relations

Erin Doolin Fessler joined The Erie Community Foundation as the Marketing and Public Relations Director in 2004. In 2012, she was named Vice President of Marketing and Communications, and in 2016 she was named Vice President of Marketing and Community/Government Relations.

She is responsible for two major Foundation signature events: the ECF Annual Meeting and the Annual Erie Gives. Erie Gives was recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals as an outstanding philanthropic event. Erin serves as the liaison for the Foundation’s government relations. With her team, she manages the Foundation’s advertising, media relations, press conferences, newsletters, annual reports, electronic communications and website.

Erin earned her B.S. degree in Communications with a minor in Psychology from John Carroll University. After graduation, she worked as the Promotions Assistant at WSEE TV 35, the Public Relations Director for the Community Blood Bank, and Assistant Vice President in Corporate Communications for PNC Bank. During college, she worked for University Hospitals in Cleveland and CNN in Washington, D.C., where she ran camera for Larry King.

In service to her community, she serves as a board member of the YMCA Metro Board, the Hamot Health Foundation Board of Corporators and as a member of the Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership’s Government Relations Committee, Erie's Global Friends-a chapter of the AAUW, the Erie Women’s Fund of The Erie Community Foundation, and the John Carroll Alumni Association.

Erin is a founding board member of the NWPA chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She served as treasurer in 2012 and 2013, and in 2014 she was the chapter President. She is a past board member and secretary of the Erie Advertising Club, past marketing committee member for Camp Notre Dame, and former golf coach for Saint Peter Cathedral Grade School.

In 2024, she was honored as a Woman Making History by Mercy Center for Women. In 2021, she was honored and named “Community Relations Person of the Year” during the Niagara Awards of the PRSA NWPA Chapter.

In her spare time, Erin enjoys time with family and friends either at the beach, cycling around the Peninsula, playing golf, traveling to new places or simply meeting up for a fun night.

Contact for:

Ric Giles, Director of Philanthropic Services

Ric Giles joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2023 as Director of Philanthropic Services. He is responsible for developing and stewarding donors in all aspects of their philanthropy and integrating best practices into the work of the Philanthropic Services team.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Ric had built a strong and diversified career. He worked as Director of Development & Corporate Relations at Mercyhurst University. He was a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative and a team member of the UCB Pharma Professional Sales reaching $1 billion in sales for five consecutive years. Ric was also an Admissions Representative and College Recruiter for Penn State-Erie, The Behrend College; and a Drug and Alcohol Case Manager for GECAC.

Ric earned his bachelor’s degree from Clarion University, where he was a four-year starter on the football team and a member of the 1992 PSAC Divisional Football Championship Team. He was also Captain of the Clarion University Track & Field team.

In service to his community, Ric serves on the board for Greater Erie Economic Development Corporation and was named Vice Chair in 2024. He is also a member of the Erie Rotary Club. He is a past Executive Board Member for the Visiting Nurses Association and former Varsity Defensive Back Coach for Cathedral Prep.

Ric has received many prestigious awards and honors including earning the nomination for the 2002 YMCA Black Achiever in Erie, PA. An avid Ford Mustang enthusiast and owner, Ric is a lifelong resident of Erie and has a deep commitment to improving the Erie Community.

Contact for:

  • Donor Engagement and Stewardship
  • Opportunities for Giving
  • Regional Affiliate Foundation Assistance
  • 814.413.7341
  • Email Ric Giles

Suzanne Hauber, Chief Financial Officer

Suzanne Hauber joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2024. She is responsible for the finance, accounting, treasury management and human resources of the Foundation.

A graduate of West Viriginia University with a degree in Accounting, Sue earned her Master's degree in Business Administration from Gannon University.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Sue worked for six years at Saint Mary's Home where she was promoted from Senior Accountant to Controller to CFO within three years. She was responsible for the Treasury Management including restricted and unrestricted donated funds, and the coordination of the annual financial audit and the 990 filing. She worked closely with investment consultants to manage the nonprofit's endowment portfolio and the multi-million-dollar budget.

Sue also has accounting experience as a senior tax accountant for a CPA firm, assistant controller for a freight and logistics company and a staff accountant for a hospital. Sue also worked as an internal auditor and a financial analyst.

Contact for:

Patrick Herr, M.S.W., Vice President of Community Impact

Patrick Herr joined The Erie Community Foundation in August of 2014. In his current role as the Foundation's Vice President of Community Impact and Leadership, Pat supervises the Community Impact team and administers all of the Foundation's competitive grantmaking programs. Pat plays a critical role in building strategic partnerships, developing and implementing the Foundation's grantmaking strategy and fostering community leadership to drive meaningful change in the Erie community and the region.

Before joining the Erie Community Foundation, Pat spent over 20 years in the management and administration of nonprofits in Erie. He served as the Vice President of Mental Health at Case Management Support Services, a community-based human service provider and as the Associate Director of Community Shelter Services, and emergency services and supportive housing provider.

Pat earned master’s degree in social work from Edinboro University in 2005 and is a graduate of Washington and Jefferson College (’87). He lives in Erie with his family, enjoys the outdoors and sailing and living and working in the Erie community.

