Gail Ahlers

Executive Director

Gail Ahlers is an award-winning designer, artist, and educator. Born in the New York area, Gail moved to Providence to attend Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 1985 with a BFA in light metals. She has studied art history in Paris and sculpture in Mexico. She has since become certified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. She also studied Expressive Arts at Salve Regina University. Gail’s focus on empowering people led her to establish the non-profit “The Empowerment Factory” in 2014. Her diverse background allows her to develop and curate innovative programming and teachers that help guide people of all ages to live a happier, healthier more empowered lives.

Karen King

President

Director of Administration
DiPrete Engineering 
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Karen King has been with DiPrete Engineering for 30 years as the Managing Director of Administration where she oversees HR, the facilities, and the front office. DiPrete Engineering is a civil engineering, land planning, and land surveying firm providing services throughout New England. Karen is also a Strengths Coach for Leadership RI and the Make RI Stronger Initiative. Karen has been active in Girl Scouts for the past 20 years, serving on various service unit and council positions and she is currently a Girl Scout Leader for a Cadette troop in North Kingstown. She is also a member of the Women in Leadership Nexus and T.A.N.K.-Towards an Anti-racist North Kingstown organizations. After meeting Gail in 2013, she was asked to join The Empowerment Factory Board. This is her first board experience, but her passion for making a difference in the lives of children and families has been a perfect fit.

Rob Panoff

Director

Retired Consultant 
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Rob Panoff spent nearly 50 years developing and implementing successful growth strategies and marketing programs for companies across information technology, networking and telecommunications industries. For over a decade, Rob has devoted significant time to nonprofit organizations, sitting on their Boards of Directors and providing assistance to help them thrive and grow. These organizations serve several sectors across Rhode Island; including healthcare, education, the arts, and social entrepreneurship. Rob holds a BA (Cum Laude) from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School, and resides with his wife in Saunderstown, RI.

Natalie Benkovich

Director

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Natalie Benkovich is a project manager with AIPSO.  She is a trained facilitator and certified project management professional.  In addition to being on the Empowerment Factory board, she has served  as a mentor to both professionals and middle school aged youth.  She is a 2013 graduate of Leadership RI, and has a BA and MBA from the University of Rhode Island.

Todd Knapp

Director

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Todd has been providing IT services nationally for over 25 years and draws inspiration and insight from participation in a wide range of executive boards and industry associations. He has an extensive background in strategic planning and implementation of business technology solutions, and founded his firm Envision Technology Advisors. As a presenter, Todd speaks throughout the country on a variety of technology and business topics including digital transformation, cybersecurity, leveraging the data economy, and integrating user psychology into IT strategic planning and services.

In his free time, Todd works with several non-profits and is also an avid sailor, wood worker, and scuba diver.

Wendy Wallace

Director

Director of Engagement and Development
National Student Support Accelerator
Annenberg Institute, Brown University
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Wendy Wallace is an educator, career coach, and project management expert. She has coached, mentored, taught, and helped place over 400 professionals in fulfilling career opportunities. Wendy has an extensive background that encompasses community development, law, information technology, marketing, workforce development, and education. Wendy graduated from Johnson & Wales University with distinct honors (magna cum laude) for both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Wendy is the Director of Engagement and Development for Brown University’s Annenberg Institute, National Student Support Accelerator. Prior to this role, she managed the states’ largest career readiness initiative, PrepareRI, alongside RIDE, the Governor’s Office, the Department of Labor and Training, RI Commerce, and CCRI. Wendy is a Pawtucket native of Cape Verdean descent. She is also a wife, mother of two children, and an active member of her faith community. She is an avid reader, lover of music and quaint coffee shops.

Julianne V. Brown

Secretary

Organ Health Specialist
Natera
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As a former TEF volunteer in the after-school programs with Miss. Gail, Julianne just had to stay involved with TEF when career changes occurred. She is currently working for Natera, Inc as a Organ Health Specialist focusing on nephrology genetics and post-transplant rejection diagnostics for kidney patients. She enjoys cooking, yoga, traveling, and animals. She’s excited about this (first-time) Board member experience as she is passionate about community, creativity, and empowering the future of Rhode Island.

María José Guevara Ortúzar

Treasurer

Social Enterprise Greenhouse
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Maria Jose Guevara Ortuzar’s speciality is finance where she was in charge of a 15 million dollar portfolio in Chile. She worked in investments for 5 years, but decided to change the path of her career to dedicate her time to helping others with her financial knowledge. She now specializes inNonprofit financials since moving to the USA. She loves to help Spanish communities and helps with translations for TEF. She currently works for Social Enterprise Greenhouse, which helps Social Entrepreneurs launch their businesses.

Alexandria Diaz

Director

Project Manager
EClincal Works
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Alexandria was born and raised in Pawtucket. After she graduated from Davies Vocational School she started serving her community with The Boys & Girls Club of Pawtucket. She attended college at the Community College of RI where she received an Associate Degree and went on to Katharine Gibbs School. For the past 8 years Alexandria has been a Project Manager for EClinicalWorks. While plugging away in her professional life Alexandria was still actively committed to making this big world a little more connected. Alexandria worked with Project Santiago to bring art, medicine, and food supplies to Colombia, South America. Alexandria has generational roots in Colombia and volunteers time in the village of her ancestors. She stumbled upon TEF in July of 2021 while she was thrift shopping and happened upon a brochure. When we asked Alexandria what drew her to continue her life of helping the community with The Empowerment Factory her response was, “The uniqueness of the programs, there’s no one else that is doing what you are doing.”

Vincent Mancini

Director

Direct Support Specialist
Avatar Residential
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Vincent recently moved back from living in England for 20 years. While in England, Vincent worked for the local government as a manager of a team promoting community cohesion and engagement. His role also involved working with and supporting non profit organizations and managing community grants. Above and beyond that Vincent is an artist, with a focus on the human condition and a particular focus on Native American culture and society.