Leadership Team

Rev. Dr. David Benke with Marlene Lund, the Executive Director of the Center for Urban Education Ministries.

Cecilia Aranzamendez, Antonnette Taylor and Rachel Kornfeld at LSSNY’s 2016 Staff Christmas Party.

Incoming President/Chief Executive Officer - Damyn Kelly, J.D.

Damyn Kelly, J.D. is the incoming president and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSSNY), a leading social service agency serving more than 7,000 New Yorkers every day. Mr. Kelly will oversee a $60 million annual budget and nearly 650 highly-qualified employees in the delivery of quality human services for the benefit of all New Yorkers, especially those most in need.

Mr. Kelly is a skilled strategic leader who has worked for more than 18 years as the chief executive of organizations serving many disenfranchised members of the community. His work has improved the lives of the formerly incarcerated; those living with mental illness, developmental and intellectual disabilities; and the homeless. He has leveraged his experience, industry knowledge and strong commitment to community advocacy, to bolster the business practices and financial success of several social service agencies. As CEO of Southeast Bronx Neighborhood Centers, Inc., Mr. Kelly had great success managing a multi-service agency serving more than 6,000 children and families in a variety of educational, vocational and behavioral treatment programs across 11 facilities.

Mr. Kelly has a Bachelor of Business Administration from Adelphi University and a Juris Doctor from the Antioch School of Law. He has also served as the Executive Director of the Newark Emergency Services for Families and Congregations Linked in Urban Strategy to Effect Renewal (CLUSTER, Inc.). He and his wife, Diann, an Associate Professor and Chair of the BSW Program at Adelphi University, have two children.

dkelly@lssny.org
212-870-1100

Interim President/Chief Executive Officer - The Rev. David H. Benke, Ph.D.

benke-david-09-v2Rev. Dr. David H. Benke is the interim President and Chief Executive Officer of Lutheran Social Services of New York. From 1991-2015, he was the President/Bishop of the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, representing 2.5 million members within Eastern New York State. Ordained into the Holy Ministry in the Missouri Synod in 1972, he served as Pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, New York, from 1975-1991, and coterminous with his President’s responsibilities from 1997 to the present.

Dr. Benke has made a strong impact within New York City, supporting and organizing a diverse range of community-led advocacy and ministry activities. Following the events of September 11, Dr. Benke co-founded Lutheran Disaster Response of New York, which coordinated recovery efforts to those affected by the terrorist attacks. After Superstorm Sandy, Dr. Benke led recovery efforts along affected coastal areas and especially in the devastated regions of Far Rockaway, Queens. During his tenure in Brooklyn, Dr. Benke contributed to the development of affordable housing in that borough, by initiating and promoting the Nehemiah Plan, which led to the construction of more than 4,000 single-family homes on formerly ravaged inner-city acreage.

Dr. Benke received a B.A. from Concordia Senior College and graduated from Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri) with a Master of Divinity. He received a Doctor of Ministry from the New York Theological Seminary.

dbenke@lssny.org
212-870-1100

Chief Financial Officer - Tamer Seoud, MBA, CCEP

tamer_hs_smallAs the Chief Financial Officer of LSSNY, Mr. Tamer Seoud has made steady enhancements to the agency’s financial position, improving internal controls, financial compliance and reporting. He continues to build the organization’s financial expertise by expanding staff capacity and fostering team collaboration. Prior to joining LSSNY, Mr. Seoud served as Chief Financial Officer and consultant for several nonprofit organizations over a ten-year period. During that time, he helped those organizations boost their funding rates, reduce debt and enhance their financial outcomes.

Mr. Seoud also worked in Management Information Systems and developed database applications that integrated data from several city and state systems. His business and venture capital background has allowed him to bring a unique business mentality and acumen to the nonprofit arena. He holds an MBA in Corporate Finance and is a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional (CEEP). He is also a Microsoft-Certified Systems Engineer and a Certified Database Administrator.

tseoud@lssny.org
212-870-1132

General Counsel - Wanyong Austin, Esq.

wanyong-austinMs. Wanyong Austin has been LSSNY’s General Counsel since 2009. She is responsible for providing legal guidance on laws and regulations governing service provision within all programs, supervising legal work done by the agency, fostering sound corporate governance practices and overseeing the agency’s Human Resources Department.

