The Plexus Mission

To provide proactive business development for the LGBT business community and allies.

Plexus is an affiliate of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce



Board Member Bios

Michelle Tomallo
Chief People Officer
FIT Technologies
Plexus Board President

Michelle is Chief People Officer at FIT Technologies, a full service Managed IT Services firm headquartered in downtown Cleveland celebrating their 20th anniversary. FIT’s 80 employees support clients throughout Ohio and in other locations nationwide. FIT was certified as an LGBT-owned business until recently when FIT became an employee owned company in 2018.

Michelle has 25 years of senior-level management with an emphasis on start-up operations, training, business development, and change management. Prior to co-founding FIT in 1999, Michelle worked as a strategic development consultant for non-profits, was Vice President of New Life Hospice, and marketing director for healthcare facilities. Michelle joined the Plexus board in 2010, serving in the roles of Events Chair, Membership Chair and now as the Board President. She speaks regionally and nationally on entrepreneurship, workplace inclusion, and supplier diversity. Michelle was involved for four years with Gay Games 2014 as a board member and community liaison. In addition, Michelle supports HRC, Equality Ohio, and other advocacy groups along with being actively involved in GCP’s Commission on Economic Inclusion, OhTec, and other business groups. She is on the board of Engage! Cleveland, Warehouse District, and Progressive Arts Alliance, and is a member of Leadership Cleveland 2017 class.

She fancies herself a cheerleader for Cleveland, eager to be involved in the on-going transformation of the city by participating in many arts and culture events, sponsoring local organizations and being an unofficial ambassador for the City. Michelle incorporates her commitment to fitness by being a champion of workplace wellbeing. She is a runner and cyclist, and participant in dozens of charitable races.

David de Bardelaben-Phillips
Energetic Awakenings

David Phillips is the President of Energetic Awakenings which is a certified LGBT owned business. Energetic Awakenings is a coaching and consulting firm that focuses on personal transformation and organizational development for businesses and non-profits.

David works with individuals clients to achieve personal transformation through body based psychotherapy & energy work. The two main modalities employed are Core Energetics & Reiki. David also consults with businesses on projects that deliver sustainable and measurable results to the bottom line. Areas of specialty include: customer service delivery systems, CRM implementations, business process definitions, supplier diversity, and training & development.

David received his masters of Education from Cleveland State University with a focus on Adult Learning and Development. His bachelor's degree was achieved in business management from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. David has received his reiki training from the Chagrin Valley Wellness Center and University Hospitals. David has achieved advanced certification from the Institute of Core Energetics in New York City where he now serves as faculty.

Leslie Bednar
Real Estate Agent, Howard Hanna
Engagement Consultant, LLBednar Consulting, LLC

Known for her quick wit and loud laugh, Leslie Bednar brings a lot of energy and a giant sense of humor to all her endeavors. Leslie is intensely interested in all things not boring and enjoys assisting others, including clients and customers, achieve meaningful goals.

After more than 25 years of organization management and nonprofit development work in Geauga County, Ms. Bednar moved her marketing and communication skills to Cleveland in 2014. Today, she creates and carries out strategy-based projects focused on building clients' audiences of partners, members, customers, or attendees.

Recently, she became a licensed real estate agent focused on helping her clients achieve their home dreams. She lists and sells residential property in the tri-county area of Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake.

In her free time, Leslie enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles, riding motorcycle during the short North Coast summers, speaking publically, and playing with words through writing and games.

Isaac Bendele
Senior Manager
CampaignDrive by Pica9

Isaac has a diverse background in paid media strategy while communicating for regional and national brands. With expertise in preserving brand integrity through marketing automation, Isaac works to remove barriers to brand compliance in companies with distributed markets.

He has supported leading educational and children’s publishers Zaner-Bloser, and Highlights for Children, managing online, direct-mail, and agency channels. A lover of local content and engagement, Isaac founded and sold a regional publishing company, expanding the storyline of LGBT individuals in central Ohio.

He holds a degree in Music Education and a Master’s in Business Administration in Marketing Management. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his partner, Erik, and dog, Ira.

