Our Team

Our Board & Staff

Board

  • Bilal Tajildeen

    President - CT State Northwestern

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    Bilal Tajildeen

    A lifelong Waterbury, CT resident, Bilal was appointed as the inaugural associate dean of institutional advancement for CT State Northwestern in 2023 and was tasked with the formation of the advancement office. He is responsible for designing and implementing comprehensive institutional advancement programs, liaising as staff support for the Northwest Community College Foundation, and serving as campus equity coordinator. 

    Prior to CT State Northwestern, Bilal was the manager of membership and culture for the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, bringing his many years of experience as a grantmaker and community organizer to support the Council’s peer networks as well as designing and developing the Philanthropy Professionals of Color Network. He also served on the steering committee of Supporting Organizing Work CT, a statewide funders collaborative with the goal of supporting community organizing and field-building work. 

    Bilal earned a master’s degree in English from Central Connecticut State University, primarily focusing on queer theory and political theory as well as LGBTQ literature. He serves as the president of the board of the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, a director on the boards of the Leever Foundation, the New Haven Pride Center, the Waterbury Bridge to Success Community Partnership, Community Partners in Action, and Equality CT, as well as a national PLACES fellow alum through the Funder’s Network and a member of the Strengthening Nonprofits grants committee at Connecticut Community Foundation. 

    In his spare time, Bilal continues to do community and political organizing in Waterbury and is an adjunct professor of English at the University of Connecticut.

  • Leah Bamberger

    Vice President/Secretary - Northeastern's Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub

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    Leah Bamberger

    Leah grew up in a suburban community in metrowest Boston. Her childhood experiences afforded her great access to nature and fueled a passion for the outdoors. Her family would also take frequent trips to nearby cities such as Boston, Worcester, Providence, and New York City. The energy and culture of these places was a stark contrast to her childhood neighborhood and she began making cities her home as soon as she was able to leave the nest. 

    As she pursued her academic career, first at the College of Charleston where she studied political sciene and environmental studies, and later at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, where she earned a Masters in Regional Planning, Leah explored the symbiotic relationship between nature, people, and cities. She has since dedicated her career to helping cultivate healthy, equitable and more sustainable cities. She believes such places are critical to protecting the planet's most fragile habitats and unique landscapes, while also ensuring all people have access to nature, culture, and the diversity that our society needs to thrive in the 21st century. 

    Leah's professional experiences include working for the City of Boston under both the Menino and Walsh administrations as manager of the Greenovate Boston program. She currently serves as the Director of Sustainability for the City of Providence, of which she was appointed in April 2015 by Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. Leah has brought a wealth of experience in municipal sustainability efforts to Providence and has been a catalyst for racial equity and climate justice work at the City. Prior to these positions, Leah served as a consultant to a variety of local and regional governments and nonprofits in the northeast, supporting their climate and sustainability planning work. 

    Leah currently lives in Providence (RI) and enjoys hiking, backpacking, climbing, gardening, playing soccer, traveling, biking, and spending time with her family, friends and equally adventurous dog, Lucy. 

  • Kimberly Blakemore

    Treasurer - Analog Devices

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    Kimberly Blakemore

    As the Environmental Sustainability Director for Analog Devices, Inc., Kimberly leads the development and implementation of ADI’s Engineering Good Climate strategy. She previously served as program officer for Tufts Health Plan Foundation. She began her career in investment banking and corporate strategy, bringing a multi-sector lens to her work. Kimberly holds an MBA in Sustainability from Antioch University New England and a BA in Art History from Cornell University. She currently lives in MA with her husband and young son. In her spare time you will find her on the trails!

