Wendy Hawthornewendy2
Executive Director


Wendy Hawthorne became the Executive Director of Groundwork Denver in November 2006. She started her career as a mechanical engineer, focusing on energy efficient and sustainable building design and consulting. After ten years in that field, Wendy realized that she could have a greater positive impact on the community and the environment by applying her skills and passion in the non-profit sector. In 2000, she joined the staff at Northeast Denver Housing Center (NDHC) with the goal of making low-income housing more energy efficient, sustainable, and healthy. At NDHC, she and staff started the Healthy Homes Initiative through which hundreds of Denver homes in low-income communities received health and safety improvements and thousands of families were educated about the dangers of lead poisoning. As the Executive Director of Groundwork Denver, Wendy has proven the effectiveness of the organization in engaging a diversity of Denver residents in environmental projects. Wendy has a Bachelors degree from Princeton University and a Masters degree from the University of Colorado.

Tangier Barnes Wright
Director of Transportation Programs

As Director of Transportation Programs Tangier is responsible for managing Groundwork Denver’s multi-modal transportation efforts and their Strive To Not Drive program which is aimed at reducing single occupancy vehicle trips. Her duties also include advocating for improved transportation access and better pedestrian, bicycling, and transit infrastructure in neighborhoods where Groundwork Denver works. In addition, Tangier continues to help manage Platte Farm Open Space; a resident-led, brownfield project being redeveloped for community benefit. Tangier has been with the Groundwork network since 2009. She started as an intern then worked as Director of Community Planning for 6 years. After a year of working at Groundwork USA providing technical assistance to communities affected by brownfields, Tangier came back to Groundwork Denver in 2016 to continue her work locally. Originally from Greeley, Colorado, Tangier currently lives in southwest Denver where she enjoys gardening, cooking, and riding bikes with her husband.

Paul Baca
Strive to Not Drive Canvasser

After 30 years of practicing law in the specialized areas of employment discrimination and civil rights, Paul now serves as a door-to-door canvasser for Groundwork Denver. Paul received his bachelor’s in economics from the University of Colorado in Boulder and then went on to attain a J.D. in Law from the University of Denver. After receiving his law degree, Paul worked briefly in the Denver Office of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund before entering private practice, which he stayed for the remainder of his law career. Now, in his free time, Paul enjoys watching professional sports, following politics, reading, and creative writing. You may also find Paul watching television game shows with his wife, and fellow Groundwork Denver staff member, Pat Barron.

Pat Barron
Energy Efficiency Services CoordinatorPat Barron

Pat is no stranger to extending a helping hand to members of the community in need of assistance. She recently retired after 36 years with the State of Colorado as a staff and administrative assistance. Pat primarily worked with the Office of the State Public Defender, which provides legal representation to the criminally accused who are unable to afford private legal representation. After a short-lived stint as a retiree, she realized that she had many productive years ahead of her and decided to go back into the workforce. She was faced with the choice of continuing in the field of providing legal services in the private sector or moving into the nonprofit sector, providing services in furtherance of the mission of Groundwork Denver. The choice was easy and thus, she became a member of the Groundwork Denver team to help our clients connect with all of the energy efficiency assistance and resources available to them.

Sadot Castañeda
Energy Auditor

Sadot began working at Groundwork Denver in 2010 as a green teamer, often riding bikes and working in community gardens. In the summer of 2015 Sadot served as a Green Team Leader, managing a group of young people working at the Schmitt Elementary Farm. Sadot is now a member of the Groundwork Denver Energy Audit Team. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and son in the great outdoors and recreating. He also enjoys growing as a leader, mentoring youth, and being an environmental activist. Sadot is currently pursing a degree in engineering in hopes of building a future while keeping the planet’s health in mind.

Cindy Chang
Director of Operations

Cindy has been volunteering with Groundwork Denver since 2009 and is currently serving as our Director of Operations. In this role, Cindy helps manage the day-to-day operations of the organization in addition to working on special projects. Cindy has a background in nonprofit management, philanthropy, and has a deep passion for the environment. She earned a Masters in Business Administration from the Yale School of Management and a Masters in Environmental Management at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She also has a B.A. from Tufts University. Cindy has adopted Colorado as her home with her growing family. In her free time enjoys yoga, walking, and her two cats.

