RIFSoCal Board Members
Alva Sachs — Board President
Alva hails from Chicago, The Windy City!
She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana. Alva also holds a Master of Education degree from Northern Illinois University in Education.
Her previous teaching experience for more than sixteen years and a life-long passion for writing for kids is her motivation.
She has been an avid volunteer, fund-raiser, and supporter of the arts in many organizations and her philosophy of “giving back” to others is her mantra.
Alva serves as President on the Board of Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California, (RIFSoCal) to expand efforts to support literacy by helping to build home libraries in the greater Los Angeles/Orange County areas for underserved children while fostering literacy through the efforts of RIFSoCal’s Motivational Reading Program.
She is the founder/ author of Three Wishes Publishing Company. Alva has five
award-winning children’s picture books. Alva pursues her writing and passion for children and encourages them to develop a love of reading,
She also is part of the Angels of the Arts, in conjunction with the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Alva helps to raise funds for underserved and Title 1 schools, to provide free live theatre, music, and art educational experiences for children.
Angie Flores — Secretary
Born and raised in Hollywood, Angie was surrounded by California Dreamers. Following in the footsteps of her grandmother, who was also a writer and illustrator during Germany's wartime, Angie was influenced to follow her dream through the concepts and questions her 3 young boys would present.
After obtaining her degree in Child Psychology,
Angie worked in various capacities, from teaching
children with special needs, to mainstream corporate Human Resources. Angie is currently on the board of the Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles as Marketing Director and assists members in honing their craft and fine-tuning their skills.
Through the CBWLA, Angie has been published in 3 anthologies and one
middle-grade novel. Angie's first solo project, Cub's Wish, is a multiple award-winning book, was a best-seller with Amazon selling out of her book within the first 12 hours of release, #1 New Release, earning the #2767 spot of over 11+million books, and #1 best selling e-book in 3 categories on Amazon. Cub's Wish has been read in schools during Author Visits and on festival stages with a message that transcends to all generations.
On Angie's down time she loves wearing purple, having fun and silly time with her growing boys, roller skating at the beach, and watching the sunset with her loving and patient husband.
Jen Gresenz — Treasurer
Jen is currently the Manager of Finance and Accounting at dick clark productions, inc.,
and previously worked at Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLC where she obtained her CPA License. She earned her Bachelor's in Business Administration and Masters in
Accountancy from the University of Georgia, and has attended public school her entire life.
While she has participated in various volunteer
organizations over the years, teaching Financial
Literacy at the Boys and Girls Club and other organizations throughout Los Angeles has been one of her most rewarding experiences. Her love for reading began at a young age, and helped her progress in all aspects of her education. She wishes that every child had the same opportunities and resources available as she did as a child, and wants to do everything she can to bring those resources to children in need. She hopes to combine her financial background with her passion for volunteering and helping children by fulfilling the Treasurer role on the RIFSoCal Board.
G. Brian Benson
G. Brian Benson’s mission is to wake up the world with conscious, thought-provoking media that inspires. In 2008, Brian followed a hunch and left his family’s business, stepping into the unknown. Ever since, inspiration has followed. Letting intuition be his guide, he began to step out of his comfort zone and unexpected paths and talents started to emerge such as writing, acting, and crafting stories. Tapping into this emerging creativity, Brian began his own hero’s journey of self-realization and growth, which continues to influence his empowering and inspiring books, films, and presentations.
Brian, an award-winning and Amazon #1
best-selling author, life coach, radio
personality, actor, filmmaker,and TEDx
speaker, knows the value of trusting intuition and wants to share his own personal journey of self-growth, discovery and accomplishment to help others re-connect with their own personal truths to live an authentic and fulfilling life. As a 4x Ironman triathlete and cross-country bicyclist, Brian knows the value of hard work and never giving up on his dreams, a message he shares with audiences through each of his creative expressions.
Brian’s brand-new book “Habits for Success – Inspired Ideas to Help You Soar” with Mango Publishing is now available on Amazon. Brian lives in Los Angeles, CA.