  • Kalila Booker-Cassano

    Health and Environmental Funders Network

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    Kalila Booker-Cassano

    Kalila Booker-Cassano serves as the Director of Programs at the Health and Environmental Funders Network, where she leads the design, execution, and evaluation of HEFN’s programs, and support HEFN’s outreach and communications with members and in the broader philanthropic sector. For over five years, Kalila worked in the philanthropic space as the Program Officer at the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, overseeing their food systems grantmaking program. She has served as a member of the Food Solutions New England Network Team, and on the board of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders and is currently on the board of The Carrot Project. Prior to her work in philanthropy, Kalila was a nutrition educator at Allergic to Salad in New York City. She graduated from Williams College with a B.A. in History and German.

  • Lindsey Dupont

    Best Friends Animal Society

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    Lindsey Dupont

    Lindsey Dupont, JD is a planned giving and management professional currently serving as the Estate and Planned Giving Administrator for Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal welfare organization focused on bringing about a time when animals are no longer killed in U.S. shelters. In this dual function role, Lindsey oversees the administration of estates and the day-to-day operations of Best Friends’ planned giving program.

    Lindsey previously worked for the University of New Hampshire Foundation and prior to working in the non-profit sector was a practicing attorney in New Hampshire and Massachusetts focused on real estate and estate planning. Her work in these areas piqued her interest in planned giving and non-profit fundraising. Lindsey’s interest in sustainability, food systems, and environmental justice ultimately led her to the Grassroots Fund.

    A lifelong resident of New Hampshire, Lindsey received her undergraduate degree in political science from the University of New Hampshire and her law degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law. Lindsey currently lives on the Seacoast with her husband and cat. In her spare time you will find her working in the garden or on the tennis court!

  • Pierre Joseph

    Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

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    Pierre Joseph

    Pierre joined the Boston Fed as Working Cities Manager to support the cross-unit Inclusive Economies Initiative of the Regional & Community Outreach department. Inclusive Economies aims to develop strategic efforts that will shift the drivers of inequity so that all may benefit from economic growth and recovery, with a focus on lower-income smaller cities and rural communities.

    Prior to joining the Boston Fed, Pierre spent over a decade in various roles across philanthropy, impact investing, and government. As a Grantmaker, Pierre supported integrated capital approaches democratizing finance for small businesses. In government, he served as a policy analyst in the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Rural Council. Pierre is a Harry S. Truman Scholar and holds a B.A. in Political Science with a concentration in urban policy from Amherst College.

  • Vanessa Liles

    PT Partners

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    Vanessa Liles

    Vanessa Monique Liles is a proud community organizer in Bridgeport, CT, working specifically with low-income public housing residents at PT Partners – a grassroots organizing initiative. Her work in this context includes examining and dismantling oppressive systems alongside women-identified leaders of public housing. This address of systemic racism includes raising funds to support dynamic and innovative community organizing actions. Additionally, Vanessa is an expert in strategy and capacity building, as it relates to grassroots organizational development. Vanessa sits on the boards of several organizations including Social Venture Partners CT and her local Neighborhood Revitalization Zone.

  • Sally Manikian

    The Conservation Fund

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    Sally Manikian

    Sally Manikian is a resident of Shelburne, NH, and has called Coos County home since 2007. A persistent creative thinker, her professional career spans a diversity of roles, tethered together out of a love of landscape, rural community, and social possibility. These professional roles include: adjunct professor, local community journalist, substitute teacher, community organizer, and backcountry recreation management. A defining personal role is as the caregiver and guardian for her two developmentally disabled siblings which drives her passion, experience and understanding of systemic marginalization as their advocate.

    Since 2016, Sally has served as The Conservation Fund’s NH and VT Representative. The Fund is a national land and water organization, working in all 50 states under a dual chartered mission of land conservation and economic development. Currently managing a portfolio of projects and work in both states that include traditional land conservation projects that expand National Forests or State Wildlife Management Areas or local land trust preserves or Community Forests, Sally continues to push for creative thinking about how to do land conservation better to advance equity in all forms: economic, social, and cultural. In addition to land conservation, Sally facilitates an economic development initiative in Coos County, supported by the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, rooted in the Value Chain and WealthWorks approach to economic development.

