Gator Tank

October 12 , 2023

The Paso del Norte Community Foundation introduces the second annual Gator Tank — a social impact competition in a fast-pitch style to help local nonprofit organizations exercise their skills and gain the resources needed to support their missions.

The PdNCF provides the understanding, engagement, and leadership required to make a difference in the lives of the residents of our region through four priority areas including nonprofit investment. We recognize that nonprofit organizations require assistance in creating opportunities for growth through capacity-building training, awareness, and diversifying streams of funding to continue major programming.

Gator Tank provides nonprofit organizations the opportunity to train, build capital, and expand their missions and programs that support our most vulnerable communities. This unique fundraising model will bring together nonprofit organizations, mentors, and funders to think creatively and strategically in the hopes of not only winning monetary prizes but to expand their impact within our shared communities.

The Paso del Norte Community Foundation is pleased to announce the five nonprofit organizations participating in the second annual Gator Tank pitch competition on October 12th.

Congratulations to Boys and Girls Club of El PasoEl Paso Jazz GirlsFab Lab El PasoNAMI El Paso, Paso del Norte Center of Hope

Gator Tank Schedule of Events

July 12th

Welcome & Orientation

Learn more about Gator Tank and what's to come!

*Sessions are curated and only open to the six particpating nonprofit organizations. 

July 19th

Mentor Session 1: Fundraising Fundamentals

Embark on a transformative journey to become a skilled and strategic fundraiser.

This session will run from 4:00 to 5:30 pm.

August 2nd

Mentor Session 2: What Funders are Looking For

Look through the lens of your funders and find out what makes them bite!

This session will run from 4:00 to 5:30 pm.

August 23rd

Mentor Session 3: Designing your Deck

Enhance your visual storytelling skills and elevate your presentations to new heights.

This session will run from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.

September 13th

Mentor Session 4: The Art of Pitching

Refine your pitch, sharpen your delivery, and learn how to adapt your message to different audiences and contexts.

This session will run from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.

September 27th


October 12th

Gator Tank Pitch Competition and Early Giving Day Kick-off

Join the Paso del Norte Community Foundation for the Early Giving Day Kick-off Event working in conjunction with the inaugural Gator Tank pitch competition taking place Thursday, October 12th. Details to be announced!

Mentors and Judges

Terra Winter

Terra joined the Community Foundation team in June 2017 as the Executive Director. Previously, she served as the Associate Vice President for Development at the New Mexico State University Foundation in which she was involved in the campus’s most ambitious campaign to raise $125 million.  Previous to this position, Terra served as the Assistant Dean for Donor Development and Alumni Relations for the College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences.  Her love for the NMSU Aggies and NM Agriculture drives her continued connection as an alumna and donor.

As a lifelong New Mexico resident, Terra is passionate about nonprofit work throughout the state.  Her professional background includes ten years with Mesilla Valley Hospice where she served the organization in many facets of community outreach, education, fundraising and board development.  She has volunteered for multiple organizations including the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce and the Junior League of Las Cruces.

Terra obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, minoring in Health Sciences, and a Master of Public Health from NMSU.  She completed her Interdisciplinary Doctorate with an emphasis in philanthropy, nonprofit management and leadership in December of 2017.

Janet Wechter

Janet Kent Wechter founded El Paso-based Harmonious Home in 2022 to help people transition from homelessness to hopefulness by turning their new living spaces into safe, dignified, and inspiring homes. To make all this happen, Janet works with a crew of dedicated and talented volunteers, generous corporate partners and of course, local advocacy agencies.

Janet, owner of J Wechter Designs, has been designing and renovating residential and commercial interiors since 1995,  She moved from Louisiana to El Paso in 1988. She is an enthusiastic world traveler, nature, art & music lover, hangs with her dogs, practices yoga and meditation and is an active community leader and lifelong learner. 

