Executive Team


Elise Buik, President & CEO

In March 2005, Elise Buik made history by becoming the first female President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. An Atlanta native, Elise initially found Los Angeles compelling for its weather. But she stayed for the community and the immediate impact she could make at United Way. After seven years as Marketing Manager for a medical software company, Elise joined United Way in 1994 with a strong belief in the organization and a deep dedication to improving the quality of life in Los Angeles County. Starting in the marketing department, Elise worked her way up through the ranks with long hours and a steadfast commitment to addressing this city’s social and economic challenges. Elise has been instrumental in transforming United Way into a community impact organization that identifies social issues, convenes experts, partners with other organizations and crafts innovative solutions and policy. Under her leadership, United Way launched its strategic 10-year action plan, Creating Pathways Out of Poverty. The plan focuses on three critical issues: ending homelessness by providing housing stability, improving educational achievement, and helping families gain economic mobility.

Elise’s other roles include the City of Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board, a Senior Fellowship at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, a place on the advisory board for the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development Master of Public Administration program, and the boards of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and Southern California Grantmakers. She was honored with the “2009 Nonprofit CEO of the Year” award from the Los Angeles Business Journal, the “Leadership Award” at Peace Over Violence’s 37th Annual Humanitarian Awards, and the “Non-profit Leadership & Responsibility Award” at the 28th annual Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs Awards Dinner.

Elise is also a wife and mother to two small boys, Hudson and Davis. Being a mother has further strengthened her resolve to build a better Los Angeles.

Oscar Cruz COO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles


Oscar has been a part of the nonprofit sector for more than 20 years, most recently having served as the President and CEO of Families In Schools (FIS), which is dedicated to involving parents in gaining the best possible education for their children. Before this role, Cruz was FIS’ Vice President and Director of Community Engagement and Advocacy. Prior to FlS, Cruz was program Director for Community Partners, directing projects in community technology and civic engagement. He also served as senior program manager at the Center for Civic Education, where he managed an international network of civil society organizations, school districts, universities, and foundations working to implement civic engagement programs for students and youth throughout the United States and Latin America.

Oscar leads strategy and operations at United Way of Greater Los Angeles, helping UWGLA to become a stronger mission-driven organization. As a long-time Angeleno, born in Guatemala, he knows firsthand the critical role community organizations play in helping families in need. Growing-up in downtown Los Angeles in the 1980s, his family relied on many community partners to access high quality education and wrap-around services.

He has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Latin America and served as an official international electoral observer in Mexico’s federal elections (2000 and 2006). He holds a Master of Arts degree in Latin American studies from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and Latin America studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. Oscar was born in Guatemala and came to the United States in 1987. He currently resides in North East Los Angeles with his wife and son.

LiNing Recendez, Vice President, Finance

LiNing joined United Way of Greater Los Angeles as Controller in 2010 and hit the ground running, beginning the journey of cleaning up financials. She ensures accuracy between Gift Processing and financial reporting systems and reconciles revenue and balance sheet accounts – thus establishing best practices that set UWGLA up for success. A dedicated employee, LiNing was later promoted to Vice President, Finance. Prior to United Way, LiNing was a Senior Audit Manager at accounting firm Grant Thornton.

LiNing has worked tirelessly with all departments, outside vendors, and auditors, and has established herself as the "go to" person for all things financial in the organization. She leads the United Way Audit Committee and Investment Committee, and has graciously accepted additional tasks placed upon her exhibiting great commitment as a team player. LiNing has played an active role in helping shape our Organizational Scorecard, annual goals and budgets, and strategic initiatives. She holds degrees from UCLA and Golden Gate University. LiNing is a Certified Public Account (CPA) in California, and a member of the American Institute of CPAs as well as a member of the California Society of CPAs.


Taulene Kagan, Vice President, Marketing and Communications

Taulene Kagan has spent the last 25 years in the fields of Marketing, Communications, Events, and Public Relations, with an emphasis on fundraising and strategic planning within the non-profit sector.  Prior to her role as Vice President, she served as the Director of Marketing & Communications for United Way from 2006 through 2013.  Additionally, she has been serving as the Executive Director for the Redondo Beach Police Foundation. During her history at United Way, Taulene helped lead the strategy and launch of United Way’s historical transformation from a pass-through organization to a mission-based one with its Creating Pathways Out of Poverty Plan. She spearheaded and supervised the launch of several community, corporate, county, and city based initiatives promoting and leveraging United Way’s three pathways in education, housing and economic mobility. She was part of the original team that developed and launched United Way’s annual 5K family run/walk to end homelessness, HomeWalk, and has stewarded its growth and production from a 4,000-person walk in 2007, to one with over 10,000 participants at Grand Park. To date, HomeWalk has raised over $8.5M, mobilized nearly 100,000 Angelenos and helped house 19,000 formerly homeless individuals. Taulene is excited for the next elevation of HomeWalk 2019, in partnership with the Los Angeles Rams. 