Ms. Austin began her legal career as a corporate litigator with various New York law firms before becoming a staff attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation B. At Brooklyn Legal Services, she litigated family law individual and class action lawsuits on behalf of indigent clients for seven years. In 1993, she moved to Hong Kong with her family and worked with Pam Baker & Co. where she represented Vietnamese boat people held in detention in Hong Kong. Upon her return to the United States, she worked at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. Ms. Austin has worked at LSSNY since 2001, first as the Supervising Attorney of the Immigration Legal Services Program and later the Director of the Immigration and Refugee Services Program. She received her A.B. from Harvard Radcliffe College and her J.D. from NYU School of Law.

waustin@lssny.org
212-870-1123

Vice President for Advancement & Communications - Brian Gavin

brian-gavin-v2Brian Gavin, LSSNY’s Vice President for Advancement and Communications, has more than 10 years of experience in leading development and marketing initiatives. He has demonstrated successes in strategic fundraising, board and foundation relations, event planning, public relations, strategic communications and change management. He joined Lutheran Social Services of New York in December 2016 as the Vice President for Advancement and Communications and is responsible for all aspects of the agency’s public relations and fundraising activities.

Previously, Mr. Gavin held senior leadership positions with Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, and at the national level for Catholic Charities USA, leading their fundraising and marketing initiatives for 173 member agencies. During his tenure at Catholic Charities, he also coordinated public relations and development in conjunction with the Papal state visit. Mr. Gavin holds a Master’s degree in Public Communications from Fordham University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Scranton. He is on the board of DePaul USA and is a member of the National Press Club.

bgavin@lssny.org
212-870-1124

 

Vice President for Research & Quality Improvement - Isabel Masch

Executive Director for the Center for Urban Education Ministries - Marlene Lund, MA, MS

marlene-lund-v2Ms. Marlene Lund serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Urban Education Ministries, bringing her strong educational background to her work to improve urban education through the development of innovative Christian education practices. Ms. Lund has demonstrated expertise as a teacher and school guidance counselor. She also served as Principal of Queens Lutheran School, and was awarded the National Distinguished Principal Award by the U.S. Department of Education in 1992. She is a national presenter on leadership, team building and developing models of pedagogy, and has served on several non-public school committees in New York City and State.

Ms. Lund received her undergraduate degree from Cortland State University; she earned a Master of Arts in Education from Hunter College. She also holds a Master’s degree in Counseling Education from New York University.

mlund@lssny.org
212-870-1105

Executive Director for Children's Services - Antonnette Taylor

antonnette-taylorAs the Executive Director for Children’s Services, Antonnette Taylor is responsible for the development, operation and delivery of key programmatic services within the agency’s foster care program, LIFE Care Medical Center and Health Home Care Management services.

In addition, Ms. Taylor oversees the Kinship and Family Treatment Rehabilitation Preventive programs and is responsible for the Discrete Medicaid Program at LSSNY, which was created to enhance medical, mental, developmental and substance abuse health services to appropriately meet the special needs of the children and adolescents served.

With LSSNY since 1995, Ms. Taylor has a comprehensive knowledge of the needs of the families we serve, and she works       diligently—and with a tremendous amount of expertise—to connect children with loving homes. She has a B.A. and J.D. from CUNY Law School at Queens College.

ataylor@lssny.org
646-790-6560

Executive Director for Community Services - Cecilia Aranzamendez, LMSW, Esq.

cecilia-aranzamendez-v2Cecilia Aranzamendez, the Executive Director of Community Services, oversees the agency’s immigration legal program, disaster case management and hunger prevention programs. She brings considerable experience as both an attorney and a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) to the division. Ms. Aranzamendez has over 16 years of experience working with immigrants, both in a legal and case management context. Among the programs she oversees at LSSNY is the Safe Haven for Children program, which provides residential, educational, vocational and legal services to unaccompanied children.

