Board of Directors
Gus Penaranda is a longtime member in the LGBT sports scene, and is actively involved with the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association (IGFLA) and the New York Gay Flag Football League (NYGFL) since 2000. He also enjoys volunteering and championing support for advocating the importance of mental health and wellness issues that the LGBT community faces.
In Penaranda’s previous role as the PIO to the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs, he served directly under the former-Director Paul Rodríguez, who now serves as the U.S. Department of Health’s deputy general counsel in President Joseph Biden’s administration.
Prior to this role, Gus served as the Chief External Relations Officer for the American Red Cross (ARC) of the New Jersey region in Princeton, where he designed dynamic programming, oversaw the organization’s key awareness campaign rollouts, and served as the Latino Media spokesperson. Though deploying to both Florida and Texas for hurricane Irma and Harvey tested his skills as a bilingual communicator and disaster volunteer, his most rewarding work to date was during hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico. Working via satellite phone with ARC’s North Jersey Regional CEO Ana Montero, they successfully provided information and directed resources to help those affected by the devastating hurricane during a time of almost total communication blackout.
Gus earned a Master of Science degree in International Relations and Public Policy from William Paterson University of New Jersey; and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from William Paterson University of New Jersey.
He is a Paterson native and now resides in Jersey City.
Steven Garibell, a New Jersey native, has spent over 20 years fostering banking relationships with the LGBTQ+ and Diverse Business community in New Jersey and New York. He currently leads the Community and LGBTQ+ Business Development efforts for TD bank with responsibilities not only for bringing the bank’s services to diverse owned enterprises but also working to ensure that TD is the top employer of LGBTQ+ professionals in the industry. During his tenure at TD he has served in leadership roles in retail and commercial banking, served as the Lead for the Metro NY Diversity Council and as a member of the LGBTQ2+ Diversity Leadership team.
Steven is known in the community as a bridge builder, connecting customers, colleagues and community partners together to help bring economic empowerment opportunities all. As part of his community outreach, he helps administer financial empowerment seminars, has served as a past board member for The Montclair YMCA, Hudson County Community College Foundation and the NJ Pride Chamber. Steven is a strong supporter of Diverse Business Certifications and currently sits on the Certification Committee for the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).
In 2018 Steven decided to begin his entrepreneurial journey with a longtime friend, opening Hounds Town Bergen, a franchise of Hounds Town USA and the networks first location outside of Long Island. Through the success of this business, he and his business partner opened a second location, Hounds Town Fairfield in August of 2021. Through his franchises he is able to back to the community by helping support local animal shelters and rescues.
Animating Garibell’ s career is the belief that everyone should have a chance to be successful, no matter what their background is. Based on that view, he works to drive positive change through working collaborations that enrich the lives of the LGBTQ community and its talented entrepreneurs and small business owners. An example of his community connecting work can be seen through his work with Lambda Vodka.
Steven has been an honoree of City and State Responsible 100, Gay City News Impact Awards, City and States Pride Power 100, Inaugural Edition of Crain's Notable LGBTQ New YorkersPolitics NY New York LGBTQ+ Power Playersand Politics NY Power Players in Corporate and Social Responsibility.
John Traier is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), licensed in the State of New Jersey and is owner of his accounting firm, John M. Traier & Associates LLC.
John graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rutgers College (major in Economics) and a Master of Business Administration (major in Professional Accounting) from the Rutgers Graduate School of Management. He is a Deloitte alumni and served as Acting Commission of the NJ Department of Banking and then Director of the Division of Banking.
John was appointed to the Board of Directors in 2014.
"The LGBTQ community has always been a second home to me. When I discovered the NJ Pride Chamber, I fell in love! Finally, a business networking group that was more than just an exchange of business cards; and much more than sitting in a dimly-lit room at 7 a.m. chowing down on a stale bagel, waiting in hopes of a single referral. This was the family feel I have always looked for, and the connections I have made even during quarantine are long-lasting. I'm thrilled to use my position as VP of Membership to help grow the reach of the Chamber and have a real impact on the LGBTQ business community." — Jacob
Jacob Meola, a New Jersey native, has been known to do a little bit of everything throughout his 34 years on Earth. He is known to many as Jake of All Trades and wears many hats. An entrepreneur since birth, Jake opened an online second-hand bookstore during the pandemic and enjoys getting books off the shelf and into the hands of readers for a fraction of the cost. You can also make donations to the bookstore if you have books that are cluttering up your home.
An avid artist, Jake has taken numerous classes and won awards for his fine arts skills through JacobAlex Creations, a visual arts company that makes commissioned paintings and drawings. To see his paintings and drawings, view his gallery.
Truly living up to his name, Jake does a myriad of other things including protecting individuals, families, and small businesses with Legal Shield and ID Shield. An innovative company that has put the power of a lawfirm within reach at a fraction of the cost, empowering previously underserved communities and providing equal access to your rights.
He is also a karaoke DJ, actor, and avid networker. View his events calendar to find networking and entertainment near you.
Victor Peter Rodriguez moved to NYC from South America at an early age. He attended Bernard Baruch College and graduated with a BBA specialized in International Marketing Management. Victor Peter worked at a luxury retail store chain prior to his banking career, transitioning into a fast track management program at HSBC where he worked for 9 years.