Alex Cruz
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Professional Realty

Alex Cruz brings extensive experience in management and business operations to the Plexus Board of Directors. Originally from South Florida he has been a licensed Realtor since 2006, currently with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Professional Realty. Alex served as co-chair on the Membership Committee for 3 years prior to officially joining the board and has worked extensively during his time to grow the Chamber and provide resources and opportunities to fellow LGBTQ professionals. He also launched and serves as the President for the Cleveland Chapter of the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP). NAGLREP advocates to raise awareness and educate for the rights of the LGBT community as it relates to housing and discrimination laws.

Alex is passionate about Cleveland and all that it has to offer, even the snowy winters. He currently resides in the Lakewood area with his sphynx cats, Xandir and Xena. In addition, he is a donor/season ticket holder at Playhouse Square, a self-proclaimed foodie and wine enthusiast.

Raland Hatchett
Executive Director
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Summit, Medina, and Stark Counties, Inc.

An accomplished community leader, Mr. Hatchett is known for developing effective growth strategies and driving results and performance. He is highly skilled in business planning and execution, and these abilities extend to financial management, talent management, board development, and fund development. A trusted influencer and seasoned executive manager, he has the expertise to direct, empower, and encourage diverse teams, as well as the ability to transform an organization facing significant operational issues into a fiscally sound institution.

Raland S. Hatchett is the Executive Director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Summit, Medina, and Stark counties, Inc. an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America the nation’s largest donor-and volunteer-supported mentoring network. In this position, Hatchett leads a team of youth development specialist serving 361 children who are matched with an 361 adult volunteers in the community and site based programs for children age 6-18.

Hatchett previously served as the Executive Director of the MBDA Business Center (Minority Business Development Agency) in Cleveland, Ohio. In this position, he led a team of business experts who provided minority entrepreneurs with strategic business consulting services designed to assist with access to contracts, capital and new markets (domestic and international).

A Cleveland native, Hatchett earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and his MBA in finance from Case Western Reserve University — Weatherhead School of Management. He has served on several boards and advisory councils most notably, Weatherhead Alumni Advisory Council (Class of 2016), and Black Professional Association Charitable Foundation, and is a member of the Leadership Cleveland Class of 2016.

Shanelle Johnson
Deal Flow Associate

Shanelle Johnson serves as the onboarding resource for applicants seeking services from JumpStart and its network of partners. Her role involves engaging with early-stage and small business clients, identifying their service needs, providing value-added feedback, maintaining continued engagement with clients and partners to track continued progress made and making referrals within JumpStart and to our other external services partners. Her primary focus will be Core City: Cleveland clients.

Prior to JumpStart, Shanelle was the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Certification Director for the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council (OMSDC), an advocate for supplier diversity. She developed strategies, objectives, and action plans for assisting certified minority-owned businesses. During her tenure, she managed the certification process, helping to streamline the process and connect MBEs with supplier diversity professionals.

Before joining OMSDC, Shanelle was an Assistant Administrator at the City of Cleveland, where she certified diverse businesses and monitored city projects, including the Flats East Bank project, to ensure diversity and inclusion goals were being met.

Shanelle received her Master’s in Business Administration and her Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Cleveland State University.

Luz Pellot
Business Systems Analyst

Luz Pellot is a skilled software consultant with more than 20 years of software and hardware experience.

She has been with Xerox Corporation for more than 20 years where she currently holds the position of Business Systems Analyst. Luz is as subject matter expert for ReqDirect Plus Core products. In her role, she provides software support to a wide of array clients spread across the globe. These clients represent diverse industries including healthcare, financial institutions, retail, insurance, and manufacturing.

Luz is responsible for managing, implementing, and training ReqDirect Plus Core new installations. She works closely with the Development team as a liaison between the client and the software developer, managing product performance issues and proposed enhancements from beginning to end. Luz also works alongside the IT team in assisting them with the hosted environment. Luz takes pride knowing that her client's needs are addressed to satisfaction with little to no downtime.

Luz is co-founder of WH2 (Women's Happy Hour), a women's social network group, est. 2010. The WH2 LGBT social group meets at various establishments in greater Cleveland and Akron areas. She is the Board Secretary for Graffiti HeArt. Graffiti HeArt focuses on promoting urban graffiti and street art in positive ways by showcasing urban artists and art through commissioned projects on various approved canvases. Their purpose is to revitalize Urban communities as well as fund educational scholarships for the underserved youth and aspiring artists. In addition, she is Chair of the Cleveland Human Rights Campaign - Diversity & Inclusion committee. She was also co-Chair of the North Coast Men's Chorus (NCMC) Outreach Committee. Most recently, Luz was asked to serve on a committee tasked to help select the new building for the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland. She proudly served as co-Chair of the Parties and Special Events committees for Gay Games 9 (GG9) in 2014 and subsequently is serving on the Gay Games 9 Legacy committee. She routinely provides support to PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Luz enjoys tennis, kayaking, exercising daily, and traveling around the world.

