Leadership Team

Tom Heinz headshot
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 headshot
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 headshot
Lori Kotsonas, Director of Employment Services

Lori joined East Bay Innovations (EBI) in 2002, and has supported individuals with disabilities for more than two decades. Aware of the support her brother needed as he entered the workforce, she began her career at a day program with an employment focus. After that, she worked in a program offering pre-employment skills, and followed that with a position developing employment for individuals with disabilities, before becoming the Director of Employment Services at EBI. Prior to coming to EBI, Lori also co-founded a multi-media weekend art program for adults with disabilities. Committed to seeing individuals with disabilities appropriately compensated for their work, the art program was unique, at that time, in ensuring that participating artists received all proceeds from the sale of their art, and the first art program for individuals with disabilities within Humboldt County.

An advocate for expanding employment options and for jobseekers with disabilities, Lori appreciates the opportunities she has at EBI to develop programs preparing individuals for employment in many sectors. In addition to placing individuals within the retail, janitorial, and grocery sectors historically available to individuals with disabilities, Lori has successfully developed partnerships and pipelines to employers with increasing hiring needs in public sector, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, and hospitality jobs, etc. Replicating the Project SEARCH job training program at various sites in Alameda County; creating multiple internships in a variety of settings, including State agencies; overseeing EBI’s comprehensive job development, employment training, job placement, and on-the-job coaching services; and, providing training to educators and social service agency personnel about employment services; Lori is committed to seeing jobseekers with disabilities access and succeed in jobs with higher wages, greater benefits, and career advancement opportunities.

Lori has been recognized for Outstanding Advocacy by the Alameda County Developmental Disability Council, for her work with Project SEARCH at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland by the Jackson Healthcare Hospital Charitable Service Award, and, annually, by the International Project SEARCH for EBI’s exemplary job placement results.

In her spare time, Lori enjoys gardening and preserving homegrown fruits and vegetables at her “urban farm” in Oakland, hiking the trails of the East Bay Regional Parks and the North Coast, and camping. Both at work and home, Lori enjoys being creative — whether it’s finding a way to access an untapped employment sector or experimenting with recipes with the harvest from her garden.

Samantha Covey headshot
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 headshot
Serom Sanftner, Director of Transitional Care/Case Management

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 TCCM 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 headshot
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.

Rosa DeWaard headshot
Rosa DeWaard, Director of Community Day Supports

Rosa began working for EBI as a Community Living Assistant in Supported Living Services and Community Day Supports in 2013. Since then, she has worked as the Lead Coordinator for CDS and has been the Director of CDS since early 2018. Rosa has a B.A. in Psychology from UC Santa Cruz, and after graduating joined AmeriCorps and worked as a volunteer & program coordinator at the Santa Cruz Volunteer Center where she helped connect youth to meaningful volunteer opportunities. In Rosa’s five years at EBI, she has built strong relationships with clients and their families and loves seeing clients thrive and grow in the program and connect with their community. Outside of work, Rosa enjoys singing and playing music, yoga, and hiking.

Christine Grabowski headshot
Christine Grabowski, Co-Director of ILS/Private Pay Case Management

Christine started out with EBI as an Independent Living Skills Instructor in 2008, after 13 years away from the workforce to be home with her children. When she decided it was time to return to work, Christine was looking not just for a job, but for a place where she could serve. She started working part-time as an Instructor in Independent Living Services, and over the course of three years, worked her way through several positions, including Specialist, Coordinator, Assistant Director of ILS and Director of SLS. In November of 2017, she stepped into a new role providing Case Management/Advocacy supports. Christine believes that trust and respect are the bases for all relationships, and she is committed to EBI’s philosophy that all supports should be centered around the individual’s needs and lifestyle. It is the philosophy and practice of supporting people with dignity and pride that has led Christine to want to continue her own growth as a person at EBI. In her spare time, Christine loves to cook and bake, spend time with family and friends, and discover new, wonderful places to eat and hike in the Bay Area.