    Outside the Fund, Sally serves on the board of statewide leadership program Leadership NH, and is a professional racing sled dog musher. Sally and the Shady Pines Sled Dogs race in 100 mile to 250 mile races in the Northeast and Midwest, and Sally is the first female musher to win the Can Am 100, the most competitive 100-mile race in New England. She is a published essayist and writer, including the upcoming (Spring 2021) third edition of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Guide to Outdoor Leadership, written specifically through the lens of JEDI. From 2014-2016 Sally served on the DEI committee of her previous organization and has participated in multiple JEDI and anti-racist learning communities and programs in New England, and is currently on The Conservation Fund’s internal DEI committee and a member of NH’s Race and Equity Economic Development working group.

    Sally’s regional leadership and community roots were most recently featured in Northern Woodlands magazine (‘The Space Between’) as well as NH Public Radio (‘Run, Rest, Run, Rest, Run: Sally Manikian is the ‘talk of the town’’ and ‘Mill Complex’). Sally holds a Master’s of Science and Economics in Postcolonial Politics from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Staff

  • Tess Beem

    Program Manager

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    Tess Beem

    tess@grassrootsfund.org

    Tess joined the Grassroots Fund in 2018. She manages the fund’s Seed Grant Program. With a background in science and science education, Tess gets excited about participatory processes, facilitation and co-creating solutions. 

    During her spare time, Tess can be found ambling in the White Mountains, running around the soccer field and putting on unsolicited (though enthusiastic!) ecology lessons. She lives in Maine with her husband Jimmy, Rusty the dog and Sally the cat.

  • Faye Christoforo

    Co-Director

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    Faye Christoforo

    faye@grassrootsfund.org

    Faye (they/she) jumped into the deep end of the nonprofit world in 2014 when they joined the scrappy start-up team of The Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN). They quickly became Co-Director of the organization and helped build it for a decade. During their time with PLAN, they worked with hundreds of college and university campuses, spoke at events across the country and internationally, and ultimately transitioned PLAN to become a Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit.  They continue to serve on the Board of Directors for PLAN.
    Faye graduated from Earlham College with a BA in Sociology and Anthropology. They also completed the International Honors Program: Beyond Globalization, a full year of comparative study in Tanzania, India, New Zealand, Mexico, and Guatemala.  
    While the majority of Faye’s work has focused on climate justice, they have also worked in a variety of social and environmental justice spaces and they believe that sustainable solutions to climate change are rooted in collective liberation and self-determination. They are also a passionate advocate for ethical and empowered nonprofits. They believe this sector must practice building the world we want to live in. 
    Outside of work, you might find Faye with their partner working on their small farm, hanging out with their cats, dogs, and ducks, making block prints, or playing the new Zelda.

  • Julia Dundorf

    Development Strategist

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    Julia Dundorf

    julia@grassrootsfund.org

    After serving as the Grassroots Fund’s Executive Director since October 2014, Julia stepped to the side in December 2021, for a new, Co-Director leadership model at the Grassroots Fund and to focus on the organization’s development work. She has nearly three decades of experience forming and working with nonprofits and community engagement programs. 

    Prior to joining the Grassroots Fund team, Julia served for over three years as Manager of Community Relations at Clean Air-Cool Planet, developing trainings and resources for local energy committees and communities to address greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. She also co-directed the New England Carbon Challenge, a joint initiative with the University of New Hampshire. Julia is the recipient of a 2010 Environmental Merit Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency, Region I for her shared work on the New England Carbon Challenge. She received a 2013 Commendation from New Hampshire's Governor, Maggie Hassan, for her dedication and service to the State of New Hampshire in furthering energy and climate change action. Julia was a 2021-2022 Just Economy Institute Fellow, a growing community of financial activists using capital as a positive force for change.

    Complementing her experience in energy and climate change solutions, she has a background in nonprofit development, management and board participation in the broader fields of environmental sustainability, low-income housing solutions, domestic violence and business environmental sustainability. Julia attributes her passion for environmental advocacy and building resilient, equitable communities to her experiences of growing up on an off-grid farm in the hills of northern NH. She lives in southeast NH with her husband, Chris, and is the adoring mother of three young adults.