Contact for:

  • Helping Today and Shaping Tomorrow Grant Program
  • Foundation's Grantmaking Priorities
  • Urgent Grant Program
  • 814.413.7353
  • Email Patrick Herr, M.S.W.

Amanda Heubel, Operations Coordinator

Amanda Heubel joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2024 as our Operations Coordinator. In this position, she is responsible for office management and planning, assisting in scholarship processing, and general support for Erie Gives.

Born in Erie, PA, Amanda is a graduate of Villa Maria Academy, where she was a member of the Cathedral Prep Band playing trombone. After graduation she moved to Georgia. Once she started a family, she decided to move back to Erie, the place she truly calls home.

Amanda has worked in a variety of career fields including a veterinarian office, a human resources position in health care, and a position at Wabtec in the admin office. All her previous positions have a common theme of serving her community. Working at The Erie Community Foundation is the culmination of her passion to make an even greater contribution to the city she loves.

In her spare time, Amanda likes spending with her family. Most summers are spent enjoying the nice weather, with winters being spent huddled under a warm cover watching a movie or TV show. An avid photographer, Amanda also enjoys exploring nature and taking photos at local places. In addition to her two children, Amanda considers her many animals as part of the family.

Contact for:

Josh Jaeger, Database Administrator

Josh joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2023 as Database Administrator. In this newly created position, Josh is responsible for the ongoing development and functionality of The Erie Community Foundation’s relational database system and its integration with all aspects of the Foundation's work. This includes technical support for internal and external end users, ensuring data accuracy through process and implementation and serving as the key point of contact with the Foundation's relational database vendor.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Josh worked as Director of Veteran Services, Seasonal Emergency Shelter and Hotel Voucher at Erie United Methodist Alliance. He has an extensive career within both the nonprofit and for-profit sector in the field of database administration and systems optimization.

Josh earned a bachelor’s degree in Theoretical Mathematics from Edinboro University and is pursuing an MBA from Penn State University. In service to his community, he has served as Chairman, Data Collection and Use Committee for Erie County Home Team Homeless and Housing Coalition (ECHTHHC); Project Manager and Database System Administrator for ServErie and a member of Erie Coalition for a Trauma Informed Community, in both the Research and Data Work Group and the Community Resources Work Group. Josh currently serves on the board for the Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA.

Contact for:

  • Internal technical support for all ECF staff
  • Quality Control for all ECF data systems
  • Technical support for GOapply application system
  • Technical support for GOfund (Donor/Fundholder Portal)
  • 814.413.7348
  • Email Josh Jaeger

Amanda Lincoln, Controller and Benefits Manager

Amanda Lincoln joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2008 as Director of Accounting. She was promoted to Controller in 2014. Amanda is responsible for managing the day-to-day finance and accounting operations of the Foundation. She works with the CFO to prepare the annual audit, monthly financial statements, and other financial reports as needed.

Amanda earned her Bachelor of Science in Accountancy and International Business with a minor in Spanish from Villanova University in Villanova, PA. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was a senior tax consultant with Deloitte Tax LLP in Pittsburgh, where she was a member of the Research & Development Tax Services Group, providing service to various Fortune 500 clientele across diverse industries.

Contact for:

Marissa Litzenberg, Philanthropic Services Associate

Marissa Litzenberg joined The Erie Community Foundation's Philanthropic Services Team in 2024.

She graduated from Penn State University, the Behrend College, in 2021 with dual degrees in Political Science and History with Schreyer Honors. Upon graduation, she completed a year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA at Our West Bayfront.

Following her year of service, Marissa became the Project Manager at Our West Bayfront where she worked in grassroots community organizing around housing, public space development, neighborhood safety, and neighborhood strength. She was recognized for this work in 2023 as an Erie Reader’s ’40 Under 40’.

Marissa is proud to be from Volant, PA and continues to live in and be involved with the lower west of the City of Erie.

Contact for:

Natalie Miller, Accounting Assistant

Natalie Miller joined The Erie Community Foundation in a newly created position as an Accounting Assistant within our Finance Department in March of 2024. She works closely with the Controller, Senior Accountant and CFO to support accounts payable, gifts processing, monthly bank and investment statement reconciliations, as well as any areas relating to financial record maintenance and report preparations.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Natalie worked as a Data Specialist and Clerical Support for The Department of Special Education. She believes that accurate data capture will result in every decision and service being rooted in quality information. Natalie gained experience in the field of accounting during her 20-year-career with Pastore Brothers Builders. After an acquisition, in her latest role with Riedman Properties, she managed a multifamily portfolio consisting of seven apartment communities and a self-storage business. She reflects often on the kindness shown and the skills she acquired during her time with Pastore Brothers. Natalie’s life work has been in positions of service and support. She hopes to continue that good work by being part of the ECF Team.

Natalie resides in the Edinboro Community and loves spending time with her family and pets and enjoys being in nature. She adores animals and enjoys making braided dog toys to donate to shelters and furry friends. She hopes to continue to prepare holiday cards with her daughter to donate to seniors to those who are ill at a local manor to brighten their day. She would like to devote more time to volunteering within the Erie County Communities.

