Foundation Staff

Karen Bilowith, President & CEO

Karen joined the community foundation in October 2021. She leads the foundation’s efforts to improve the quality of life in the region in partnership with generous donors, effective nonprofit agencies, community leaders and a committed board of trustees and staff.

Karen has spent her career working in community philanthropy, where generosity is transformed into sustained community impact. Karen was formerly the 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, Ms. Bilowith 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
  • Email Karen Bilowith

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.

Ms. Nesbitt joins 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, she volunteers 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, as they have purchased a house 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
  • Email Sara Nesbitt

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 Annual Meeting and Erie Gives. Thanks to the generous Erie community, Erie Gives grows each year by $500,000 or more. In 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. She also 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, the Erie Women’s Fund 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. She is a member of Lawrence Park Golf Club.

In 2021, she was honored and named “Community Relations Person of the Year” during the Niagara Awards of the PRSA NWPA Chapter.

Contact for:

Khristina J. Bowman, Director of Marketing & Communications

Khristina Bowman joined The Erie Community Foundation as the Communications Associate in 2012.

In 2013, she was promoted to Director of Marketing & Communications. In this role she works with the Vice President of Marketing & Community/Government Relations to manage the Foundation’s advertising, media relations, newsletters, electronic communications, website, Facebook and twitter media.

She earned her B.A. degree in Communications from Pennsylvania State University at Erie, The Behrend College. She first began working with the Foundation during her senior year of college as a Marketing and Public Relations Intern. During college, she worked as a freelance writer for The Erie Times.

Contact for:

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

Patrick Herr joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2014 with over 20 years of experience in nonprofit service delivery, management, and program administration. As the Erie Community Foundation’s Vice President of Community Impact, Pat oversees the Community Impact team and all ECF competitive grantmaking operations and strategy. Before coming to ECF, Patrick served as the Director of Housing Programs at Community Shelter Services and the Vice President of Mental Health at Case Management Support Services. Pat earned a BA in English from Washington and Jefferson College and a master’s degree in Social Work from Edinboro University.

Patrick lives in Erie with his family, enjoys all of Erie’s outdoor recreation offerings and is an avid sailor and sportsman.

Contact for:

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

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 and launched the Foundation’s new Youth Philanthropy Initiative. 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.

She 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:

Kelly Patterson, Community Impact Team 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 Assistant 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 and Urgent Request 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 five 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
  • Donors Choose
  • Email Kelly Patterson

Susannah Weis Frigon, CFP®, Vice President of Philanthropic Services

Susannah Weis Frigon joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2013. Prior to that, she spent 24 years in the wealth management industry, holding senior leadership positions in Chicago, Rochester NY, and Pittsburgh. Her volunteer experience includes director and committee roles for various nonprofits, among them the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Adopt an Artist, and The Multicultural Community Resource Center. Susannah is a Certified Financial Planner®. She is a current member of The Estate Planning Council of Erie, Erie Rotary, The Erie Women’s Fund and the Carrie T. Watson Garden Club. She is also the Vice President of The Advancement Network (“AdNet”), a national resource organization for community foundation professionals. She lives in Fairview, PA with her husband.

Contact for:

  • Strategic and Family Philanthropy
  • Planned Giving and Estate plans
  • Establishing a New Fund
  • Professional Advisor Program & Referals
  • Email Susannah Weis Frigon, CFP®

Ric Giles, Director of Philanthropic Services

Ric Giles joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2023 as Director of Philanthropic Services. In this role 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, Mr. Giles worked as Director of Development & Corporate Relations at Mercyhurst University. Preceding Mercyhurst University, he had diverse career endeavors including Pharmaceutical Sales Representative for two different companies; Admissions Representative and College Recruiter for Penn State-Erie, The Behrend College; and Drug and Alcohol Case Manager for GECAC.

Mr. Giles has a bachelor’s degree from Clarion University. He serves on the board for Greater Erie Economic Development Corporation and has received many prestigious awards and honors. A life-long resident of Erie, Giles has a deep commitment to improving the Erie Community.

Contact for:

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

Olivia Burgess, Philanthropic Services Officer

Olivia Burgess joined The Erie Community Foundation as Executive Coordinator in 2022, in 2023 she was promoted to Philanthropic Services Officer.

Ms. Burgess 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 proficient in the Microsoft Suite, Spanish, Adobe InDesign, Google Suite and Google Analytics.

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
  • Email Olivia Burgess

Sandra K. Williams, Philanthropic Services Associate

Sandi Williams joined the Erie Community Foundation in 2018 as an Assistant to the Philanthropic Services team. In this role, she is responsible for administratively supporting the Director and Vice President of Philanthropic Services in all aspects of donor stewardship and development.

Prior to joining the Foundation Sandi spent 35 years in the wealth management industry, where her career was focused on client services and trade support. Born and raised in Erie, Sandi brings extensive community pride and knowledge to her role.

Sandi lives in Millcreek with her husband and children.

Contact for:

  • General Fund Questions
  • Gift & Tax Acknowledgments
  • Fund Statements
  • Philanthropic Services Team Scheduling
  • Email Sandra K. Williams

Barbara F. Sambroak, C.P.A., Chief Financial Officer

Barbara F. Sambroak joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2006 as the Chief Financial Officer. She was promoted to Vice President of Finance in 2010. She is responsible for the finance, accounting, treasury management and human resources of the Foundation. She handles the annual audit and the monthly financial statements and oversees the policies and procedures of the Foundation’s accounting systems.

Sambroak earned her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Augustana College in South Dakota. She also earned her Master of Business Administration, with distinction, from Gannon University in 1997, and she became a Certified Public Accountant in 2000.

Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked for eleven years in Financial Affairs Department of Gannon University where she was promoted from staff accountant to internal auditor to the controller.

In service to her community, she volunteers her time with Early Connections and Artists Incorporated. She is a member of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Contact for:

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 Vice President of Finance 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:

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. Meghan assists the CFO with endowment fund accounting, and manages the Foundation’s “Donor Central" portal.

Contact for:

Joshua Jaeger, Database Administrator

Joshua Jaeger 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 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 coordinating.

Josh earned a bachelor’s degree from Edinboro University and is pursuing master’s degree 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, Research and Data Work Group.

Contact for:

Meghan Wihlborg, Office Coordinator

Meghan Wihlborg joined The Erie Community Foundation as Office Coordinator in 2022.

In this role she assists the Director of Grants & Scholarships in processing applications for various scholarships, including scheduling interviews with students as appropriate, scheduling and participating in appropriate selection committee meetings, and preparing required spreadsheets and scholarship application books. She coordinates office management and facility related activities, tracks reservations and acts as primary contact for all IT-related issues; problem resolution and/or troubleshooting with provider and assists

Ms. Wihlborg is a Pennsylvania native, originally from Pittsburgh. She is proficient in Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint and is moderately fluent in German.

Contact for:

Lisa A. Bolte, Senior Accountant

Lisa Bolte joined The Erie Community Foundation as a Staff Accountant in July of 2017. She is responsible for maintaining and recording gifts made to The Foundation, as well as year-end tax schedules. She works with the Vice President of Finance and the Controller to prepare the annual audit, monthly financial statements 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 with Thomas E. Larson, Esq., where she prepared individual, federal, state and local income tax returns. She also assisted in estate administration, accounting and taxation. Subsequent to her employment with Attorney Larson, Lisa worked at BKD, LLP as a Senior Tax Associate ,with a focus on federal and state nonprofit taxation, estate and trust taxation, and individual federal, state and local taxation.

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