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Meet our Board Members

Step Up Ventura Board members are dedicated to the belief that every homeless child in Ventura County benefit and deserves quality childcare and therapeutic services.

Our Board of Directors is comprised of community and national leaders with expertise in a range of areas. They bring a wealth of experiences and expertise to Step Up Ventura. United by their passion for our mission, it's our pleasure to introduce them to you.


Judith Alexandre PhD, LCSW (ret)

President & Program Chair

Being a social worker is part of my identity. I have sought and continue to seek to live a life that pursues Shalom for the community, others and myself. This reflects both my deep-rooted faith as well as social work ethics. Professionally this has been lived out in my work in child welfare services, domestic violence, addressing homelessness and human trafficking. I had a private practice for over 35 years and taught social work at Westmont College (teaching social work skills, intimate partner violence, child welfare, contemporary marriage, family, grief and loss as well as training and supervising interns) for 25 years. I have volunteered at local nonprofits, supervised MSW and LCSW interns, and started 2 non-profits addressing child welfare, homelessness and poverty. I worked as a Ventura distance learning co-site coordinator for CSULB, School of Social Workers. In the larger community, I am a long-time member of NASW and served in various leadership capacities at the state and local levels. I served as a member of the Ventura Unified School district board of Trustees and as a member of the district personnel commission for 24 years. I have and do serve my local congregation as an elder, adult Sunday School teacher, and have chaired and led the local outreach committee for many years. I worked as an advocate for 28 years to get the city of Ventura to open a shelter serving our un-housed population, now called The Arch. I currently chair the Ventura Social Services Task Force, (VSSTF) a collaborative network of individual, public and private agencies dedicated to addressing issues of homelessness in the City of Ventura. I am a member of Homes for All, a volunteer advocacy network working to establish affordable homes for all. I am a member of the county Continuum of Care and a member of a committee chair of the Ventura County Housing Advocacy Network for Vulnerable Populations. I am actively involved in a non-profit I help to found, Step Up Ventura, serving children ages 0-5 whose families are experiencing or are at high risk of homelessness. I am on the board of the Homeless Prevention Fund and the faith sub-committee of VSSTF. I also volunteer with Justice for All and at One Stop. It is my heart to serve in whatever capacity I can for as long as I can.


Paula Francis

Secretary, Communications

Paula is a recently retired elementary school teacher from
the Ventura Unified School District. Her educational
experience includes teaching grades 2 through 5 for the
past 39 years. She also worked as a district language arts
support teacher and brings with her an abundance of
knowledge in beginning reading and intervention of
reading/writing skills. She has her M.Ed. in Curriculum and
Instruction and enjoys being a lifelong learner. She has
volunteered with Teen Adventure foster youth summer
camps, organized and lead community outreach projects
and worked as a middle school Sunday School
teacher/leader with her husband Doug for over 20 years.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a
fire.” W.B. Yeats


Doug Francis

Operations & Treasurer Chair

Doug brings with him over 35-years in biomedical device
and pharma. His experience is in data science, analytics,
engineering, and continuous improvement. He has served
the Ventura community as an elder in his church,
volunteered with Teen Adventure foster youth summer
camps, organized and lead community outreach projects
and worked as a middle school Sunday School
teacher/leader with his wife Paula for over 20 years. He
has a passion for outdoor adventures and serving others.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can
use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

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Mary O. Kerrigan, MSW

Program Director

Mary has thirty years of experience working with families as a child and family psychotherapist. As a therapist, her work focuses on helping children and parents resolve early childhood traumas and form healthy attachments. She views helping family members build on their strengths and responding to their difficulties with compassion as essential aspects of meeting a family’s needs.  

Mary has been an instructor for graduate schools of social work and has conducted trainings on attachment and trauma on both the local and national levels.  She has managed programs for several nonprofits, the last as the executive director of Center for Attachment and Trauma (formerly the American Foundation for Family Attachment) before relocating from the Washington, DC, area to Ventura. She believes Step Up Ventura offers a unique educational and emotional support to young homeless children and their families and is grateful to be part of furthering its mission.

“Step Up Ventura is a place to develop strong relationships that will prepare children for success throughout their lives.”

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Leah Cardinai

Operations Manager

I'm grateful to be living my passion: helping children and families experiencing homelessness. Working at Step Up Ventura gives me the opportunity to make a real difference in their lives. Every day, I'm reminded of our impact and the joy that comes from serving our community.

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Alex Saldana

Volunteer Coordinator

I couldn't be happier to be part of the amazing work being done at Step Up Ventura. The tireless efforts of volunteers are the driving force behind our community and it's a privilege to support them in helping break the cycle of homelessness in Ventura County.

Board of Directors and Staff: Team Members
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