Meet the board of directors

Tommy Ellis, President

A native Palm Beach county resident, Mr. Ellis is an entrepreneur who has owned and operated businesses throughout his entire career. Mr. Ellis is presently co-owner of two Keller Williams Realty offices in Boynton Beach and Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Ellis along with his wife Jackie have supported many of The Soup Kitchen initiatives. He joined the Board of Directors in December 2013 and was elected President in September 2019.

Marlene Sandler Mejia, Vice President

An innovative, results oriented professional with over 30 years of broad based management experience, Ms. Mejia has volunteered at the Soup Kitchen since 2004 and is a member of the Board since 2011. Ms. Mejia was elected Vice President in September 2019.

Nelson Garcia-Tavel, Secretary

A successful businessman in the oil industry, Mr. Garcia-Tavel is currently Vice President of Business Development at a global oil company. In his position, Mr. Garcia-Tavel oversees oil exploration and related operations in Texas, Virgin Islands, Colombia and Hungary. He joined the Board of Directors effective April 2016.

Michael M. McCarthy, Treasurer

Born and raised in Washington DC where he has served on many community-based boards dealing with issues such as poverty, healthcare, education, and banking. He started a private investment company based in Bethesda, MD in 1984 with emphasis on investments in commercial real estate and financial services. Mr. McCarthy is a 1968 graduate of Trinity College, CT and a Vietnam Veteran while a member of the US Army from 1969 to 1972. Mr. McCarthy joined TSK Board of Directors effective December, 2017.  He was elected Treasurer in September 2019.

Dan Kaplowitz

A retired US Army Commissioned Officer since 1972, Mr. Kaplowitz has since held numerous positions in the business world. Mr. Kaplowitz has volunteered in The Soup Kitchen since 1998 and joined the Board of Directors in 1999.

Jason Okleshen

A shareholder and practicing trial lawyer with the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, Mr. Okleshen’s expertise is in real estate, commercial and business litigation. Mr. Okleshen joined The Soup Kitchen’s Board of Directors in 2012 and serves as its legal advisor. Mr. Okleshen is Chair of the Governance Committee.

Yolanda "Yoli" Peña Buitrago

A successful businesswoman in Real Estate and in Private Investments, Yolanda (Yoli) earned an Executive Leadership from Cornell University and a Masters Degree from Florida Atlantic University where she was a distinguished Adjunct Professor for 12 years. She is bilingual and was born in Colombia.  Currently, Yolanda is a Senior BrokerAssociate with Signature International Premier Properties, LLC. and takes great pride in her impecable credibility and her exceptional in-depth knowledge of the local luxury market. Yolanda is a devoted patron of the Arts with love for theater and opera, and a penchant for fine cuisine. Ms. Peña Buitrago is also a Wine connoisseur of California, Northwest, and the New York regions.  She will be assisting in Fundraising and joined the Board as of January, 2021.

Christine Maricic

Following college, Mrs. Maricic began working in the finance industry. Since 1998, she has gained a comprehensive knowledge of the local market, competitive offers, and economic trends, and now serves as the First Vice President of Valley Bank. Within this role, her responsibilities include overseeing business development and community involvement. As a native Floridian, Mrs. Maricic is very active in the local community and civic organizations. She joined the Board of Directors effective September 2019.

Richard "Dick" Syatt

Richard “Dick” Syatt has lived a lifetime of hospitality and communication. Radio Talk Show Host, Nightclub and Events promotions, Director of Guest Relations for Legal Sea Foods and Travel Guide for Holland America. Mr. Syatt also delivers twice a week for Meals on Wheels and assists with Social Media. Mr. Syatt became a member in October, 2020.