About Us

RIFSoCal Staff

Phyllis Shlecter — Chair Emeritus

I arrived in Los Angeles in 1984, forced to retire from teaching in New York City by rheumatoid arthritis, and immediately began a search for meaningful volunteer opportunities to help me fill my days.  Fortuitously, RIFSoCal was running an ad in the LA Times seeking volunteers - I answered the ad, attended a Board meeting in spring of 1985, and the rest is history!  RIFSoCal kept me alive and alert!  Volunteering at the warehouse every Monday and Wednesday from 10 am – 1 pm gave me a reason to get out of bed, no matter how much pain I was in.  In 1986 I became the VP of Volunteers, training others to do Motivational Reading Events and book distributions.  In 1990, I took over as VP of the Book Program.  Until I became Chair Emeritus in the late 1990’s, I was either President or Chair of the RIFSoCal Board of Directors.  In 2011, I was thrilled to be honored as RIFSoCal’s first recipient of the Julie Cooke Humanitarian Award.  RIFSoCal will always be my “baby.”

 

Carol K. Henault — Executive Director

Carol Henault, RIFSoCal’s Executive Director since October 2004, has been dedicated to the advancement of literacy throughout her 28 years in the nonprofit world.  Carol ardently supports RIFSoCal’s work to ensure that underserved children can continue to choose books to call their own and discover the magic of reading for fun.  “Inspiring children’s passion for reading is the greatest gift we can give them on their personal road to success.”

“You could say that children without books provide the wind beneath my sails – as well as my passion.”

 

Suzanne Coscarelli — Community Relations Manager

Suzanne Coscarelli, Community Relations Manager, joined RIFSoCal in May 2004 to help the organization increase its volunteer base and improve the quality of its programs.  She is a retiree of GTE/Verizon, where she had a 32-year career in sales and marketing, most recently as Director of Employee Giving Programs.  She has extensive volunteer experience in the nonprofit sector, having served on the Board of Directors of the GAR Foundation and Rancho San Antonio.  Ms. Coscarelli is largely responsible for more than tripling the number of volunteers who support the Motivational Reading Program countywide and expanding our program to over 200 sites.

 

Erin Landry — Program Coordinator

Erin Landry is Reading Is Fundamental’s Program Coordinator. She has been in the non-profit industry since 2003, managing and coordinating programs for successful organizations such as Starlight Children's Foundation.  Erin brings a passion for literacy and a deep gratitude for the opportunity to deliver programs to underserved children. When Erin is not at Reading Is Fundamental, you can find her in her studio designing jewelry and concocting new candles scents, playing with her dogs, and of course avidly reading anything she can get her hands on.

 

Andrea Leonardi -- Book and Web Coordinator

“As a child, I treasured my library of books. I lined up my Little Golden Books on their shelf and loved curling up and reading them again and again. I’ve watched our culture change from print-based information to virtual information sourcing, and although there are many benefits and opportunities inherent in this shift, I would hate to see children lose the pleasure of reading a hard copy book: the feel of the book, turning the pages, making up visual images to go with the words, rolling a well written phrase around on one’s tongue, and looking at all of one’s books on a bookshelf. When I think of my childhood library, those were my books and I belonged to them. So many of the paths I have taken have started with a good book. Books have been my friends in lonely times, books have given me adventures in dull times, books have led to skills and joys, and have been the source of fascinating discussions with friends and colleagues. I consider myself to be extremely lucky to work at RIFSoCal. I am honored to work with such wonderful people and to be part of an organization which brings brand new books to children…books they are able to choose, write their names in the front cover, and take home to line up on a bookshelf, or stack in a basket, and to read over and over again.”

Andrea’s education includes a BA in English Literature and an Elementary Teaching Credential from UC Berkeley, an MA in Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology from Grand Canyon University, and a Certificate in Fashion Design from Long Beach City College. She has logged over 21 years of teaching at the Elementary, Middle School, and College levels. She is currently teaching Gerber Patternmaking at FIDM in Los Angeles.

 

Raymond Gonis — Warehouse Manager

Raymond became acquainted with RIFSoCal as a volunteer in 2010.  He was hired as the Warehouse Manager soon thereafter and enjoys being able to distribute books to the children in our program.  He continues to volunteer his time whenever possible and encourages others to also volunteer.  Each time he attends a Motivational Reading Event at a participating school he is amazed at the impact the RIFSoCal program has on the children.  He looks forward to unpacking boxes and putting books on shelves for many years to come.  

 

Julie Cooke 

I am honored to have the opportunity to celebrate the wonder of Julie with you. Julie was, quite simply, RIFSoCal’s heart. Her undauntable spirit was the best RIFSoCal had to offer. Our spirit has dimmed with Julie’s loss, but as she would expect - it will continue to shine as we work to bring the books Julie loved to order, unpack and place on the shelves, to children all over Greater Los Angeles who go home every day to rooms with no books. Julie will always be in our hearts - every time we open a box of especially wonderful books we will hear her exclamations of delight and pleasure - and every time we grow to inspire more Readers for Tomorrow we will feel her happiness and satisfaction. The world is a better place because of Julie’s passion, love and dedication and she is sorely missed.

~Carol Henault, Executive Director of RIFSoCal