Melissa Atkins Wardy

Melissa Atkins Wardy is a change agent, creative strategist, and intentional storyteller offering expertise in collaboration, abundance thinking, and fundraising leadership. With a foundation in relationship stewardship, equitable team building, and public relations, Melissa’s career has been dedicated to steering a shift in the way people think about and advocate for children.

As Director of Impact and Communications at YWCA El Paso Del Norte Region, Melissa brings two decades of experience to lead a results-driven team that elevates to profile of the Borderland’s largest childcare provider. As a dedicated servant leader, Melissa deeply identifies with the mission of YWCA El Paso del Norte Region to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

Melissa is the author of “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualization of Girlhood from Birth to Tween”, proudly volunteers with Girl Scouts, and sits on the board of the Women’s Fund of El Paso.
Melissa lives with her husband and two teens in beautiful El Paso, Texas. When not at work, you can find her on a trail in the mountains.

Andrea Tawney

Dr. Andrea Tawney is the Vice President for Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso where she oversees marketing and communications and fundraising. She has built a team of strong leadership that has transformed philanthropic giving and expanded the visibility of Texas Tech El Paso’s mission by growing strategic marketing, partnerships and community engagement. Before joining TTUHSC El Paso, Dr. Tawney served as New Mexico State University Foundation’s President. Under her leadership, the foundation launched the most ambitious cash campaign in the system’s history. Within five years, her team raised more than $100 million. In 2016, Dr. Tawney was named one of Albuquerque Business First’s 40 under Forty and a 2019 Women of Influence. In 2022, she received Diversity Journal’s Women Worth Watching in Leadership International Award.

Dr. Tawney is a proud Air Force veteran and earned a Ph.D. from Texas Tech University. She holds a Master of Education and a B.A.S. in Justice Systems, Policy and Planning from Northern Arizona University. She serves on a number of boards to include Borderplex Alliance, El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Texas Lyceum,  New Mexico Economic Development Advisors, and USO El Paso/New Mexico.

Stuart Shiloff

Stuart P. Shiloff is currently the Vice President of Operations at River Oaks Properties, Ltd, the largest retail shopping center developer in the El Paso with over 85 centers across the city.  Before that position, Stuart spent 12 years with Helen of Troy in their Professional Beauty Division where he focused on their largest customers, ULTA, Regis and Sally Beauty.

He is the current President of the Jewish Community Foundation of El Paso and the President of the Shiloff Family Foundation.  He is also the treasurer of the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence Foundation, the El Paso Holocaust Museum Foundation, and The J Center for Early Learning, a private non-profit preschool in El Paso.

Stuart received his BBA from the University of North Texas and his MBA from Indiana University. Stuart has been married 25 years to his wife Nancy and they have two children, Rebecca and Asa.

Alejandra Chavez

As the El Paso Market Executive, Alexandra is responsible for the overall representation Bank of America has in the El Paso and Las Cruces communities. Alexandra manages the relationships with local key influencers, elected officials, nonprofit partners, clients, and internal local market teammates. Her role entails identifying the needs of clients, community members, and employees and strategizing where Bank of America can play a vital role to make a difference in the lives of those we touch. Alexandra acts as a liaison to line of business partners by connecting them to client solutions that may be out of their scope.

Alexandra has been with the bank for 10 years, and has held several roles ranging from Customer Service Representative to Financial Solutions Advisor delivering financial advice and proactive solutions to clients in El Paso, TX.

Active in the community, she is the Board President of Candlelighters, a local non-profit which is dedicated to enriching the lives of children who have cancer by providing hope, support, encouragement, advocacy and education to those children, their families, and the community at large. She also sits on the United Way’s Young Leaders Society Advisory Board and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund El Paso Advisory Committee. Alexandra is currently in graduate school aiming to pursue a Master’s in Public Administration.

The variety and intersectionality of Alexandra’s trajectory both professional and personal, has led to her continued need for growth and development. Alexandra is at a critical time in her career where she is at the cusp of becoming a stronger executive for her community, clients, and teammates.