Lauren O’Connor
Outreach Coordinator

Lauren works closely with Groundwork Denver’s canvassing and outreach events. She spends her work day ensuring all of Groundwork’s canvassing projects are well-thought out and planned for, supplying canvassers with their routes, materials and instructions. Lauren also collects data from participants in our Strive to Not Drive program. When Lauren isn’t in the office working, she is running, biking, knitting, or coding. Lauren is currently pursuing her degree in computer science at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Miriam Colón
Outreach SpecialistMiriam Colon

Miriam Colón has more than 20 years of experience working in social services and client relations. At Groundwork Denver she specializes in outreach and education in the Spanish-speaking community. Specifically, Miriam works as a health promoter to inform families about lead poisoning, organizes the community to plant trees and conduct other improvement projects, and educates people about how to reduce their energy bills. Miriam’s enthusiasm for helping others motivates her to continue serving the community and make families aware of beneficial resources. Whether she has five minutes at the door or an hour at an in-home energy audit, Miriam is sure to leave with a customer happy and ready to act on improving the environment.

Makalah Emanuel
Volunteer Outreach and Communications Coordinator 

As a former Green Team member, Makalah now serves as Groundwork Denver’s Volunteer Outreach and Communications Coordinator. From 2011 to 2016, Makalah worked with Groundwork Denver on a variety of projects, including building community gardens and managing two of Groundwork’s Green Teams. She has also traveled to, and worked on, several national parks with Groundwork Denver, including the Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming and the Anacostia Park in Washington, D.C. Makalah attained her bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations and advertising in 2015 from the University of Northern Colorado.  In her free time she enjoys visiting the mountains with her family and watching basketball games.

Fatuma EmmadFatuma Emmad
Director of Urban Farms

Fatuma was born in Denver and raised in Ethiopia as well as Colorado. Fatuma has worked farming organic and heirloom vegetables on her own acreage as part of a co-op, setting up farms for restaurants, and as farm manger for a two acre community garden in Milwaukee. Before becoming a farmer, Fatuma was a political scientist who engaged in issues affecting marginalized farming communities such as the fight against the push for genetically modified seeds across Sub-Saharan Africa She believes in resistance by the world’s land caretakers to single solutions for crop productivity and seeks to work on re-framing ideas of food security. Her future plans include becoming a kung fu artist, furthering her yoga practices, learning more about trees, and establishing a seed bank within the Omo Valley of Ethiopia. She is excited for the opportunity to farm in her own home neighborhood at Sister Gardens and become a part of a new program for sustainable food systems in Denver.

Dawn Fernandez Williams

Financial Manager


Dawn started her Financial Management career in nonprofits with the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute for Cancer Research. She then gained her grants expertise from her time at Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. From there, Dawn transitioned into the for-profit arena, where she stayed for 17 years. Dawn has returned to her nonprofit roots, helping Groundwork Denver with our business organization, grant reporting, and accounting. When Dawn isn’t punching away with numbers, she’s at home baking cookies with her granddaughter, Eva, or sewing. You may also find Dawn in her backyard searching for insects to add to her insect collection.

Tamara Foglio
Director of Development

Tamara has joined the Groundwork Denver team after a 15 year career with Habitat for Humanity. After years of engaging donors in global community development, she is excited to retire her passport and utilize her development background in her own community.  With a passion for connecting people to meaningful work, she is striving to diversify Groundwork Denver’s funding sources, while increasing the social impact of the organizations programs. Tamara is inspired by her young son Denver, balanced by her husband Jimmy and feels fortunate to have the mountains close by for perspective.