Allison Casillas — Board Member
In third grade, Allison realized that teaching was her passion. By pursuing her bachelor’s degree and teaching credential at Cal Poly Pomona, she gained the tools to pursue the most fulfilling job…teaching! As the current Orange County Department of Education’s English Language Arts Coordinator, Allison provides countywide support for stakeholders in the areas of ELA/ELD instruction, Project Based Learning, and AVID Elementary.
In 2014, Allison reached out to RIFSoCal to provide
service to Orange County schools. Since then, over
12,000 Orange County students have brought home books to call their own. There is no greater gift than watching a child learn to read!
Michael Chavez, MBV — Board Member
In his 23-year professional career, Michael developed a wide range of skills including marketing, business development, technical writing, information technology, graphic design, finance, accounting, and database management. He has over 16 years of civilian supervisory experience and three years of military leadership experience.
He launched the YouTube channel
"Uncle Mike Reads" to focus on reading and
reviewing children’s books to foster literacy
and critical thinking, all while having fun and boosting
Michael is a board member for Los Olivos HOA, primarily focused on financial analysis to reduce costs to improve the community.
He volunteers at a local library reading to kids, is a semi-proficient snowboarder, and is at best an amateur bass guitar player.
Michael holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a Management Concentration/Legal Emphasis and is a graduate of USC's Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) within the Gordon S. Marshall School of Business. Michael and his wife Candelaria live in La Mirada, California and have three sons.
Leat Regwan — Board Member
After an over decade career in the corporate banking world, Leat made the decision to leave to raise her three children. Her marriage to a children’s author, combined with her deep passion for books and belief in the importance of literacy, inspired her to follow her entrepreneurial spirit and create MagicBeans Bookstore. MagicBeans, an online children’s bookstore that supports and promotes Indie authors, gives away new, author signed books to children in underserved communities.
“Learning about RIFSoCal’s mission to provide new books to create home libraries for underserved children was truly serendipitous, leading both to our partnership and my joining the Board of Directors.”
Leat’s Bachelor’s degree in Communications helps her build strong relationships with authors and educators in the literacy realm. Her determination to make sure her children read at home every day aligns with her belief that every child deserves a home library filled with books they both own and love.
Andrew Meneses-- Board Member
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Andrew grew up as a “RIF Kid.” “Growing up, there wasn’t any extra money to go shopping for books, so from the first time my little sister Veronica and I visited the RIF Bookmobile, it ignited a life-long passion for reading and learning. We both credit RIF for beginning and impacting our journey to be the first generation of our family to become college graduates! I am honored to be a RIF board member and have an opportunity to give back and help grow RIF for the next generation of kids.”
Andrew obtained his BS in Business Administration from the University of Southern California – Marshall School of Business, as well as his BA in English at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. As a Marketing and Brand Manager, Andrew has held roles with companies including, Nature’ Bounty Co, Aegon/Transamerica, Claremont Snack Foods and FSM Food Products. Andrew obtained his MBA from the University of California, Irvine in 2015, and his post-MBA experience has included roles with Niagara Bottling, LLC and Nature’s Wild Organic, where he currently works as a Marketing Manager.
Andrew is honored and proud to be a Magician Member of The Academy of Magical Arts | The Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA, where he serves on the Heritage Committee. Andrew has had the opportunity to perform internationally in Mexico, Vietnam, Hong Kong and most recently Havana, Cuba. He is honored to share the Art of Magic whenever he has the opportunity, and currently serves on the board of The Society of American Magicians, Hall of Fame and Magic Museum, Inc., whose mission is to preserve and provide education on the History of the Magical Arts. Andrew’s interest in Magic began after watching Muhammad Ali perform an impromptu
Close-Up Magic Show for him at Hollywood Magic in 1981. “He was a great Magician and great man, I feel fortunate to have met him and enjoyed his Magic!”
