Foundation Staff

Karen Bilowith, President

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.

Contact for:

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

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 manages the Foundation’s advertising, media relations, newsletters, electronic communications, website, Facebook and twitter media. She is also responsible for two major Foundation signature events: the Annual Meeting and Erie Gives, which continues to grow each year by $500,000 or more.

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. She 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 currently serves as a board member of the YMCA Metro Board and marketing committee member for Camp Notre Dame. She is a past board member and secretary of the Erie Advertising Club.

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 Communications to manage the Foundation’s advertising, media relations, newsletters, electronic communications, website, facebook and twitter media. She also works with the Foundation's Regional Affiliates.

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.

Khristina is a member of the Penn State Alumni Association. She is also a member of the NWPA Chapter of Public Relations Society of America.

Contact for:

Alex Sienerth, Marketing & Communications Officer

Alex joined the Erie Community Foundation in 2021 as the Marketing and Communications Officer. She also serves as the administrator for the LGBT Funds and Erie Women's Fund. Alex earned her B.S. Degree in Marketing from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College with a minor in Civic and Community Engagement in 2020. During college, Alex participated in marketing internships in various industries, including one at The Foundation in 2018. Prior to joining the foundation she held several marketing positions and managed marketing for local businesses. Contact Alex if you are interested in getting involved with one of our affinity funds or need to connect with someone regarding marketing.

Contact for:

  • Erie Women's Fund membership
  • Erie Women's Fund events
  • LGBT Funds information
  • Email Alex Sienerth

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

With over 20 years of experience working in human services, Patrick Herr joined The Erie Community Foundation as the Director of Community Impact in 2014. He was promoted to Vice President of Community Impact in 2021. Pat now manages the Helping Today grant program which addresses operational needs of nonprofit organizations. Pat is responsible for the administration of Youth Philanthropy, the Urgent Request grant program, and also helps our Donor Relations team operate Donor Partners. He earned his BA in English from Washington and Jefferson College and received a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Edinboro University in 2005. Just prior to joining the Foundation, Pat worked as the Associate Director for Community Shelter Services where he was charged with the administration and oversight of new revenue development and all program-related operations.

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, Assistant Director of Community Impact

Rachel Cacchione joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2014. In 2021, she was promoted to Assistant 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:

  • Institutional and Grant Making Partnerships
  • Strategic Issues
  • Planned Giving and Estate plans
  • Establishing a New Fund
  • Donor Relations and Fund Information
  • Professional Advisor Program
  • Regional Affiliates
  • Erie Women's Fund
  • Email Susannah Weis Frigon, CFP®

Keely Doyle, Director of Philanthropic Services

Keely Doyle joined The Erie Community Foundation in 2015 as Investor Relations & Donor Stewardship Associate. In this role, she is responsible for assisting the Vice President of Investor Relations in all aspects of donor stewardship and development. 

Prior to joining the Foundation, Doyle worked for the City of Erie as Executive Assistant to Mayor Joseph E. Sinnott. Preceding the Mayor’s Office, she was a Legal Assistant at the Quinn Law Firm. Doyle graduated from Edinboro University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice in 2009 and received her Master of Science from University of Cincinnati in 2013. A life-long resident of Erie, Doyle has a deep commitment to improving the Erie community.

Contact for:

  • Donor Relations and Fund Information
  • Fund Statements
  • General Fund Information
  • Email Keely Doyle

Sandra K. Williams , Assistant, Philanthropic Services

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:

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.

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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.

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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.

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Lisa A. Bolte, 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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