Mark Lichtenstein, Treasurer

Mark Lichtenstein has more than 30 years of experience in the academic, nonprofit, private, and public sectors focusing on conflict management, community engagement, education, environmental stewardship, governance and leadership, negotiation, recycling, resiliency, solid waste, and sustainability. He is currently Chief of Staff and Chief Sustainability Officer in the President’s Office of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), and an Adjunct Faculty member in ESF’s Environmental Studies Department, teaching about sustainability, resiliency, and regenerative communities. As a result of Mark’s leadership, ESF is ranked as the second “greenest” university in the country. He is also a Faculty Associate in the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration at Syracuse University’s nationally top-ranked Maxwell School.

Mark has been working in the Caribbean promoting sustainability since 2009. Most recently, he has focused his efforts on post-hurricane disaster debris management in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and he testified to Congress in the fall of 2017 about his impressions of the situation on the islands. He was an active member of the Vieques Sustainability Task Force, established by President Obama, and helped facilitate a number of Task Force meetings. He is a co-founder and facilitated the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Vieques Recycling Partnerships, and is a board member for Island Green Living Association in the US Virgin Island (St. John).

Mark served eighth terms as President/CEO, and is an honorary lifetime board member of the National Recycling Coalition (NRC). He led the first national Sustainable Materials Management Summit focused on the Circular Economy, and traded the first recyclables through the Chicago Board of Trade. He helped form a number of national and state-level recycling organizations. Previously, Mark led and developed a regional solid waste management and recycling program in upstate New York.

Mark led the Syracuse University Center for Sustainable Community Solutions, and Environmental Finance Center, and served as an expert witness to the federal Environmental Finance Advisory Board. He has been engaged with sustainability and regenerative efforts throughout the U.S., and in Belize, Brazil, British and US Virgin Islands, Canada, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

Mark is the founder of Embrace Impatience Associates, and the principal of Lichtenstein Consulting, providing training and consultation on board development, communications, conflict management, facilitation, leadership, negotiation, and sustainability. He worked for Walt Disney World as an entertainer and character, and with his wife and daughter, built his home on the shores of Lake Ontario in Mexico, NY.

Mark has a Master of Arts in Public Administration, and a Graduate Certificate of Advanced Studies in Conflict Resolution, both from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from ESF. He has certified mediator training, is an experienced interest-based negotiator and process facilitator, and is a certified public participation specialist.

Elaine Heumann Gurian

Elaine Heumann Gurian is a consultant/advisor to a number of museums and visitor centers that are beginning, building or reinventing themselves.  Her current clients include the Royal BC Museum, Victoria, Canada, Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand, the Museum of the Moving Image, Melbourne, Australia, the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM, Fundacion TyPA, Buenos Aires, Argentina and the Detroit Zoo, Detroit, MI.

In the past she has worked as a senior consultant to the following projects (a partial list); the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Jewish Museum, Berlin, the Exploratorium, the City of London, UK, the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Australia, the Museum of the Resistance, Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, the National Discovery Museum, Thailand, National Museum of Australia, CIRMA, the National Archive of Guatemala, Te Papa; the National Museum of New Zealand, the Museum of World Cultures, Gothenburg Sweden, and the Dubai Municipality Children’s Museum, Dubai, UAE.

Ms. Gurian is a teacher, trainer and lecturer at many academic and in-service programs of museum studies worldwide. In 2015, she was awarded a museum fellowship to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM, in 2012, an Osher Fellow at the Exploratorium, San Francisco, in 2011; a Salzburg Scholar, in 2007; a Fulbright Scholar for training museum professionals at Fundacion TyPA, Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2007 Gurian participated as training faculty for the Fund for Arts and Culture in Bucharest, Romania. Was sent to Ukraine by the State Department in 2014. She has twice been named Visiting Scholar at the University of Michigan Graduate Program in Museum Studies, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ms. Gurian regularly taught a module at Museion, the museum graduate program of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden from 2000-2010 and regularly lectures at many museum studies programs. Ms. Gurian is a frequent speaker and was a keynote speaker in MuseumNext in Melbourne, Australia in 2017 and one of five keynote speakers at the ICOM triennial conference in Vienna, Austria in 2007.

Ms. Gurian is widely published. In 2006, Routledge published her volume, Civilizing the Museum: the Collected Writings of Elaine Heumann Gurian.  She is editor for the volume. Institutional Trauma: The Effect of Major Change on Museum Staff.