  • Mary Jones

    Program Manager

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    Mary Jones

    mary@grassrootsfund.org

    Mary joined the Grassroots Fund in July 2023 as the Program Manager for the Grow Grants Program. She brings a decade of experience in environmental changemaking to her role, including time spent in environmental education, non-profit development, philanthropy, and community organizing. She holds a BA in Environmental Studies from Earlham College and an MS in Environmental Justice from the University of Michigan. She is a strong believer in the brilliance and power of everyday people to re-shape local communities and institutions in ways that restore healing relationships with each other and with the land.

     

    Outside of the Fund, Mary is an avid fiber artist, currently pursuing her Master Weaver certification. She has several published weaving patterns and her tapestry work has been shown both regionally and internationally. She lives in Holyoke, MA with her partner and beloved cat, Jellyby. 

  • Chetana Parmar

    Program Assistant

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    Chetana Parmar

    chetana@grassrootsfund.org

    Chetana brings with her a life-long passion for environmental and sustainable issues and working with businesses to lessen their environmental footprint. With a splintered career from working for one of the most forward-thinking business of its time, The Body Shop Inc and its founder Anita Roddick to setting-up her own business, Chetana believes you can run a successful business which is profitable and at the same time take total responsibility and act on its environmental impact and be sustainable in the true sense of the word.

    Aside from running her business, babyhut ltd, an UK distributor of 100% organic and Fair Trade baby products, Chetana was also a freelance Environmental & Sustainability Consultant and her clients were from wide-ranging blue-chip companies, service-orientated and event planning businesses implementing and/or assessing environmental and sustainability management programmes to International Standards.

    Moving to New Hampshire nearly 5 years ago with her husband and four children, Chetana hopes to continue to make a positive impact and share her experiences. Chetana believes, as Anita Roddick said,’ If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.’

  • Jazz Toyama

    Program Manager

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    Jazz Toyama

    jazz@grassrootsfund.org

    Jazz (they/them) joined the Grassroots Fund as Grants Program Manager in September 2022. After earning their B.A. in International Studies (Environment & Development) and Environmental Studies from the University of San Francisco, they joined the Grassroots Fund as a RAY Clean Energy Fellow with the Roger Arliner Young (RAY) Diversity Fellowship program. 

    Jazz’s lived experiences as a queer Latinx person have catalyzed their passion for Environmental and Social Justice grassroots organizing and research. Their stays in Germany, Jordan, Sweden, and other travels throughout Europe and the Middle East have deeply influenced how they perceive social and environmental issues and how they choose to work towards a more equitable future – one with greater cultural understanding, intersectionality, recognition of Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and widespread systems reform.

    Prior to joining the Grassroots Fund, Jazz was heavily involved in mutual aid, food justice, community garden, and QTBIPOC community building work in the San Francisco/Bay Area. They continue this work from the Los Angeles + Orange counties of California, where they currently reside.

  • Bart Westdijk

    Co-Director

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    Bart Westdijk

    bart@grassrootsfund.org

    Bart joined the Grassroots Fund as an intern in 2005. In January 2022, he moved from director of operations to co-director. In this role, the focus on building shared capacity to learn and reflect on practices that center equity and justice is what drives him. Bart has a M.Sc. in Business Administration, focused specifically on corporate social responsibility and has more recently participated in a range of leadership trainings through Rockwood, Interaction Institute for Social Change and Justice Funders/Harmony Initiative.

    Bart grew up in the Netherlands and has called Burlington (VT) home since 2015. He lives on the shores of Lake Champlain with his wife Sabrina, son Liam, stepdaughter Olivia and Willem the mini Aussie. During time off, Bart enjoys building furniture, running, swimming and playing soccer. Bart serves on the board of Open Collective Foundation.