Luz is a graduate of Kent State University (B.A. in Business Administration).

David Rabinsky
Director of Social Catering
The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland

David Rabinsky is the Director of Social Catering at The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland. He has been at the hotel since March of 1999. David's responsibilities include booking all social and non-profit events for all event space within The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland and the historic Silver Grille in the Higbee building located in downtown Cleveland.

Prior to joining The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland, David owned and operated David's Gourmet, Inc., an off-premise catering company that served the Cleveland community from 1983 until 1999. Learn more about David’s personal and professional journey in his 2012 Cleveland TEDx Talk.

Born in Cleveland and living in the Warehouse District, David and his guide dog, Harry, can be seen walking the city.

Jacki Schaffer
Personal Insurance Agent
Liberty Mutual Insurance

Jacki Schaffer has been a personal insurance agent with Liberty Mutual Insurance since 2015. She left her first career in manufacturing to explore opportunities to find more passion in her work and working with people instead of parts was the right transition for her. Jacki was surprised at how meaningful and rewarding being a personal insurance agent can be and loves that it offers opportunities to build such strong lasting relationships both personally as well as professionally. Jacki brings an extraordinary level of energy and passion to networking with other local business owners and professionals. She is professional, thoughtful, and conveys an unexpected level of personal service to her clients & policy holders because she genuinely cares about helping people.

Jacki joined the Membership Committee of the Plexus Board of Directors at the end of 2017 wanting to help grow membership and provided wider visibility of the exceptional support network LGBT business owners have in the Cleveland and surrounding areas. Jacki also serves on the board of directors of the Cleveland NAGLREP chapter launched in 2019 which advocates on behalf of the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community as it relates to housing and discrimination laws. She has found her passion in working with and advocating for fellow members of the LGBT community and is excited to continue to help LGBT professionals find each other, make connections, and support each other’s future success.

Elaine Schleiffer
Consultant, Development and Community Relationships

Elaine Schleiffer is a consultant for small businesses and small nonprofits focused on development, marketing, and organic community connection. She currently works as a communications manager for R Strategy Group. Prior, she worked for several years in the financial sector providing communications strategies for Fortune 500 businesses. Her last role in the sector was with Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Inc., where she founded the first LGBT employee resource group on the retirement services side of the firm.

Elaine is a longtime volunteer, organizer, board member, and coalition builder in the community. She also chairs the board at Preterm, and is a cofounder and administrator of the Cleveland Bi+ Network and Bi+, an affinity group at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. She lives in the Jefferson neighborhood of Cleveland with her partner Rae and their dog, Lawn Mower.

Plexus Education Foundation Board Members

John F. Garofalo
Vice President, Community Investment
Akron Community Foundation
Plexus Education Foundation Board President

John F. Garofalo has served as the vice president, community investment at Akron Community Foundation since August, 2011. He is responsible for managing the foundation's grant distribution process as well as all the affiliate fund grant distributions.

The foundation began in 1955 with a $1 million gift from the estate of B.F. Goodrich executive Edwin C. Shaw. It now has over $225 million in assets and more than 650 funds. The foundation, including donor-advised funds, has awarded over $160 million since the organization's founding.

John joined Akron Community Foundation after over 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector that included various management and development positions. John was previously employed as the Manager, Strategic Community Initiatives and Senior Development Officer at University Hospitals in Cleveland, where he was responsible for all third party fundraising events and promotions for the entire hospital system and well as securing major gifts for the institution. He also served in various leadership roles at other nonprofit organizations including Beech Brook in Pepper Pike, United Way's in Cleveland and Canton and Big Brothers and Sisters in Akron. He began his nonprofit career right out of college with the American Red Cross in Portage County and was employed for 10 years there and at the Northern Ohio Red Cross Blood Services region in Cleveland.

