The CFILC Staff
Our staff is a richly diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds and experiences. We invite you to learn more about us.
Megan Cowdell Deputy Director
Megan is the Deputy Director at CFILC. She joined the team in February 2015, and has held several positions in her time here. Megan loves working in the Disability rights movement and is grateful to see the real impacts of the work we do at CFILC in our community. She loves the popular Disability rights slogan “Nothing about us without us” and does her best to ensure everyone is included when making decisions.
At CFILC, Megan works to support our team behind the scenes to help ensure all our statewide programs run efficiently and make an impact in our community. She is honored to be able to work closely with CFILC’s talented team to help advance independence for the Disability community. Megan has several mental health disabilities, including borderline personality disorder, major depression, and anxiety. She is grateful to work in a community where our Disabilities are embraced and is passionate about dispelling the social stigmas associated with mental health Disabilities.
In her free time, Megan volunteers with Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue – helping parrots in Northern California find their forever homes. She happily shares her San Francisco home with an ever-growing flock of adopted and foster birds (currently at 5!), 4 cats, and three koi fish. Megan is also an avid reader, traveler, cross-stitcher, and is currently on the search for the best pizza in SF.
Chania Brodie Operations Manager
Chania Brodie, Operations Manager, is the newest addition to the CFILC team.
Chania has served the board and committees of the California Association of Area Agencies on Aging (C4A) since May of 2013, starting as Executive Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director and is currently an Executive Associate to the board and committee(s). Prior to C4A, Chania worked in the Bishop's Office of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California supporting the program managers for five separate diocesan programs. Chania has been in the Capitol over a number of years and has worked for and within large corporations to small family-owned businesses.
In May 2020, Chania received her Bachelor's degree in Psychology, and has plans to obtain her Master's soon.
Chania loves to travel, learn the history of other cultures, and is fascinated with high-tech.
Russell Rawlings Statewide Community Organizer
Russell first developed a passion for disability rights advocacy after serving for seven years as President of DOGFITE (Disability Organizing Group For Initiating Total Equality), a Sacramento-area disability advocacy group established in the early 2000's at Resources for Independent Living (RIL). While educated in the Independent Living Movement through his nearly 20-year experience as both a leader and facilitator with DOGFITE advocates, Russell was introduced to the transformational power of community organizing as an early participant in Occupy Sacramento and developed a deep commitment to accessible, affordable housing advocacy and intersectional anti-poverty community organizing.
Russell has previously served as Chair of the Sacramento City Disabilities Advisory Commission, Vice-Chair of the Disability Action Coalition (DAC), and board member of Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness. He is also a graduate of Sierra Health Foundation's Health Leadership Program (Class XV) and Sacramento's Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI). Russell is currently serving as an organizer for the Sacramento Community Land Trust (Sac CLT).
Russell is honored to serve as CFILC's Statewide Community Organizer, a role with a legacy of leaders committed to the strengthening the power of the Disability community. His personal organizing philosophy centers around the promotion and development of Disabled leaders willing to influence power to achieve an equitable, accessible and transformational justice for all people. In short, Russell believes Disability community leaders must be at the forefront of a progressive society, because barriers to access are also barriers to progress.
Russell resides in Sacramento's historic Oak Park, and in his free time, can be found performing improv comedy or karaoke. He also enjoys travel and is constantly plotting his next international excursion.
Phil Thompson Administrative & Accounting Director
Phil Thompson, Administrative and Accounting Director first worked at CFILC in 2005 and officially joined the CFILC staff in 2006.
Phil has over 20 years of experience in both accounting and business management. Phil's prior experience includes Real Estate / Hotel Property Management, Restaurant Management and State & Federal Tax preparation.
Dan Okenfuss Public Policy Manager
Dan Okenfuss is CFILC's Public Policy Manager. Based in Sacramento, Dan's role is to ensure CFILC’s voice is heard in the halls of the State Capitol.