He then worked at Deloitte and then transitioned to TD Bank at The HUB and now manages one of the most prestigious and Largest Stores in his footprint in our Pequannock Store in New Jersey. Passionate about team building and community service, he strongly believes about creating a positive open and inclusive work environment for his employees and excellence in customer service for his clients.
Victor Peter was appointed to the NJ LGBT Chamber's Board of Directors in December 2021 as the VP of Administration.
Debbie Millar, RN
Board Member at Large
Director, Community Wellness and Engagement
Penn Medicine Princeton Health
Deborah Millar, RN, has been employed by Penn Medicine Princeton Health for 31 years. She is the Director of Community Wellness & Engagement, managing a comprehensive and vital resource serving professionals and the public alike, providing more than 2,000 programs annually, serving some 55,000 people. In addition to her day-to-day responsibilities, Ms. Millar is a member of several Board of Directors and Chairs multiple committees.
Board Member at Large
Executive Director- Global Collective
Owner/Operator- True Lounge
Terez Thorpe is a thespian, entertainment executive and an accomplished administrator with more than thirty-five (35) years of experience working with Non-Profit Organizations, privately and publicly funded organizations, and LGBTQIA+ Global Foundations.
Currently, Terez serves as Executive Director for Global Collective, a Global hybrid luxury branding, marketing, management, and talent agency. As a trained thespian, and entertainment executive Terez has produced shows in community theatre, off Broadway, concerts, and managed tours.
With a passionate belief that access to safe and affordable housing should be a birth right, Terez formerly served as a Director of Supportive Housing Programs overseeing a large portfolio of singles and families living with HIV/AIDS in New York City. Terez worked with the transgender community to provide safe, welcoming, and affordable housing, legal services, and access to medical services.
A relentless activist, Terez organized to successfully identify and change discriminatory policies and practices in New York City shelters for transgender young adults. She also worked to implement LGBTQI+ sensitivity training within the New York City Police Department.
Some of her career highlights include developing national and international outreach programs for runaway/homeless and trafficked youth. Her work help launch a nationwide crisis intervention hotline for youth under twenty-one years of age. Terez designed and operated New York City’s first funded Runaway and Crisis Youth Congregate Care Facility with a twenty-four-hour open intake modality.
Terez is a GLAAD Media Award winner, New York City Supportive Housing Trailblazer Award, Unity Fellowship Church L.I.F.E Award and Black Pride Trailblazer Award recipient respectively. She is a Brand Ambassador for the International LGBT Arts and Culture Music Festival.
Terez is the owner/operator of True Lounge in Newark New Jersey and excited to join forces with the New Jersey Pride Chamber of Commerce. She resides in New Jersey with her wife and their fur baby, Brave.
Board Member at Large
My name is Raul Alarcon. I am a VP- Market Manager for a financial institution. Over 15 years’ experience in customer service and Latin rhythm dancer, I am also a Guatemalan immigrant, as I was born and raised in Guatemala until the age of 10. From a very early age I understood that I was not content with meeting expectations. Exceeding expectations and setting higher goals for myself has been part of my identity that has permeated throughout my life. My constant need to succeed is what drives me in my professional career. Having been raised in a poverty-stricken country in Central America, I have grown accustomed to showing those around me that I can overcome any obstacle put in front of me, regardless of my origins or how I identify. From my early days as a salsa instructor to my successful career in the financial industry world, I strive to be the best version of myself that I can be.
The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.- Dolly Parton
Board Member at Large
Facilities Partners & Solutions
Kathleen Waters is the President & CEO of Facilities Partners & Solutions (FPS) which provides commercial janitorial services to multiple types of organizations and industries. FPS is a certified woman, LBGTQ+, and Veteran company that focuses on delivering quality services in tandem of supporting the quality of life for the front-line employees in the industry. Kathleen dreamed of making a difference with her own company – a difference focused on supporting the quality of life for the front-line employees in the industry. Her strong feeling is if you focus on the individuals in those positions the rest will come. Many times, this part of our society’s workforce is invisible - especially to the population that reap from their work.
Kathleen spent six years in the U.S. Army prior to jumping into corporate America which ultimately led her to the Facilities field. She has spent the last 20+ years in Facilities Management catering to high profile organizations with a focus on Soft Services and Vendor Management. Her approach to life is based on integrity and genuineness - in business this relates to identifying, shaping, and advancing initiatives that build awareness and drive positive engagement among clients, partners, and internal colleagues. She has an unimpeachable reputation rooted in honesty, credibility, and professionalism. Positive engagement and building awareness with all levels have yielded results beyond expectations.
Known for excellent organizational and engagement skills combined with a keen sense for details, Kathleen is an effective team player who stands out as an accomplished leader.
Founding Board Members & Past Presidents
- Stephen Blazejewski, Past President and Certified Financial Planner, Equitable Advisors
- Laurie Seliger, Past President and former owner of Keylingo Translations of Princeton
- Joseph Renga, Past President and Principal of JFR Telecom Consulting Services
- Holly Kaplansky, Founding Board Member and owner of Red Wagon Consulting
- Kimberlee S. Williams, Founding Board Member and owner of FEMWORKS
- Medina Citi, Founding Board Member and owner of MEDINA = CITI
- Tamara A. Fleming, Founding Board Member and owner of Tamara Fleming Photography