Our team

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Founding Executive Director

Jennifer Karaca

Jennifer graduated with her Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Sustainable Science Management from the University of Hawaii. Her education and experience in agriculture has been formal, informal, and hands-on for the last 10 years, in the areas of permaculture design, farming, gardening, integrated pest management, systems thinking and regenerative agriculture studies. Jennifer also has a hospitality background which has provided her experience in management, scheduling, sales, marketing, event planning, and inventory. In addition to being a Veteran of the United States Army and having teaching experience both locally and abroad in Hawaii, Costa Rica, Turkey, and Peru, including curriculum design and implementation, Jennifer also worked as a Legislative Analyst for the County of Maui. This position has helped her develop incredible insight for the gaps in the local food system at the County and State level. That position allowed her to gain knowledge about local, state, and federal regulation in the agricultural sector and afforded her the opportunity to develop community building skills and develop an extensive network of relationships with community organizations on the island of Maui, as well as throughout the State. She is using these relationships, her past work experience, educational background, and her perspicacity from living abroad to identify patterns that negatively affect her community to engineer change. 

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Program Assistant

Sarah "Noelani" Reyes

Noelani Reyes was born and raised on Maui. Growing up here gave her a deep appreciation of the land and those that nurture it. She has always been interested in the outdoors, and more specifically plants and the ability to grow food. Noelani graduated from Kamehameha Schools Maui in 2015, where she was a part of the Science and Natural Resources Academy. Her education allowed her the opportunity to take Agriculture Courses, Environmental Studies, and even take part in soil competitions with other schools around Maui.
After high school, Noelani attended Northern California at Notre Dame de Namur University, where she was a
full-time student athlete, playing soccer and studying communications. After returning to home to Maui, she attend the University of Hawaii, Maui Campus and studied agriculture, while also working in management positions in the hospitality industry. Noelani joined Common Ground Collective in April of 2021 and has been an incredible asset to the organization since her arrival.   

The CGC Board
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President

Laura R Night

 

A Maui Resident for 20 years, hailing originally from Montana, Laura is passionate about creating sustainability and security within small businesses by helping them structure their organizations from the ground up with a focus on supporting local farmers, and agriculture. Structuring and launching dozens of small businesses, including her own, her focus is on helping structure small businesses and organizations to build sustainability into their plan, while helping them grow, and ensuring they have access to the resources they need to make supporting local Agriculture attainable and affordable. Laura is especially skilled in sustainably focused business management, structuring & organization, building, creating, financing and funding and has been an active Entrepreneur for 15 years as a CEO & Founder of multiple sustainably run, community supportive companies. 

Vice-President

Nicolas Timpone

Nicolas Timpone grew up on Maui and is an avid lover of the outdoors. When he is not surfing or enjoying time away in the mountains, he spends his time working at his family's company, as their sustainability consultant. He is leading the way to promote eco-friendly designs in the surfboard industry and is always looking for new and innovative ways to minimize waste and help transform the relationship between the surfboard manufacturing industry and the environment. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Science Management from the University in Hawaii and is enthusiastic about continuing to learn of ways he can help make a positive difference in both his work and personal community.

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Treasurer

Cherry Respicio-Urias

Cherry Respicio-Urias, a native Mauian, is an Accountant with over 20 years of experience in Real Estate, Hospitality, and Tourism. She studied at the University of LaVerne with a focus in Business Administration. She has developed a strong sense of devotion for the nonprofit sector and has served on several cultural, educational, and community Boards – promoting their mission, growing public support, and organizing a number of successful fundraising campaigns. Today, Cherry’s purpose and passion lies in helping CGC community support flourish. Away from the office and volunteer work, she enjoys spending time with her family and helping entrepreneurs get their businesses up and running – from concept to creation. 

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Secretary

Leslie Viloria Garo

Born and raised on Maui, Leslie has always prioritized the community.  She is a proud Lahainaluna High School graduate, where she started her journey in gaining leadership and coordination skills and community involvement. She was the co-chair of the entire Youth Relay for Life at the young age of 17. After having her daughter at a young age, she realized that the needs and support for the women community meant a lot to her, so she founded Malama Yo Mama in 2021, an organization to bring the women community together, where she raised over $9,000 in less than a year for local non-profit organizations. Her full time job as a Community Health Worker strengthens her skills, knowledge and experience in how we can help all the people of Maui, especially when it comes to food insecurity. She is also currently serving on another board, Commission of Status of Women for Maui County. She is also obtaining her Bachelor's degree in Health Care Administration. Her drive and passion in making a difference in the community shows through her actions and the impact on those around her. Leslie loves to spend her free time with her family and friends, dancing and singing to her favorite songs with her daughter Aria and travelling. 

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Board Member

Mailani Souza

A firm believer in sustainable agriculture, Mailani Souza firmly supports the concepts of nature-based education and sustainable food systems in Hawaii.  Being born and raised on the Big Island, she has a true passion for regenerating the land and spreading that knowledge to next generations.  Mailani holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Agriculture from University of Hawaii at Hilo and is certified in Korean Natural Farming and Holistic Farm Management. Before joining CGC in 2020, Mailani worked in agricultural education, teaching in public schools, charter schools, and colleges throughout Hawaii. She has worked with a range of ages from kindergarten to college.  In addition, she has over 15 years of sustainable farming experience and is a small business owner in Hawaii.  Mailani's background in agriculture, education, and grant writing provide a perfect foundation for her board position at CGC.

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Board Member
Harriet Witt

 

Harriet is an international award winning science writer, has has lived on Maui since 1988. She taught celestial navigation to the crew of Hawaii’s Hokule’a Voyaging Canoe in preparation for the Rapanui voyage. She was the astronomer to the Maui Film Festival’s outdoor Celestial Cinema from its inception in 2000 until Covid shut-down in 2020. Since 2017 she has served on the board of the Haleakala Chapter of the Hawaii Farmers Union United, where she is a frequent speaker. She created and produced a year-long series of 52 radio spots (4.5 minutes each) about living by the light of the star that we’re orbiting – in collaboration with Laura Civitello, director of radiOpio at Paia Youth and Cultural Center. Every Saturday night she leads a stargazing cruise for the Pacific Whale Foundation out of Maalaea Harbor. For Maui’s Earth Medicine Academy, she is currently creating an online curriculum called, “The Sky Underneath Us… Is Where the Sun is at Night.” Instead of having a lawn on her quarter-acre residential lot in Haiku, she grows kalo, sweet potatoes, veggies, fruits and herbs.

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Board Member

Trinette Furtado

Born and raised on Maui, Trinette attended a combination of public and private schools before graduating in 1988 from Maui High School. She is a Kanaka Maoli (Indigenous Hawaiian) descended from five generations of ‘ohana (family) on Maui alone. She is a single mother to a keiki (child) currently attending Ke Kula Kaiapuni o Samuel Enoka Kalama Intermediate School and believes that every one of us deserves to live in a community that is healthy, sustainable, prosperous, engaging, communicative and works together. She advocates tirelessly to ensure that our keiki and their keiki will be able to drink clean water, grow food in healthy soil and provide for themselves and their families long after the seeds we plant today, have sprouted. Trinette previously worked as a legislative analyst for Maui County Councilmember’s Alika Atay and Keani Rawlins-Fernandez and has orchestrated and participated in various community initiatives to uplift her community. Trinette is currently a small business owner and artist, who spends her free time chasing Maui’s beautiful sunsets.