Taulene serves on the board of Puttin on Productions (POPs), an established nonprofit providing high quality arts and theater to young people. Originally, from Toronto, Canada she lives in Manhattan Beach with her husband, three children, two rescue dogs, and the latest family addition, Ginger the guinea pig.

Chris Ko, Vice President, Impact & Strategy

Chris Ko serves as Vice President, Impact & Strategy for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, overseeing its efforts to ensure every resident in LA County has a quality education, a stable job, and safe housing. In his time here, he has helped craft the community coalitions to create and pass historic ballot measures around housing (HHH), homelessness (H), and racial justice (J). He also doubled participation in the homeless count and lead the architecture of the Coordinated Entry System, which went onto become a national model after boosting priority housing placements by over 500%.

Chris has enjoyed seeing different approaches to social change over the last 20 years working to expand community schools and close the digital divide in West Philadelphia and managing IT at a Liberian Refugee Camp Self-Help Initiative. He began his time in Los Angeles serving as an economic development policy aide for Mayor Villaraigosa, helping to design Bank on LA, which went on to bring 10,000+ low-income Angelenos into the financial mainstream. He was subsequently named as a Coro Fellow and worked on special projects for SEIU 721, KPCC, and a LAUSD School Board Office.

He proudly serves on the board of Brilliant Corners and is thrilled to be supported as a Stanton Fellow by the Durfee Foundation. He was also previously named a StartingBloc Fellow, a Next City Vanguard and one of Empowerment Congress's 40-under-40 civic leaders. Chris was born in Seoul, South Korea and has lived in Atlanta, New Jersey, Virginia, Philadelphia, and Ghana. Having grown up in the middle of class and racial divides, his time as an Urban Studies major at the University of Pennsylvania helped him make sense of what he experienced and also the transformative change that's possible when we work together. He is glad to be able to devote his life to the rich community that is Los Angeles and is in the middle of a quest to visit each of its 88 cities.

Board of Directors

July 2020 – June 2021  Ernest J. Loebbecke, Founding Chairman

Lt. Gen. (Ret) Larry D. James 

Deputy Director 

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) 

Adele Berwanger 

Managing Director 

Canterbury Consulting 

Chris Carey 

Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer 

City National Bank 

Alex Martin Chaves


Parking Company of America Management, LLC 

Caroline T. Choe 

Executive Chairwoman 

NewBridge Investments 

Lisa Cleri Reale 


Cleri Reale and Associates 

Kevin Demoff 

Executive VP of Football Operations/ COO 

Los Angeles Rams 

Elisabeth Dick 


Jana Waring Greer 


Sandra Hrna 

VP, Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion 

SoCal Gas 

Ron Herrera 


Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO 

Marc Hickman 

Resident Managing Director / EVP 

AON Risk Insurance Services West, Inc. 

Kevin Kim 


Bank of Hope 

John Kulich

Southwest Market Tax Leader 


Stewart Kwoh 

President Emeritus

Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Janet Lamkin 

President, California 

United Airlines 

Brad Larsen 

Managing Director, Market Executive 

U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management 

Leslie Lassiter 


Robyn Lawhon 

Associate Resident Director, Vice President 

Merril Lynch

Michael A. Lawson 

President & CEO 

Los Angeles Urban League 

Mark Louchheim 

President, Bobrick Washroom Equipment, Inc. 

Sean McBurney

Senior Client Partner

Korn Ferry

Rudy Medina

President, Southern California Market

U.S. Bank

Julie Miller-Phipps 

President, Southern California Region 

Kaiser Permanente 

Jerry Neuman

Partner, Community Impact Cabinet 

DLA Piper LLP 

Irene Oh 

Chief Financial Officer

East West Bank 

Luis Patino 

President & General Manager, Univision Los Angeles 

Univision Communications Inc. 

Mark Phair 

Vice President and General Manager 

Valero Wilmington Refinery 

Erik J. Robinson 

Vice President eBusiness 

Automobile Club of Southern CA 

Maria Salinas 

President & CEO 

Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce 

Martha Santana-Chin 

Government Programs Officer 

Health Net, LLC 

Natalie Schilling

Vice President, Human Resources 

Southern California Edison 

Fern Shaw 

President, Southern CA District 


Jade Shopp 

Risk and Financial Advisory 


Michael Silacci 

Regional Vice President

External Affairs Greater Los Angeles Region 


Renata Simril 

President & CEO 

LA84 Foundation 

Steve Troutner 

EVP, Regional Bank Executive

Wells Fargo & Company 

Michelle Wroan

Managing Partner