In 2006 Elaine Heumann Gurian was inducted as one of the 100 Centennial Honor Roll members by the American Association of Museums, who also honored her with the Distinguished Service to Museums Awards in 2004, the most prestigious recognition in the American museum profession.  In 1993, Elaine Heumann Gurian was chosen as “Outstanding Learning Disabled Achiever Award” from the Lab School of Washington and “The Distinguished Service Alumni Award for the Class of 1958” from Brandeis University. Gurian was awarded the “Museum Educator’s Award for Excellence” in 1985.

Gurian is a past president of the Museum Group (an association of independent museum consultants) and has served on the Advisory Arts Council to the President of Brandeis University. In the past, Gurian has been elected Treasurer, Vice President, and Councilor-At-Large for the American Association of Museums (AAM), board member of the American chapter of the International Council on Museums (AAM/ICOM), a regional representative of the Museum Education Committee (AAM/EdCom) and Vice President of the International Museum Education Committee (ICOM/CECA). She was appointed a member of the AAM task force on education which created Excellence and Equity: Education and the Public Dimension of Museums.

Ms. Gurian has served as the Acting Director of the Cranbrook Institute of Science during construction, redesign and installation of the museum between the death of the former director and the appointment for the new one from 1997-1999. From 1991 to 1994, she was the Deputy Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which opened to the public in April 1993.  During 1990 and 1991, Ms. Gurian served as Deputy Director for Public Program Planning for the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.  From 1987 to 1990, Gurian was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Museums at the Smithsonian, providing oversight for all 14 Smithsonian museums with a combined annual Federal appropriation of approximately $120 million.  For sixteen years (1972 – 1987), Elaine Heumann Gurian was the Director of the Exhibit Center, the public facility of the Boston Children’s Museum. From 1969 to 1972, Elaine Heumann Gurian was the Director of Education at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, MA.  In addition, she helped create RECYCLE, a program and shop that recirculated manufactured leftovers to schools and individuals which continued from 1970 until 2000.

In her early career, she served as the art teacher for kindergarten through 6th grade at the Solomon Schechter School in Newton, Massachusetts.  Elaine Heumann Gurian holds a B.A. in art history from Brandeis University and a M.Ed. in elementary education and art education from State College at Boston.

Sharon Pepin, Secretary

Sharon Pepin is President and Owner of CFPS Inc., a private consulting firm that assists communities in planning for the future and identifying and securing grant and loan funds for completion of projects that will guide their growth.  She has 25 years of experience in writing and administering grants; 11 of those years has been under CFPS Inc.  Sharon works with the following federal programs – HUD, CDBG, FEMA, USDA Rural Development, and USDOC Economic Development Administration; and the following State of Illinois programs – Housing Development Authority, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency and the State Library Program.  She is a certified CDBG Grant Administrator and a FEMA Administrator.  Over the last 11 years, her business has secured more than $45 million in grant and loan funds for public infrastructure and economic development type projects.  Sharon previously worked at the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) and was instrumental in starting a commercial recycling pilot program for communities within SWANCC.  Sharon was a member of the Illinois Development Council, and a stakeholder for IEPA’s loan guideline review process.

Alexis Pimentel

Alexis Pimentel grew up on Vieques and studied communications at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. He joined the Coast Guard and is the operator of BCM/ COXS Tactical Boat 33′ Midnight. Alexis along with other Coast Guard members were the first to deliver supplies to the island by boat and assess the state of the island. He volunteered with ViequesLove and was the liaison for the dialysis patients to receive transportation from the island. His continued persistence helped to bring the dialysis machine to Vieques.  Alexis has a x year old daughter who goes to school at the Escuela Adventista on Vieques.

Claritza Navarro

Claritza Navarro is the owner of M&M of Vieques, Inc./Navarro Construction and Maritza’s Car Rental. Born and raised on Vieques, Claritza loves sharing her beloved island home with visitors. She has built some of the most beautiful high-design properties on the island, and her projects have been featured in Architectural Digest and The New York Times. Villa Claridad, her newest creation, is undeniably the most prestigious property on Vieques, paving the way for a new era of high-end tourism on the island. Claritza is active in supporting the island with philanthropic endeavors and support to many organizations.

Paul H. Lutton, Arquitecto

Paul H. Lutton visited Vieques for the first time in 1973, and he fell in love with the island.  He is now semi-retired with over 14 years’ experience working full time on Vieques as both an architect and a builder. He has been actively engaged in community issues since moving here in 2005. His research and writing have been a constant source of information and commentary shedding light on issues critical to the residents, and serving notice to government agencies.