John received his B.S. in community health education from Kent State University and his M. Ed. in community health management and administration also from Kent State. John also carries the prestigious Certified FundRaising Executive (CFRE) certification. He also serves on the Social Services Advisory Board in Summit County, the Board of Leadership Akron as well as Past President's Council for the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. John also serves on the Leadership Council for the Summa Pride Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic Akron General Community Advisory Council. John is the staff lead to the Medina County Community Fund and the Gay Community Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation. He also served as co-chair of the Opening Ceremonies for the Ninth Gay Games that were held in Cleveland+Akron in 2014. He has also been a volunteer juror for the Cleveland International Film Festival.

A native of Painesville, Ohio, John lives in West Akron.

Brian Schultz
Manager, Funding Information Network

Brian manages a network of over 400 libraries, community foundations, and other nonprofit resource centers that can be found across the U.S. and around the world. Brian assists network partners in providing local nonprofit communities with access to funding databases, nonprofit trainings, and the opportunity to connect with like-minded social sector professionals. Brian serves as an Ohio LGBTQ Funding Ambassador on behalf of Funders for LGBTQ Issues and on the United Way of Greater Cleveland funding committee for Basic Needs.

Brian is a Cleveland native with a strong love of the city and commitment to its social sector.

Steven Licciardi
Vice President, Financial Advisor and Senior Portfolio Manager
Morgan Stanley

Steven M. Licciardi is the kind of Investment Advisor who brings trust and credibility to his profession. He is genuine, thoughtful, and deeply passionate about the investment management services he provides his clients. Steve joined Morgan Stanley in 1999, after spending 10 years in private banking. As a Financial Advisor he delivers high caliber investment management and exceptional client service helping individuals and institutions implement sophisticated investment strategies. His focus is always on the client, in a format that includes a high level of integrity, professionalism and confidentiality. Steve graduated from Baldwin Wallace University with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with an emphasis in finance and a minor concentration in French. He also served as Vice-President of the Baldwin Wallace Financial Management Association.

Steve is dedicated to many charitable groups and serves on the Boards of Directors of several non-profit organizations dedicated to not only the LGBT Community, but the Special Needs Community as well. He currently serves on the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities and represents Northeast Ohio in the state’s capital also serving on the board of the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities. Steve has received the West Haven Foundation's Board Leadership Award (2008), the Ohio Provider Resource Association's Outstanding Volunteer Award (2009), the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities Volunteer of the Year Award (2008) and was featured in WVIZ's "Make a Difference" documentary (2007).

Joe Matuszewski
Ernst & Young LLP

Joe Matuszewski is a partner with Ernst & Young LLP, a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. A Certified Public Accountant in the state of Ohio, Joe has over fifteen years of public accounting experience serving a variety of multinational clients, primarily in the diversified industrial products and consumer products industries. Joe has extensive experience leading globally integrated audits with frequent travel to meet with clients and affiliate audit teams in Europe and Asia. Joe is actively involved in reviewing annual and quarterly SEC filings and has significant experience with SEC registration statements and equity and debt offerings, including initial public offerings. Joe is the campus recruiting leader for EY’s Northeast Ohio Audit practice and executive sponsor of Unity, EY’s LGBT professional network.

Joe is a 2003 graduate of Baldwin Wallace University where he earned his Master of Business Administration in Accounting. Joe is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants. Joe is dedicated to many charitable groups and has served on the Boards of Directors of several non-profit organizations dedicated to the LGBT and arts communities. Joe is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Equality Ohio Education Fund, an organization that advocates and educates to achieve fair treatment and equal opportunity for all Ohioans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Joe is a resident of Medina where he lives with his husband Nathan and daughters Addyson and Anderson.

Eliana (Ellie) Turan

Eliana (Ellie) Turan is a vibrant denizen of Greater Cleveland’s civic community. Ellie started her career as a Forward Observer in the U.S. Army. While serving in the 101st Airborne and several other units, she survived the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell era, along with three deployments. After transitioning into civilian life, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She later worked in print and broadcast for outlets such as Cleveland Magazine, Lake Erie Living, The Dayton Daily News, and the South Korean Educational Broadcasting System. Later, Eliana earned an MBA in Finance and practiced in both the marketing and financial sectors before eventually moving toward nonprofit.

When she’s not working, Eliana stays busy as a Ph.D. candidate who is researching emergent Fintech. She also loves running, weightlifting, practicing yoga, making time for loved ones, and writing her first fiction novel.