Dan has an exciting career in public service and was honored to have worked for many distinguished legislators, including current Assembly Member Tim Grayson and former Assembly Members Susan Bonilla, Jared Huffman, Ted Lieu, and Dario Frommer. Dan has also worked for former State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and served on the department’s Disability Advisory Council.
Before moving to California, Dan worked in Washington, D.C. for U.S. Congressman David Mann, and later for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and State Net. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Dan attended college nearby at the University of Dayton (“Go Flyers!”).
Outside of CFILC, Dan is a board member for Little People of America - a nonprofit organization for people with dwarfism. In his spare time, Dan also loves to play golf, swim, ride bicycles, and even brew beer. Dan lives in Sacramento with his wife, two sons, and two dogs.
Christina Mills Executive Director
Christina Mills has served as the Executive Director of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) since 2017, and she has over 20 years of disability rights and independent living center services experience.
As Executive Director of CFILC, Christina is responsible for seamlessly implementing six statewide programs while also building the capacity of her Independent Living Center members. Earlier this year, Christina launched California’s first cross-disability not-for-profit Disability Disaster Access & Resources (DDAR) program. The DDAR pilot program is a partnership between CFILC and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) that provides people with disabilities services and resources before, during, and after a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS).
Christina recently served as an appointee of the California Master Plan for Aging (MPA), Stakeholder Advisory Committee that was charged with developing a ten-year plan focused on creating a California for All. Christina is a current council member of the California Utility Access & Functional Needs Advisory Committee, is a Commissioner of the Advisory Commission on Special Education appointed by the Board of Education, a Board Member of Disability Rights Education Defense Fund (DREDF), and co-chair of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), International Committee.
In 2019, Christina was honored by the California Association of Area Agencies on Aging (C4A) for her commitment to bridging the gap between the disability and older adult communities.
Christina lives in the Bay Area with her partner/husband, their six-year-old son, the spirit/memory of their forever four-year-old daughter, Olivia, two dogs, a Golden Greek Tortoise, and seven fish.
Jeanette Dubesa Bookkeeper
Jeanette joined CFILC in September of 2020 as the bookkeeper. Since then, she has continued to expand her duties and responsibilities as CFILC’s programs expand. She has 20+ years of nonprofit bookkeeping and administrative experience with organizations in Sacramento and the Bay Area, and five years’ experience in contracts and grants with the University of California.
Jeanette has a B.A. in Biological Anthropology from UC Berkeley and is near completion of her B.S. in Horticulture from Oregon State University. She lives with her daughter and a menagerie of cats and dog, and she enjoy sci-fi movies, gardening and making art.
Jessica Riestra Statewide Youth Organizer
Jessica Riestra joins CFILC as the Statewide Youth Organizer. Her role is to support disabled youth (16-28) to be educated, connect with one another, and to organize for their rights to be heard. Jessica has history in organizing. Prior to CFILC, Jessica was a Regional Organizing Director for March for Our Lives in which she oversaw the West Coast Region. She additionally has history with campaigning having worked for the California Democratic Party.
Jessica was born and raised in Santa Ana, California, and attended Sacramento State University in Sacramento, California, where she earned two degrees in Political Science and Ethnic Studies with a concentration in Chicanx Studies. Jessica loves working in the nonprofit realm and contributing back to her community. Moreover, she is stoked to make a positive impact within the CFILC community.
In her spare time, Jessica enjoys dancing, hiking, traveling, and learning new languages.
Sydney Pickern Disability Disaster Manager
Sydney "Syd" Pickern joined CFILC in June 2021 as the Disability Disaster Manager for the Disability Disaster Access and Resources (DDAR) program. She previously worked as an Equal Justice Works fellow and staff attorney with Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) to improve access to accessible housing, address barriers to homelessness assistance programs, and increase access to local emergency planning and response programs. Sydney also has experience related to the California Public Utilities Commission planned power outage regulatory proceeding and has been involved in legislative efforts in this area. She is extremely passionate about disability rights especially at the intersection of race and climate emergencies.