In his free time, Andrew enjoys spending time with his family, traveling and reading!
Phyllis Shlecter — Chair Emeritus
I arrived in Los Angeles in 1984, forced to retire from teaching in New York City by rheumatoid arthritis, and immediately began a search for meaningful volunteer opportunities to help me fill my days. Fortuitously, RIFSoCal was running an ad in the LA Times seeking volunteers - I answered the ad, attended a Board meeting in the spring of 1985, and the rest is history!
RIFSoCal kept me alive and alert! Volunteering
at the warehouse every Monday and Wednesday
from 10 am – 1 pm gave me a reason to get out of
bed, no matter how much pain I was in. In 1986 I became the VP of Volunteers, training others to do Motivational Reading Events and book distributions. In 1990, I took over as VP of the Book Program. Until I became Chair Emeritus in the late 1990’s, I was either President or Chair of the RIFSoCal Board of Directors. In 2011, I was thrilled to be honored as RIFSoCal’s first recipient of the Julie Cooke Humanitarian Award. RIFSoCal will always be my “baby.”
Carol K. Henault — Executive Director
Carol Henault, RIFSoCal’s Executive Director since October 2004, has been dedicated to the advancement of literacy throughout her 33 years in the nonprofit world. Carol ardently supports RIFSoCal’s work to ensure that underserved children can continue to choose books to call their own and discover the magic of reading for fun.
“Inspiring children’s passion for reading
is the greatest gift we can give them on their
personal road to success.”
“You could say that children without books provide the wind beneath my sails – as well as my passion.”
Suzanne Coscarelli — Community Relations Manager
Suzanne Coscarelli, Community Relations Manager, joined RIFSoCal in May 2004 to help the organization increase its volunteer base and improve the quality of its programs. She is a retiree of GTE/Verizon, where she had a 32-year career in sales and marketing, most recently as Director of Employee Giving Programs.
She has extensive volunteer experience in the
nonprofit sector, having served on the Board of
Directors of the GAR Foundation and Rancho San Antonio. Ms. Coscarelli is largely responsible for more than tripling the number of volunteers who support the Motivational Reading Program countywide and expanding our program to over 200 sites.
Oscar Cux — Program Services Manager
Oscar is Reading Is Fundamental’s Program Services Manager. Oscar considers himself a student of the arts. In the past, he has colorized the winning Bookmarks for our program and looks forward to colorizing them again. Currently, he is pursuing a career as an artist and attending classes to obtain a business administration degree. He joined RIFSoCal in November 2018 and is looking forward to contributing to RIFSoCal's success.
Oscar brings a passion for literacy and deep
gratitude for the opportunity to deliver literacy
programs to underserved children. When Oscar is not at Reading Is Fundamental, you can find him at his personal office painting, drawing, or reading anything he can get his hands on.
Raymond Gonis — Book Program Manager
Raymond became acquainted with RIFSoCal as a volunteer in 2010. He was hired as the Warehouse Manager soon thereafter and enjoys being able to order and distribute books to the children in our program. He continues to volunteer his time whenever possible and encourages others to also volunteer.
Each time he attends a Motivational Reading Event
at a participating school he is amazed at the impact
the RIFSoCal program has on the children. He looks forward to unpacking boxes and putting books on shelves for many years to come.
I am honored to have the opportunity to celebrate the wonder of Julie with you. Julie was, quite simply, RIFSoCal’s heart. Her undauntable spirit was the best RIFSoCal had to offer. Our spirit has dimmed with Julie’s loss, but as she would expect - it will continue to shine as we work to bring the books Julie loved to order, unpack and place on the shelves, to children all over Greater Los Angeles who go home every day to rooms with no books.
Julie will always be in our hearts - every time we open a box of especially wonderful books we will hear her exclamations of delight and pleasure - and every time we grow to inspire more Readers for Tomorrow we will feel her happiness and satisfaction. The world is a better place because of Julie’s passion, love and dedication and she is sorely missed.