Ms. Aranzamendez has a J.D. degree from New York University School of Law and an MSW from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work.

caranzamendez@lssny.org
212-870-1115

Executive Director for Early LIFE Services - Khamele McLeod-Cato, Ed.D.

khamele-mcleod-catoKhamele McLeod-Cato is the Executive Director for LSSNY’s Early LIFE program and is responsible for overall program management of 10 early childhood education centers and the Family Child Care Network of home-based providers. She has more than 15 years of experience in early childhood education. Prior to joining LSSNY, she was an administrator with the NYC Administration for Children’s Services Division of Early Care and Education.

Ms. McLeod-Cato has a Master of Science in Education/Special Education in Early Childhood Education from Touro College (NYC) and is currently enrolled in a Doctor of Philosophy in Early Childhood Education program at Northcentral University (AZ).

kmcleod-cato@lssny.org
212-870-1113

Executive Director for Education Services - Rachel Kornfeld, LCSW, SBL

rachel-kornfeld-v2Rachel Kornfeld is the Principal and Executive Director for Education Services at The New LIFE School, a school that serves students in grades 3-12. Opened in 2006, the school strives to help students with special needs achieve success academically and socially through a program that combines a supportive, structured environment, with an emphasis on individual academic and behavioral planning. Ms. Kornfeld joined The New LIFE School as a Social Worker soon after it opened, and worked as the Director of Clinical Services before becoming Principal and Executive Director. Ms. Kornfeld believes The New LIFE School can change the trajectory of young lives and says it does this by “making the school fit the student, not the student to the school.” She is committed to ensuring that all students at The New LIFE School receive a quality, individualized education.

Ms. Kornfeld received her Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts. She earned a second Master’s degree in School Building Leadership from Mercy College (NY).

rlevine@lssny.org
718-665-2760 Ext 2000

Executive Director of Facilities Operations - Robert Saracena

robert-saracena-v2Mr. Robert Saracena joined LSSNY in August 2016 as the Administrative Director of Facilities Operations; in December 2016, he became the Executive Director of Facilities Operations. He is primarily responsible for ensuring that LSSNY’s facilities are consistently maintained in a high-quality manner, including managing facility aesthetics, regulatory compliance, and health and safety concerns. In this role, he ensures that our facilities meet the standards of both internal and external stakeholders in various departments including Children’s Services, Community Services, Early LIFE and The New LIFE School.

From 2013-2016, Mr. Saracena worked as the Supervising Construction Manager for Lutheran Disaster Response of New York, an LSSNY Project LIFE program. As a result, he helped many families rebuild their homes after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. He has extensive experience in facilities management, having served as the Executive Director of Facilities and Capital Projects at Mercy College and as the Director of Facilities at the American Folk Art Museum. Over the years, he has demonstrated expertise in managing substantial annual Capital Projects and Maintenance budgets.

rsaracena@lssny.org
212-870-1140

Executive Director for Information Technology - Thomas Dewar

thomas-dewar-preferred-v2Thomas Dewar is the Executive Director of Information Technology for LSSNY. Since joining the agency in late 2015, Mr. Dewar quickly worked to make enhancements to the organization’s IT infrastructure. Mr. Thomas has more than 30 years of experience designing and programming applications, and he has a deep knowledge of public, private and government systems. He has successfully worked to automate and streamline operations, using a mixture of homegrown, custom-developed and off-the-shelf business applications and is extremely skilled at custom reporting and billing.

Prior to joining LSSNY, Mr. Dewar was the Senior Director of Applications & Healthcare Systems at The New York Foundling; he has also served as the Chief Information Officer at Leake and Watts Services, Inc. He is co-chair of the Council on Families and Child Care Agencies (COFCCA) Information Technology Committee and is on the Mount Sinai Delivery System Reform Incentive Program (DSRIP) IT and Stakeholders Committees.

tdewar@lssny.org
212-870-1116

Executive Director for Residential Services - John Ray Gonzalez, Esq.

ray-gonzalez-v2Mr. Ray Gonzalez is the Executive Director for Residential Services. He has extensive experience as a community and housing activist. Since 2000, he has helped LSSNY develop a wide range of housing development projects for formerly homeless individuals and families that not only bring stable housing to residents, but also offer integrated health and mental health services, and increased access to community resources and support systems. Mr. Gonzalez supervises the development and operation of more than 475 units of supportive housing in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

He received a Bachelor of Science from Long Island University and a J.D. from Seton Hall Law School.

rgonzalez@lssny.org
212-870-1117