Contact for:

Sara Nesbitt, Executive Coordinator

Sara Nesbitt joined The Erie Community Foundation as Executive Coordinator in 2023.

In this role she provides executive support to the President and serves as administrative liaison to Board of Trustees and committees as directed by Executive Staff. She also provides administrative support and coordination of Foundation events.

Sara joined the Foundation after ten years of experience with Gannon University Center for Social Concerns and Global Exploration, most recently as the Program Coordinator and Research Assistant. She earned an MA in English at Gannon and a BA in English from Thiel College.

In service to her community, Sara volunteers with Erie Episcopal, Episcopal Dioceses of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania and Our West Bayfront. She enjoys camping, crafting and the Cleveland Browns. She and her spouse are committed to the revitalization of Erie; they have purchased a home in the Our West Bayfront neighborhood where they live with their dog and cats.

Contact for:

  • Meetings with the President or Executive Staff
  • General questions for the President or Executive Staff
  • 814.413.7346
  • Email Sara Nesbitt

Meghan O'Brien, Director of Grants & Scholarships

Meghan O’Brien joined the Erie Community Foundation in 2011, after more than ten years in the printing technology industry. An Erie native and proud graduate of Villa Maria Academy, Meghan brings deep community knowledge to her position.

As Director of Grants and Scholarships, she is responsible for all aspects of grants processing and scholarship administration and assists the CFO with endowment fund accounting. Meghan also oversees daily infrastructure operations including front desk, facilities, and information systems.

Contact for:

  • Grant Checks
  • Scholarships
  • GoFund Online Access
  • Campus Facilities
  • 814.413.7347
  • Email Meghan O'Brien

Kelly Patterson, Community Impact Associate

Kelly Patterson joined the Erie Community Foundation in 2021 as a Community Impact Team Associate. In this role she assists the Vice President and Director of the Community Impact Team with managing our competitive grant programs, such as the Helping Today and Shaping Tomorrow grant programs, which address operational needs of nonprofit organizations, as well as the Youth Philanthropy, Urgent Request grants, and Erie Women's Fund grant programs.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Kelly had worked almost 30 years in human services, mental health and non-profit community, with her prior employment with Case Management Support Services, Erie County Care Management and Harborcreek Youth Services.

Kelly is an avid sports fan and enjoys spending time with her family of four sons, two daughter-in-laws and six grandchildren. A life-long resident of Erie, Kelly has a deep commitment to improving the Erie community and hope for bright futures for the youth of the city.

Contact for:

  • Scheduling a Pre-Grant Application Meeting
  • Online Grant Application
  • Hovis Summer Camp Scholarship Grants
  • Donors Choose
  • 814.413.7344
  • Email Kelly Patterson

Kailey A. Pisani, Marketing & Communications Associate

Kailey Pisani joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2024 as a Marketing Communications Associate. Originally from DuBois, P.A., she moved to Erie in 2019 to attend Mercyhurst University, where she graduated with her B.S. in Hospitality Management and a minor in Marketing.

She then joined the Department of Advancement following her graduation as an Annual and Digital Fundraising Focus Coordinator. In this role, Kailey was responsible for alumni communications, managing the alumni social media accounts, and assisting in the planning and execution of Mercyhurst's annual Giving Day, as well as various other annual giving campaigns.

At the Foundation, Kailey is responsible for implementing day-to-day communications, including website updates, social media posts, press releases and editorial pieces, as well as assisting in the coordination of the annual meeting details, annual report production and Erie Gives. She also provides support for the communications needs for events organized by the Foundation's affinity groups including: The Erie Women’s Fund, LGBT Fund, Emerging Erie Fund, and HEY!-Hear Erie’s Youth.

Erie brings a vibrancy and sense of community that makes a city feel like a small-town, and Kailey appreciates getting to work, live, and serve the downtown and greater Erie community. Rock climbing at ASCEND Erie, biking to the Farmer's Market in the summer, attending downtown festivals, and nights spent playing trivia are some of her favorite pastimes.

Contact for:

Steve Weiser, Vice President of Philanthropic Services

Steve Weiser joined The Erie Community Foundation in March of 2024 as the Vice President of Philanthropic Services. In this position, Steve leads the dynamic Philanthropic Services team helping to steward and connect with donors of all backgrounds and interests. Additionally, he is committed to expanding the reach of the three affinity funds including the Erie Women’s Fund, LGBT Fund, and the Emerging Erie Fund, as well as the regional affiliates in North East, Corry, Union City and Findley Lake.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Steve spent nearly nine years as the Executive Director of the Erie Philharmonic. During his tenure, the Philharmonic experienced unprecedented growth in terms of audience development, endowment growth, budget expansion and national recognition.

Steve is a proud graduate of Temple University with an undergraduate (’02) and master’s degree (’04) in Percussion Performance, studying under legendary teacher Alan Abel. He lives in West Millcreek with his two-year old son Connor, who loves dump trucks and digging in the dirt.

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