Melake Getabecha
Project Manager
melake@groundworkcolorado.orgmelake headshot

Melake Getabecha started with Groundwork Denver as a Green Team member, working for three summers building trails, planting trees, and improving Denver’s physical environment. He graduated from Middlebury College where he studied Architecture and Environmental Studies. After graduating, Melake returned to work for Groundwork Denver as a part-time technology and youth program assistant before become a full-time programs assistant for Groundwork’s Youth, Land, and Water programs. Having been born in Denver, Melake is eager to work with communities to help improve the environments in which he was raised.

Elysa Goldman
Director of Energy Audit and Weatherization ProgramsElysa Goldman

After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in History from Regis University, Elysa decided to pursue her passion for the outdoors by enrolling in a year-long AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation Program with Mile High Youth Corps in Denver. Elysa participated in extensive energy, water, and land management projects, ranging from park restoration and rehabilitation, to invasive species removal, to energy audits in low-income households. A desire to help others save money while also decreasing their carbon footprint led Elysa to Groundwork Denver, where she happily accepted a position as our Energy Audit Coordinator.

Rachel HansgenRachel
Director of Water Programs


Rachel joined the Groundwork Denver staff after completing a Master of Public Health in August 2012.  She currently manages the Lower Bear Creek Watershed Project. In this capacity, she is responsible for building a steering committee of stakeholders, conducting water quality education sessions for community groups, and orchestrating volunteer events. Goals of the project include the removal of Lower Bear Creek from the State’s impaired waters list, and actively engaging neighbors near the creek to protect urban waters from pollution. Prior to this position, Rachel held responsible positions at several other non-profit organizations including Boys & Girls Club of Pueblo County and Colorado Aids Project.

James HarrisJames Harris

Energy Auditor

James has two turntables and a microphone. An avid musician, James became passionate about alternative energy after experiencing Red Rocks Community College’s renewable energy program. Known as a “jack of all trades,” James also enjoys mentoring high school students and getting them excited about energy efficiency. James has become a real asset to the Groundwork Denver’s energy team, even though he realizes that he was hired because he is tall enough to change light bulbs without a ladder.

Mitch Ruter
Energy Auditor

After completing a Bachelors in Architecture from the University of MN, Mitch began his career in nonprofit work with the Appalachia Service Project, providing emergency home repair for low income communities throughout Central Appalachia. After moving to Denver, he served as an Americorps member with Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver and transitioned into the role of Rehab Project Manager for the affiliate. While working with Habitat, Mitch gained knowledge and experience in energy efficient construction. His first experience with Groundwork Denver was volunteering to canvass for the energy program during MLK Day of Service. Little did he know, a few years later, his interest in energy efficiency and resource conservation would lead him to work with Groundwork as a Home Energy Specialist, providing energy audits to the community. He is excited to find and teach people ways to save energy in their homes, and money in their wallet.

Emily Sepulveda
Groundwork Greens Greenhouse Manager

Emily Sepulveda comes to Groundwork Denver from Phoenix Arizona, where she worked in hydroponics, urban farming, greenhouse design, viticulture, and within the restaurant industry.  She relocated from Phoenix to southern Colorado in April of 2015 to help establish a poly-culture organic farm and associated farm to table cafe. Emily moseyed up to the Denver area the following September, and is thrilled to join with Groundwork Denver in bringing sustainable, local, fresh, and delicious produce to the surrounding communities.

Shane Wright
Director of Youth Programs

Shane has worked with youth in the fields of education and recreation since 1994. With a passion for the environment and the outdoors he has taught skiing and snowboarding and guided river and mountain trips professionally. He enjoyed working as a Recreation Specialist for the State of Washington as well as teaching at-risk youth for the Littleton School District in Littleton, Colorado. He was honored to direct Camp Paha, a day camp for kids and young adults with disabilities, for the City of Lakewood, Colorado. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Western State College of Colorado, “where champions are made out of thin air”, and his Master’s in Nonprofit Management from Regis University in Denver. Shane started with Groundwork Denver in June of 2009 and is thrilled to be directing the Groundwork Denver “Green Team” Youth Programs. He is a father of three great boys, Aidan, Noah and Griffin, has a lovely wife named Erin, and a crazy yellow lab named Hazel.