Syd also has a significant physical disability, her pronouns are she/they, and she identifies as a queer person. In her off time, she can be found in swimming pools, coffee-related situations, playing with her poodle Merv and working on her chess game. Some of Syd’s favorite movies and TV series are the Science of Sleep, the Darjeeling Limited, Succession, and High Fidelity. She also has a degree in Creative Writing and hopes to rekindle her love of literature soon.
Lisa Austin Disability Disaster Director
Lisa Austin is the Disability Disaster Director for CFILC. In this role, Lisa oversees the Disability Disaster Access and Resources (DDAR) pilot program.
Lisa was born in Pittsburgh, PA and moved to Walnut Creek, CA in 1974 where she spent the remainder of her childhood and early adulthood. Lisa attended college at California State University Hayward studying Human Development, specializing in Early Childhood Education. Her passion to have a positive influence and be an advocate for young children, Lisa's professional career started in the childcare industry. She was introduced to the meeting planning profession in 1999. She enjoys the excitement of meeting new people, traveling around the country and using her skills to create and support many successful events. She has previously worked in the non-profit industry with California Peace Officers Association and The California Pharmacists Association.
Growing up, most of Lisa's time was spent competing in sports such as tennis, swimming, soccer and softball. At the collegiate level, she competed in soccer and softball. As a team captain and starting goalkeeper she finished her competitive career by winning the Division II, NCAA Soccer Championship. She enjoys the outdoors, photography, spending time with friends, and traveling. Her biggest joy is spending with her family most importantly her 4 nieces and 3 nephews.
Victor Mendoza Information & Advocacy Coordinator
In July 2021, Victor joined CFILC as the Information and Advocacy Coordinator. Victor's role is to provide information and referrals to individuals who contact the Digital Access Project (DAP) and Ability Tools (AT) programs.
Victor was born in San Clemente, CA, and moved to Sacramento in 2017 to pursue his education. Victor attended CSU Sacramento and received his bachelor’s degree in Sociology. "Sociology made me aware of social issues that affect minority groups which made me step out of my comfort zone and become an advocate for people who are disproportionately affected by social, and political issues," said Victor.
In his free time, Victor enjoys reading about history, writing poetry, and cooking.
Kathrine Crowley Program Manager
Kathrine is the Program Manager for CFILC. Her role is to raise public awareness about access to AT and provide technical assistance and training to Independent Living Centers and community members to improve programs and ultimately outcomes for our consumers who use AT.
Kathrine attended University of California, Davis (UCD) and obtained bachelor's degrees in anthropology and English with a minor in psychology. Before attending UCD, her early life and career was spent participating and advocating with the Disability community. At UCD, she was able to continue her passion by participating in various activities impacting marginalized communities. She studied and interviewed a wide scope of groups, ultimately studying abroad in Ecuador. She lived with indigenous communities and learned about their struggle for autonomy in the wake of government and corporate attempts to strip and mine their lands. This experience taught her much about the strength of community organizing and what a collection of determined individuals can accomplish together.
Kathrine enjoys traveling, with the goal of visiting all seven continents in order to beat her father's record of having visited six. She enjoys hiking, white water rafting, swimming, reading, solving puzzles and playing board games with her husband, sisters and nephew. She and her husband have adapted many of their board games in order to make family game night a seamlessly accessible event for her sister Becka, who has Down syndrome.
Contact Kathrine through our contact form
Cameron Moore Communications and Marketing Manager
Cameron Moore joins the CFILC family as the Communications and Marketing Manager. In this role, Cameron will lead and develop marketing strategies for major organizational initiatives of programs and projects.
Cameron was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and attended college at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Public Communications. During the last nineteen years, Cameron was employed at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, where he held numerous roles, including: Membership Coordinator, Reservations Sales Manager, and Communications Coordinator. Cameron loves working in the non-profit sector and is eager about making a difference within the CFILC community.
In his spare time, Cameron enjoys watching sports (especially Miami Dolphins football), reading, Netflix, and napping.