Wherever Alexandra lands in her career, she aims to create an environment where Hispanic-Latino voices are heard and supported.

Marina Monsisvais

Marina Monsisvais founded Barracuda Public Relations to be the megaphone for all the great things happening in El Paso. She has grown the company from a boutique PR agency founded around her kitchen table into one of the most recognized and respected small businesses in El Paso. A graduate of New Mexico State University, Marina has leveraged her commercial media experience and her deep engagement in the El Paso-Juárez community to create an indispensable resource for local businesses, non-profit organizations and government institutions. Marina’s involvement in each client project ensures that everything we do is infused with the look, feel and optimistic attitude for which Barracuda is known.

Marina achieved her Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2020 and serves on the board of directors of The Hospitals of Providence, YWCA Paso del Norte, Pioneers 21, and Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. She is also host of "State of the Arts" on our local NPR station, KTEP 88.5FM.

Mike Matthews

A passionate leader with 18 years of experience, Mike is a creative problem solver, brand curator and strategic storyteller specializing in team led, creative concept development.

His creative ethos is that every story has two sides, and they are best told from somewhere in the middle, finding a universal understanding. He is driven by a passion to collaborate with goal-oriented individuals, while leading by proactive example.

In 2020, Mike was promoted to President and Chief Creative Officer and is currently responsible for managing and guiding all creative development activities for CultureSpan Marketing. His goal is to ensure that concepts are carried out through execution on all projects. As a strategist, Mike brings a wealth of marketing, branding and advertising knowledge necessary for the successful fruition of any sized project.

Steffen Poessiger

Steffen has been instrumental in developing marketing and branding strategies for some of El Paso’s most recognized organizations. With over 20-years of experience, he now serves as an independent contractor offering marketing services to build strong brand identities and images for businesses and non-profits.

Since 2001, Poessiger has worked with notable advertising agencies such as Sanders/Wingo and Mithoff Burton Partners to develop and maintain brands for many of El Paso’s iconic organizations and initiatives such as the El Paso Chihuahuas, Locomotive FC, Petro Stopping Centers, UTEP, El Paso It’s All Good, the City of El Paso, and La Nube Science Center.

Beyond his marketing strategies and business development efforts, Steffen is an active networker and mentor. In 2018, he served as Chairman of the Board for the El Paso Chamber and is currently Chairman for the El Paso Chamber Foundation. He also frequently returns to his alma mater (UTEP) to mentor and engage the next generation of marketers. He is a champion for El Paso, its brand, and all the people and organizations that make up the 915.

Ellen Ordaz

Ellen owns and operates a local media strategy and marketing company – EFO Media. Ellen began her career in media over 25 years ago, and spent the bulk of it building media plans and initiatives on a national level for clients such as State Farm, MINI Cooper, and AARP. Locally, Ellen has built plans for some of El Paso's largest advertisers, such as Peter Piper Pizza, GECU, and El Paso Electric Company. Ellen has watched the media landscape change as new tactics and platforms have become available and evolved her clients’ businesses to fit. She currently manages media strategy, planning, and buying for Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino, Rudolph Automotive Group, the American Heart Association of Texas, El Paso, and a handful of other local clients. Ellen specializes in building paid media initiatives designed to extend client budgets to their fullest potential. She is a shrewd negotiator who prides herself on being a trusted steward of client advertising dollars. 

Ellen is the mother of two grown children and three adorable Yorkies. She and her husband, Raúl, are proud El Pasoans, passionate about the city and all it has to offer. 

Maria Fernanda Fiscal

Maria Fernanda holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a Master of Science in Data and Information Science from the College of Engineering from The University of Texas at El Paso. In 2019 and 2020, she received certificates in Entrepreneurship Essentials and FinTech from Harvard Business School. She is a first-time gen graduate, passionate about technology, startups, and women empowerment. 

