Staff

 Victor Geminiani

Victor Geminiani

Co-Executive Director

victor@hiappleseed.org

Victor Geminiani began his legal services career as a VISTA Volunteer lawyer with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. He has served as the Director of Litigation and Law Reform with Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Legal Services and as Executive Director of the Legal Services of Western Massachusetts, the Legal Services of Northern California, the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. He has also worked in the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) as Associate Director of Support and Finances responsible for LSC funding policy and as the South East Regional Director overseeing the 75 legal services programs located in the 10 Southern states.

Victor has served in a variety of capacities with the boards of several of national associations including the executive committee of the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, as founding board member and President of the Management Information Exchange and as a board member of the Litigation Section of the American Bar Association. He has also served a member of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services and the ABA’s Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Public Service Responsibility, as Chairperson of the Litigation Section’s Pro Bono Committee and founder of the Section’s Legal Services Project. He has been recognized for his contributions to legal services delivery by being presented with the Reginald Heber Smith Award by National Legal Aid and Defender Association, John Minor Wisdom Award by the ABA's Litigation Section, and the Champion of Social Justice Award by Hawai‘i State Bar Association.

Gavin Thornton

Gavin Thornton

Co-Executive Director

gavin@hiappleseed.org

After graduating from the University Of Virginia School Of Law in 2002, Gavin began his career with the AmeriCorps program as an attorney in the Kona office of the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i. During his first year of service, Gavin discovered that the Hawai‘i Public Housing Authority had been overcharging low-income families for over a decade, putting them at risk of eviction and homelessness. The issue became LEJ’s first case, and Gavin became LEJ’s first staff attorney, helping launch the organization that is now the Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice.

In addition to obtaining millions of dollars in rent reductions and reimbursements for low-income families, Gavin has worked on a variety of other projects that have helped low-income and vulnerable people including:

  • Ensuring K-12 students who become homeless can continue attending the school they were in before becoming homeless, avoiding the significant educational setbacks and trauma associated with displacement;
  • Obtaining appropriate utility bill credits for public housing residents with disabilities so they can afford to operate life-supporting medical equipment;
  • Preserving an 850-unit apartment complex in Honolulu as affordable housing;
  • Securing extensive protections against sexual abuse by corrections staff for women in correctional facilities;
  • Obtaining educational services for juveniles detained in adult jails to increase their opportunities for the future and reduce the likelihood of repeat offending.

For his work in subsidized housing, Gavin was awarded the National Housing Law Project’s annual Housing Justice Award. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Young Lawyers Division of the Hawaii State Bar Association, the Hawai‘i District Court Rules Committee, and the Board of TeamChild, an organization that assists youth at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Nicole Woo

Nicole Woo

Senior Policy Analyst

nicole@hiappleseed.org

Nicole Woo started her policy research and advocacy career in Washington, DC, focusing on workers' rights at the Preamble Center for Public Policy and the Citizens' Committee Against Sweatshops. She then served as the Associate Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, where she directed research projects, provided technical assistance to emergency food programs, and advocated for policies to improve the lives of food-insecure New Yorkers.

Nicole moved back to Washington, DC, to work on national anti-hunger policies as a senior policy analyst at the Food Research and Action Center, specializing in childhood hunger and the national school meal programs. She then applied her expertise in an international context, serving as a Congressional Hunger Fellow in India, working with the largest school meal program in the world, the Akshaya Patra Foundation.

As the Director of Domestic Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, back in Washington, DC, she covered a broad range of U.S. economic policy areas, including labor markets, financial reform, federal budgets, and social insurance. Nicole received her B.A. from Harvard University, where she concentrated in Government.

Eileen Lacaden

Eileen Lacaden

Project Coordinator

eileen@hiappleseed.org

After studying industrial and systems engineering at Virginia Tech, Eileen served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Hawai’i Appleseed to work on a project to facilitate the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The ADU project aims to combat the housing crisis by creating additional rental units. Now a member of Hawaii Appleseed's staff, Eileen continues to work on the ADU project while using her systems engineering background to find innovative ways of carrying out Appleseed’s mission and leave a lasting impact in the communities she serves.


Tessa Baizer

Tessa Baizer

AmeriCorps VISTA - Project Coordinator

tessa@hiappleseed.org
Prior to coming to Hawai’i Appleseed, she worked on international human rights in several different contexts, including researching the free exercise of civil, political, and economic rights in South and Southeast Asia, providing assistance to refugees in Southeast Asia and the United States, and evaluating the effectiveness of human rights statutes on multilateral development in South America. Tessa graduated from Washington University in Saint Louis in 2012 with a degree in Political Science. At Appleseed, Tessa is helping with coalition building and communications.


JR Dowd

JR Dowd

AmeriCorps VISTA - Affordable Housing Specialist

jr@hiappleseed.org

JR came to Hawaii Appleseed under the AmeriCorps VISTA program after receiving a dual BA in Political Science and Human Rights and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut. JR's worked on affordable housing issues as an intern for the Partnership for Strong Communities in Hartford, Connecticut. He is continuing that work at Appleseed, focusing on finding ways to increase the affordability of housing for Hawaii residents, one of the most pressing issues facing the state.