Throughout his life on our island, Paul has been an active volunteer with the Vieques Youth Leadership Institute, Reach for Success, and COREFI. He has performed a number of pro bono projects in situations where those in need of services could not afford to pay. Immediately after surviving Maria, he began volunteering full-time to assist ViequesLove, COREFI, Hope Builders, the hospital, and many other entities that requested help.

Paul’s experience ranges from a nine-year career as an aerospace engineer and pilot in the US Air Force, to architect and builder, to computer software developer, to architect and facilities manager of a franchise developer with over 400 stores, and finally back to architect and builder.  Along the way, volunteering in nonprofit youth organizations and community organization has been his habit.

Core Team Members

Mark Martin Bras, Co-founder Community Coordinator, Intergovernmental Liaison

Mark has lived on Vieques for 20 years. Hailing from Puerto Rico he is an experienced community organizer who has spent the last few decades gaining the trust of all levels of society in Vieques Puerto Rico. While he is most associated with the Vieques Historical and Conservation Trust as a salaried advocate for the bioluminescent bay, he has given his time freely to others. He is bilingual and often serves as translator for defendants in the legal system. He is considered a scientific expert on bioluminescence and is invited to do original oceanographic research by academic scientists worldwide. Martin Bras is considered by most children on the island to be their personal friend and their favorite teacher, and most federal, Puerto Rican and Viequenses politicians ask for him by name to be their translator, guide and community negotiator. Immediately after Hurricane Maria Mark started organizing a team on Vieques and co-founded ViequesLove by connecting to the off island team. He dedicated almost a year volunteering in relief efforts, as a liaison and translator for Tesla and a crucial team member of the group advocating for better power solutions on the island. He is now working for ViequesLove and is the community organizer and coordinator.

Kelly Thompson, Executive Director

Kelly has lived on Vieques for 15 years and works tirelessly to serve the community. A  graphic designer by trade she is the publisher and designer of Vieques Insider, a magazine designed to connect visitors to the people and culture of the island. Kelly was in Pennsylvania when Hurricane Maria struck Vieques and immediately started a GoFundMe to raise money for relief efforts. This fund quickly grew and ViequesLove was formed. Friends reached out to help and the group was able to send the first plane full of supplies and satellite phones to the island. Kelly volunteered for almost a full year for ViequesLove and is now a paid employee serving the organization as executive director.

Frank Sanchez

Frank Sanchez was the ultimate hero of the ViequesLove team during Maria. His command of the impossible logistics during his assistance to the local and federal governments and his participation on developing the necessary strategies was simply — lifesaving. Frank’s position in the US Coast Guard and his liaison role with FEMA and other agencies helped decipher crisis situations that caused chaos with the fuel, maritime transport and energy. Along with his partner and colleague Alexis Pimentel, Frank Sanchez became the go to person during the recovery and became a symbol of stability and order. We owe a lot to Frank, although he would never take the compliments. “no thanks needed, a team effort, thank you madam, yes sir” are some of the things you would hear from Frank. A colorful dresser with his signature socks and trendy shorts, this hero was always courteous and considerate, a quality few could keep in those days. Frank will always have a place in Vieques Love and many homes to stay in Vieques. Frank works in the states with Jorge Rivera, another hero of the Vieques cause.

Angie Adams

Angie Adams heard the wind and felt the rain. She saw the destruction and saw the instability of the response efforts. Immediately and miraculously she got a phone call through to friends of Vieques who were outside the path of the storm. That call and a worry and hope-filled idea of Kelly Thompson in creating ViequesLove, raised millions and provided aid that continues to help Vieques. Angie and Alejandrino became a moving force, driving constantly and coordinating relief and transportation of people and supplies in many areas during the most hectic times. Her first concern was the Health Center, Angie predicted what would happen, but did not stop helping when it did. She coordinated with nurses, retired heath personnel and took on the challenge of helping the different groups working on medical support and critical cases. Angie oversaw many things and continues to perform great feats like the Malecon temporary repair, community programs and school improvement projects. Her own initiative, Levels has grown into a multi-sport support system. Her love of her birthplace runs deep, and she has unwavering commitment to do what is right for Vieques.

Brooke E. Loucks

Brooke’s dedication, commitment and friendship to Vieques has no boundaries. Her love of the island led her to volunteering around the clock with ViequesLove. Her careful, intelligent advice and constant support during an extremely stressful time in the formation of ViequesLove was a blessing that we were lucky to have. Her commitment to help led her to loading and accompanying a military C130 to the island full of solar survival gear donated by the Bernice Shanklin Foundation. Without Brooke that delivery would not have been possible. Brooke’s experience in global marketing, public relations and business development roles in the legal industry helped in the creation of ViequesLove.

