Mike Talleda – President

Mike Talleda is a first-generation Cuban who immigrated to the United States in 1962, at the age of nine, with his parents and four siblings. Shortly after arriving in the States, Mike and his family moved to Torrance, California. Mike graduated from North High School, attended El Camino College, and became interested in real estate at the age of 23. At 27 years of age, Mike started his own Hawthorne-Lawndale company, and when the market was booming in the 80’s, his company employed 40 full-time agents and offered escrow and mortgage services.

When the attacks occurred on September 11, 2001, Mike was deeply affected. He thought it was unbelievable that anyone could do something so horrible to a country that had been good to so many people. His experience as a Cuban refugee made him want to give back to the nation that had provided him and his family with not only a haven, but also with opportunities he never would have in his home country of communist Cuba.

He immediately decided that he needed to be involved somehow in helping his adopted country. So, he organized a group of friends for a fundraiser, with the objective of locating a family that had been devastated by the attacks to donate the proceeds to them. In 2002, he worked with a group of Special Forces (United Warrior Survivor Foundation), assisting the surviving spouses of Special Operators KIA in Afghanistan at the beginning of the war. By early 2004, Mike was ready to have his group become a 501(c) non-profit, so in June he created the 9-11 HelpAmerica Foundation to assist post 9/11 surviving spouses of our fallen and combat wounded veterans. In time, this became Wounded Heroes of America (www.woundedheroesofamerica.org).

Over the last 14 years,Wounded Heroes of America (WHOA) has assisted more than 170 combat wounded veterans, most of whom have had young families. Help comes in the way of financial aid, emotional assistance, and the fostering of a fellowship among the vets, which is unique among foundations in Southern California.

Throughout all of this, Mike has never lost track of his civic responsibilities to the city he has been a part of for so many years. He has been appointed by previous mayors to serve on the Oversight Board to the successor agency of the dissolved redeveloping agency.

Over the last six years, Mike has served on the Hawthorne Planning Commission, including being a Chairperson, and recently been appointed to the City Council.

He has received much recognition from local and state officials for his work with wounded veterans, and he has been recognized by the Los Angeles Veteran Center for his support of veterans.

Furthermore, he was the recipient of the 2011 Daily Breeze-People of Distinction Award: Unsung Hero category, as well as the 2013 Citizen of the Year award by the South Bay Association of Realtors.

Mike believes that after receiving various recognitions and accolades throughout the seventeen years he has done this work, the most endearing and special has been the letter from Cheryl McDonnell, the widow of Michael McDonnell—who was killed on September 11—and WHOA’s first beneficiary.

Harvey Jacobson – Chairman

Harvey H. Jacobson is President and CEO of California Financial Partners, Inc., a registered investment advisory and fee-based financial planning organization. He has spoken at the national level on a number of topics, including charitable planning, family limited partnerships, generation-skipping (dynasty) trusts, fee-based money management, and qualified plan distributions.

Harvey joined the financial services industry in 1985 in Rochester, New York. After working as a financial consultant for several years, he then managed the Rochester office for Sagemark Consulting from 1988 to 1995. He was promoted to Regional Chief Executive Office of the Greater Los Angeles office, a position he held until August 2000.

After serving 2 1/2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Amazon jungles of Peru, Harvey returned to the U.S. and taught high school math and science classes in both English and Spanish in Rochester, New York.

Jeff Durbin- Director

Jeff Durbin has been a partner with CSuite Financial Partners, the premier CFO consulting firm in California, since October 2017. Prior to that, he spent four years as Chief Financial Officer of F. Gaviña & Sons, a $180 million roaster of specialty coffee in California. The Gaviña family recruited Jeff from DIRECTV where he was a Director of Finance in Denver, CO. He has held an assortment of finance and accounting positions during his 30-year career, including Eastman Kodak, First Interstate Bank, McLeodUSA, and myriad smaller firms. He earned his BSBA from Creighton University and his MBA from the University of Rochester’s William E. Simon Business School.