She is now Director of the UTEP Blackstone LaunchPad, a university entrepreneurship network, where she creates and manages entrepreneurship activities for UTEP students.  She mentor’s student ventures in early-stage development and nominates and coaches student ventures to participate in national business competitions. Fernanda created and deployed the first virtual Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for UTEP students in 2020 and contributed to the Mike Loya Center business competition blueprint. She has served as a business mentor and judges for UTEP hackathons and local high-school pitch competitions. Additionally, she has served as a mentor for The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) during a special edition of Health-Tech Startup Week powered by Techstars.

Bianca Cervantes

Bianca Cervantes has journeyed through a rich tapestry of professional experiences. While at UT Austin, she immersed herself in diverse subjects including art, photography, writing, and advertising. This academic exploration guided her to major in Communications, emphasizing Photojournalism. In this realm, she honed her skills in storytelling and became a fervent advocate for her subjects.


The economic downturn in 2008 drew her back to her beloved hometown of El Paso. Although she intended this as a brief return, her profound connection to the community inspired her to stay and give back to the city that played such a pivotal role in her upbringing. She ventured into broadcast news, working with renowned stations like FOX, CBS, and NBC, while also engaging in live music events. Her adaptability was further demonstrated when she transitioned into retail and event marketing, taking on the role of Director of Marketing at the Fountains at Farah shopping center. Seeking greater challenges, she joined Fort Bliss as the Marketing & Events Director at the Freedom Crossing military shopping hub, channeling her dedication to both local and national talent, especially for the troops and their families.

A defining moment in Bianca's life was the birth of her daughter, Ava Soleil, in 2018, earning her the affectionate title of 'the coolest mom EVER.' Resuming her professional life post-motherhood, she aligned herself with Workforce Solutions Borderplex, serving as the Communications Director and Chair of the W.E. @ Work Women's Committee. This role perfectly balances her motherhood responsibilities and her drive to make a significant community impact in workforce and economic development, all while working with a passionate team.

In her leisure, Bianca contributes to local boards like Mija, Yes You Can, and First Tee of El Paso, and advises several committees. She and Ava enjoy their time outdoors, frequenting golf courses, pickleball courts, and farmer's markets. For Bianca, family, purposeful service, and living in the present moment are top priorities.


Laura Butler

Louis Castillo

Louis Castillo is an accomplished public sector Director with a proven track record in government administration, particularly in the areas of juvenile detention and corrections.  He brings a diverse skill set encompassing Policy Analysis, Organizational Development, Training, Public Speaking, Public Relations, and Project Management.  His commitment to continuous improvement and lifelong learning is reflected in the successful completion of a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Writing Studies from the University of Texas at El Paso. Additionally, he has undergone specialized training in Project Management and Talent Pipeline Management through the US Chamber of Commerce, further enhancing his capabilities in strategic planning and workforce development.  Currently serving as an Industry Project Manager at Workforce Solutions Borderplex, Louis is actively engaged in Project Management and contributing to initiatives at the intersection of industry and workforce development. He is thrilled to be part of this social impact competition, and eager to leverage his comprehensive expertise to evaluate and support local nonprofit organizations, helping them strengthen their missions and secure the vital resources needed for impactful community change.

Raul Ordaz

Raul Ordaz, Jr., CPA is Chief Financial Officer of High Desert Capital, LLC, and its group of companies, which include finance companies, real estate investment joint ventures, and commercial/retail hardware stores. Raul has worked at High Desert Capital since July 2014, contributing to the company’s growth during that 􀆟me. Prior to his tenure at High Desert Capital, Raul was Senior Tax Manager at Strickler & Prieto, LLP – a regional public accounting firm that specializes in U.S. federal and international tax.

Over the years, Raul has served on various non‐profit boards of directors including Hospice of El Paso, and the Advertising Federation of El Paso. He currently volunteers at Queen of Peace parish and serves on various ministries.

Raul received his B.B.A. in Accounting from the University of Texas at El Paso. He lives with his wife Ellen and their three yorkies in El Paso, Texas.

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