Brittany Roush and Steven Mueller

Brittany Roush and Steven Mueller didn’t have to put their lives aside to come to the aide of Vieques. But they did. A few hours after the ViequesLove GofundMe went live Brittany reached out to Kelly Thompson. “Have you heard from Cheo?” was her first question. “How can we help?” was her second. With a Bachelor of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness from the Virginia Commonwealth University, her experience was invaluable. Her first priority was evacuations, getting medicine to the island, and ensuring the safety of those most vulnerable.

Steven’s experience in sales and consulting made them a heroic duo championing ViequesLove outreach to press, health contacts, elected officials and organizations wanting to help who became essential partners with Vieques and ViequesLove. Coordination and logistics became Steven’s department, and his command of scratchy satellite phone calls is still joked about by the team. “Heard.” Brittany’s and Steven’s love for Vieques — as well as having lived there for three years —  and their desire help led to them to take leave of absences from their jobs and volunteer for ViequesLove for almost a year. Their experience, friendship, dedication and leadership was invaluable.

Robert Becker

When Robert Becker reached out to ViequesLove, he had already made it to Florida where he was trying to catch a flight to San Juan and then find a way to get to Vieques. He was going to get there one way or another. It turned out that it took five days to find a pilot willing to fly a small craft to Vieques with Becker (as he is known to all on the island), 12 satellite phones, and supplies not knowing if the landing strip was intact.  “When Robert Becker arrived on the island, we felt like we had just been given a lifeline.” Robert has been managing political campaigns and implementing organizing strategies around the world for three decades. He has worked on Democratic campaigns in two dozen states and in numerous U.S. presidential campaigns. Becker used his “boots-on-the-ground” background to organize and train political activists in countries emerging from repressive regimes like Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Rwanda, Libya, Nigeria and Egypt. Becker’s command of impossible situations, his solution-based approach, and his ability to liaison with all the groups as a neutral party helped to prevent chaos after the storm. He is a true Vieques hero.

Brittany Bresha

Brittany Bresha returned to Vieques in October after the storm knowing that she would be able to help. She volunteered with ViequesLove and spearheaded the home safety program assessing critical needs and organizing volunteers to help. Brittany studied professional writing with a minor in Spanish at Western Connecticut State University. She brought a young enthusiasm, a LOT of energy and a lot of compassion to the ViequesLove team.

Adrienne Lanczos

Adrienne Lanczos was the volunteer dynamo that kept everyone on the ViequesLove team organized (well, except Mark Martin ) and the ship in shape. She made the impossible possible keeping records, bookkeeping, and charting in-kind donations during a period of no power, little connectivity, and limited internet service. She was always the go to voice of reason and positivity when most needed. Adrienne has a special skill of being extremely creative, sensitive to people’s needs and ultra organized all at the same time.

Szaritza Y. Vázquez-Betancourt

Szaritza Y. Vázquez-Betancourt brought 20 years of experience as a Senior Disaster Recovery Specialist to the ViequesLove team. Her sensitivity to humanity and to each other gave the team a real sense of what we were doing and why we were doing it. On a conference call with scratchy satellite phones she would be the one who, before getting into details, would make us greet each other and exchange pleasantries like it was a normal call between friends catching up after lost time. Then she would get right down to business. Her contacts and list of friends around the globe is extensive and her experience and knowledge of disaster recovery and relief was crucial to evacuations and medical supplies getting to the island.

Heather Knorr

Heather is a Spanish professor from Chapel Hill, North Carolina who has been spending her summers in Vieques since 2008. When the storm hit in September of 2017, Heather reached out to ViequesLove and immediately began to help the team coordinate. Heather’s passion for organization, determination to accomplish whatever task is put in front of her and her fluency in Spanish made her our go to person for, well… just about everything. If you need satellite phones purchased and delivered to your doorstep within an hour on a Sunday evening, when the store is not even open, call Heather. Heather goes beyond getting the job done. She makes friends. She develops relationships based on the idea that we are all on this world to make it a better place for each other, and she pushes people to keep those standards — something we all need.

Katie Anderson

Katie Anderson has lived on Vieques for 6 years and had started a facebook page called Vieques Peeps that has a following of over 3,000 Vieques residents. This communication tool along with Katie’s skill of connecting people helped transfer information at a time when it was most needed.

Franco González

Franco González has a fishing expedition company on Vieques and Puerto Rico. When the hurricane hit, he was on Puerto Rico but came quickly to the aide of Vieques using his boat and his contacts to get immediate supplies to Vieques. He helped secure shipments of crucial infrastructure equipment and parts like water pumps and generator parts that averted disasters.