Tom Heinz, Executive Director
Tom founded EBI in 1994. As a child of a person with a disability, Tom learned at an early age that your physical limitations do not define your value as a person. This continues to be his personal philosophy, as well as the philosophy of EBI. He will never forget seeing the first people EBI served move into their new homes. Tom is constantly inspired by the people EBI serves, who overcome so many barriers to be able to live on their own or to have a job. Tom has a Master's in Rehabilitation Administration from University of San Francisco. He was the first Chairperson of the California Supported Living Network 1996-1998, and was a co-founder of the Housing Consortium of the East Bay and of HOUSE, Inc. In 2005 he won The Bill Rosenberg Memorial Award from Cal-TASH and in 2014 he won the Bernie Graf Excellence in Service Award. Outside of work, Tom enjoys listening to American roots music and playing baseball with his three boys.
Tamy Ratto, Director of Operations
Tamy has been with EBI since 1997, when she was hired as the first Independent Living Skills Instructor. She appreciates the connections with clients and families, who demonstrate what it is to be strong and the importance of acceptance. Tamy has dedicated herself to EBI because she is committed to the mission of empowering others to live lives that are valued and purposeful. Tamy also has a special expertise in assisting people to secure affordable housing and public benefits (SSI, SSDI, MediCal and MediCare). In 2009, Tamy received the Diane Lipton Memorial Award for Outstanding Advocacy. In her free time, Tamy loves spending time with her family and puppies.
Lori Kotsonas, Director of Supported Employment Services
Lori took over as Director of Employment Services is 2002. During her time with EBI, Lori has almost doubled the number of people EBI supports to work in jobs in the community. In addition to Employment Services, Lori also coordinates EBI’s Employment Services Transition Project which assists high school students with disabilities to identify a career and helps them to find employment shortly after leaving school. In 2010, Lori was presented with an award for Outstanding Advocacy from the Alameda County Developmental Disability Council. Lori loves the outdoors, and enjoys camping and gardening.
Samantha Covey, Director of Independent Living Services
Samantha began working at EBI as an Independent Living Skills Instructor in 2004, after working in a group home setting for adults with developmental disabilities. She worked in several managerial positions within the Independent Living Skills department, including Coordinator and Assistant Director. Since January 2014, she has served as Director of Independent Living Services. Samantha is dedicated to supporting adults with disabilities to lead independent, healthy, happy, and productive lives. One area of particular importance to Samantha is working closely with family members and friends of people served by EBI, as she recognizes the value of natural supports within a person’s life. It is Samantha’s philosophy that adults with disabilities lead lives of their choosing with dignity and as much independence as possible. Samantha feels fortunate that years of employment at East Bay Innovations have allowed her an extensive amount of professional development as well as deep personal growth. Samantha lives locally and enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Serom Sanftner, Director of California Community Transitions
After doing a year of mission work in East Asia, Serom wanted to jump into work that was engaging and meaningful. EBI was the perfect place for that. Initially hired as an ILS Instructor in 2010, Serom has held a number of positions at EBI. After completing her Master's of Social Work, Serom gladly joined the CCT Team in June of 2015. Throughout her time with EBI, Serom has loved seeing people grow and change, and appreciates how her clients also help her to grow as well. Serom values the intimate role EBI gets to play in people's lives and helping them to be a valued and integral member of their community. Outside of EBI Serom enjoys spending time with her husband and son, family and friends, traveling, music, and serving at her church.
Erin Hanley, Director of Supported Living Services
Erin graduated from UC Berkeley in 2009, and started her career with EBI in 2010 as a Community Living Assistant in Supported Living Services. Erin has a long history of community service, with volunteer experience in convalescent homes, her local V.A., and tutoring children of low-income families. Her passion for the field of social services is apparent in her work, and she advanced through different positions within the agency before coming to her current role as Director of Supported Living. Erin loves to see the individuals she serves engaged with their community and with each other, as well as the impact of our services on our clients families. She truly believes in EBI's person-centered approach, and she feels inspired by her co-workers on a daily basis. While not at work, Erin enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking, and gardening with her husband, her two young children, and her crazy Pomeranian.
Kiera Swan, Director of Administration
Kiera has worn many hats during her time with EBI. She started here with a part-time job while she was in college, and came on full-time as an Independent Living Services Coordinator in January 2004. She soon moved to the Assistant Director of Independent Living Services position, which she held until the birth of her first daughter. After taking some time away from EBI to be a mom, Kiera came back to EBI as Payroll Manager in 2008. She was very popular in the office, as she would often bring her daughter in to work with her. In 2011, Kiera began working as Affinity Coordinator - a position she still holds. In addition to this important role, Kiera assumed the position of Assistant Director of Administration in 2014. In 2016 Kiera moved into the position of Director of Administration. Kiera is passionate about EBI's work. She appreciates that the mission of EBI is not just something on the wall, but is deeply engrained in everything EBI does. She also values the collaborative and ever-evolving nature of EBI's work. EBI is family to Kiera, and she loves working somewhere she feels valued both professionally and personally. Kiera's enthusiasm for social justice and advocacy is something that she is proud to pass on to her two daughters.