Advisory Board

David I. Armendariz, MA, Advisory Board Member

Helping others improve quality of life is the reward and the motivation behind David’s 22 years of experience in the non-profit arena. David has worked in a variety of capacities including program development, communications, fundraising and volunteer management. Given his passion for sports and his experience of being an uncle to an autistic teenager, David is grateful to serve as the Regional Director for Special Olympics Orange County. David looks forward to collaborating with GAN to help families caring for a loved one with autism.

Louise Beckerman, Advisory Board Member

In 2006 Louise coordinated the planning development and construction of a center for autism for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California Medical Center.  Ironically, her grandchild was diagnosed with autism at about the same time and she joined GAN.   A leader,  she recruits volunteers, assists at events, encourages other grandparents and advocates for autism.  Her efforts have been instrumental in making GAN successful in the local community and worldwide.

Dorene Butler, Advisory Board Member

Dorene N. Butler , a GAN founding board member, has had leadership roles serving on local and national boards and committees. She has built two small businesses and has expertise in planning and executing special events for organizations. Ms. Butler has special skills for both “friend raising” and fund raising. She is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Club in Laguna Beach, CA.

Lee Butler, Advisory Board Member

Lee Butler, served as the Treasurer on GAN’s founding Board of Directors. He is a retired Air Force Four-Star General who, in his last active duty assignment was Commander of the Unites States’ Strategic Nuclear Forces. After retirement he entered the business world as President of Kiewit Energy. He has been an outstanding moderator at GAN conferences and special events. Lee brings global expertise and grandparent commitment to our cause.

Lynn Crowell, R.N., Advisory Board Member

Lynn Crowell, is a retired Registered Nurse, who is a long time resident of Orange County, CA. She has generously supported community causes by volunteering in nonprofit organizations, especially those focused on education. Lynn’s involvement includes the Tustin Unified School District, the Santa Ana Assistance League and P.E.O., a philanthropic cause to help women advance in educational endeavors. She serves as GAN’s liaison to the educational sector and assists in programs and projects to increase community support for autism.

Joseph W. DeCarlo, MBA, Advisory Board Member

Joseph W. DeCarlo is a Certified Property Manager (CPM) and Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), Counselor of Real Estate, (CRE). He is a licensed Real Estate Broker in California and New York and is managing partner of JD Property Management, Inc. in Costa Mesa. He is currently serving as the President of Proxy Parent, and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Regional Center of Orange County, the Coastline College Foundation and the Los Angeles Mental Health Association and Community Housing Resources.

Eric Kasum, Advisory Board Member

Eric Kasum is a writer/speechwriter currently working for the Shinnyo-en Foundation dedicated to creating world peace. He began his career as a writer at the age of 20 and he has written for CBS News, CNN, the Los Angeles and New York Times, in addition to being a columnist for the New York Post. He worked as a speech writer for cabinet and staff members in both Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan’s administrations. His writing expertise and life experiences bring valuable resources to the GAN Advisory Board.

Samuel C. Konugres, Esq., Advisory Board Member

Sam Konugres is a seasoned trial attorney and mediator who has practiced law in California since 1986. He has broad experience in commercial and residential real estate and serves on the board of directors of the Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA). He is on the Los Angeles Superior Court Mediation Panel and a member of the Los Angeles and Orange Countiy Bar Associations.  A Certified ToastMaster, he is also a member of the Academy of Magical Arts (Magic Castle).  Mr. Konugres is a real estate expert witness and speaker for legal, real estate and other professional groups.  His legal and real estate expertise will facilitate GAN’s efforts to develop housing for adults with autism.

Larry Kutcher, Advisory Board Member

Larry Kutcher is an operational leader, working with entrepreneurs and growing companies to build and grow successful businesses by providing strategic, operational and financial services.  Bridging strategy and execution, Larry has 25+ years experience in finance, operations, management, technology and consulting.  In addition to leading his own consulting firm, he has served as COO, CFO and IT Director for emerging growth companies over the years and has extensive experience in start-ups as well as in software implementation, negotiation and complex modeling and transactions.   Larry is on the Board of Directors of Breakaway Education and Tech Coast Venture Network, is a mentor for the UCI Paul Merage School of Business Executive MBA program and is active in the UCLA Anderson Alumni Association and several local volunteer organizations.

Patricia Mercier, Advisory Board Member

A founding member of GAN, Pat Mercier has served as the co-chairperson of the Grandchildren Activities Committee, planning, developing and facilitating very successful social activities for hundreds of families affected by autism.  A community leader, Pat has involved her family and friends in supporting events and ensuring that they are fun for all and cost-free for guests.  Her personal outreach has reinforced other grandparents, especially those who are raising their grandchildren.

Terrence Mercier, Advisory Board Member

Terry Mercier has been the co-chair of the Grandchildren Activities Committee, with his wife, Pat, since 2006.  Together, they have assisted in more than 50 GAN events. are active in their local church and enthusiastically volunteer at their grandson’s school.   Terry is a leader, tirelessly setting up events, cheerfully performing every needed task and serving as a role model for other grandfathers.  He encourages grandparents by sharing his positive experiences in raising his grandson.

David Monkarsh, Ph.D.,  Advisory Board Member

Dr.David Monkarsh is a Clinical Child Psychologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of individuals along the autistic spectrum. Dr. Monkarsh’s treatment of autism focuses upon both the family system and building community supports that help bridge the gap between home and the community for individuals with developmental disabilities. He serves as a consultant to school districts in Orange County and currently chairs the committee on Community Integration for the Interagency Autism Group.

Jacqueline Russell-Garcia, M.Ed., Advisory Board Member

Jacqueline Russell-Garcia has more than 25 years of special education experience and possesses CTC Approved ASD added Authorization.  She currently serves as the Career Community Educational Specialist for the Santa Ana Unified School District.  In addition to assisting students in transition from school to adult life, Ms. Russell-Garcia serves on the Orange County Autism Regional Task Force and the Orange County Adult Transition Task Force.  As the parent of a special needs child, she has helped to develop services for students with disabilities since 1983

Suzanne Snyder, Advisory Board Member

Suzanne Snyder has worked more than 40 years as an instructor for the Tustin California Parks Department and has served more than 30 years as a docent for the Bowers Museum.  In her role as Community Outreach Chairperson for GAN, she has met and welcomed hundreds of new grandparent members to our organization.  In addition, she has hosted prominent autism research speakers and facilitated conferences, programs and meetings for GAN since 2006.

Judy Winne, M.A., Advisory Board Member

Judy Winne served on the Hospital Council and worked as a field investigator caseworker and crisis intervention supervisor for Adult Protective Services.  She worked closely with law enforcement and Regional Center workers in situations involving emergency placements.  Ms. Winne also served as a Hearing Officer for the Housing Authority.  She provides outreach to developmentally disabled adults  who do not have financial access to resources and she gives personal and social support to her grandson and his friends who have autism.

Gary Winne, MSW, Advisory Board Member

Gary Winne is a retired Deputy Probation Officer with a Masters Degree in social work and 39 years of field experience.  He has served many people with developmental disabilities and has been a vigilant advocate. especially for his grandson and others with autism spectrum disorders.  He has helped his many families navigate the educational and social services systems and has been hands on in giving support to other grandparents since GAN was established in 2006.