Sgt. Erick Castro- Director

Sgt. Erick Castro enlisted in the Army at the age of 19. He was shipped to Fort Lenard Wood for basic training and advanced individual training (AIT). During his time at AIT, he was taught how to operate heavy construction equipment, renovate structures, create tank obstacles and construction management, and use explosives. After he graduated, he was sent to Germany to serve with the 9th Engineers, 1st Infantry Division. During his two years in Germany, he was taught how to lay, defuse, and neutralize land mines.

His next duty station was with the 43rd Combat Engineer Company, 3rd Armor Calvary Regiment in Fort Carson, CO. During his first year there, he was sent to the Primary Leadership Development Course and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He was able to reach this rank before three years of service.

In 2003, Erick was deployed to Iraq. While in Iraq he performed conduction, raids on key targets, foot patrols, undercover missions, traffic control points, guard duty in high-value areas, and more. Six months into his deployment, he was involved in an ambush. His team was hit with a light anti-tank weapon that took Erick’s leg off at the hip. He was flown from Iraq to Walter Reed Medical Center. A week later, President George W. Bush presented Erick with the Purple Heart. At Capitol Hill a month later, the late Senator Kennedy performed Erick’s American citizenship naturalization.

In May of 2004, Erick was medically retired from the Army and was able to keep his rank of Sergeant. He went to school in the fall and graduated from Arizona State University with a Math degree. In 2009, he moved back to Southern California to work for a small telecommunications company. In 2014, Erick completed his MBA with a concentration in Accounting. He is now the president and majority owner of Kana Subsurface Engineering.

Awards: Purple Heart, (3) Army Commendation Medals w/ V device, (3) Army Achievement Medals, Army Good Conduct Medals, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and VA-DAV Freedom Award 2004.

In 2005, Erick was honored at the Memorial Day Concert in Capitol Hill, which aired on PBS. In 2010, Erick was featured in “Latinos Living the American Dream”, which was sponsored by Pepsi Co. and directed by Eva Longoria.

William Spathelf- Director

William (Bill) Spathelf joined Citibank in 1976 and has held a variety of senior positions in the U.S., Europe, and Asia for over 36 years. He was a member of Citibank’s Global Corporate and Commercial Bank senior management team and as an International Banker he managed and grew new businesses with a focus on Commercial Real Estate, and provided strategic planning, management, support and training for existing Citibank businesses focusing on Small to Medium Size Enterprises (SME’s) to Global Corporate Businesses.

As a Senior Credit Officer, his expertise is in strategy, risk identification and mitigation. Bill formally retired from Citibank in 2012 but continues in an advisory capacity supporting Citibank businesses in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

In 2008 he founded LCF Oaktree LLC and in 2013 WGSpathelf Consulting Inc. a real estate investment company purchasing land, developing high-end single-family homes, commercial and rental properties in addition to supporting Citibank.

Bill has an MBA from American University, Washington D.C. (Double Distinction) and served as Adjunct evening Professor of Finance at the American University School of Business from 1979 to 1986. He has been a guest lecturer and speaker at seminars and universities throughout the world.

Sgt. Jose Vazquez- Director

Sgt. Jose Vazquez enlisted at the age of 18 into the United States Marine Corps during the crucial time of the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001. Sgt. Vazquez attended basic training at the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California. He was ordered to serve at the 2nd Battalion 5th Marines as a 0311 infantry rifleman, in Camp Pendleton, California.

After, successfully completing infantry training, Sgt Vazquez officially integrated into the Marine Corps fleet and completed the remainder of his enlistment from 2002-2005. During Sgt Vazquez service in the Marine Corps he served two tours in Iraq. The first tour called Operation Iraqi Freedom (“The Invasion”) from Feb – Aug 2003, and the second tour was Operation Enduring Freedom (“The Insurgency”) from Sep 2004 – March 2005.

Sgt Vazquez separated from the Marine Corps at the end of 2005. He then pursued his education at Rio Hondo College and transferred to the University of La Verne where he received his undergraduate and master’s degree in Business Administration in 2013.
Currently, Sgt Jose Vazquez works full time, has been married for five years and is a new father. During his down time, he loves to volunteer at Wounded Heroes of America, and serves on the Board.