About Us


Su Casa is a healing sanctuary where victims can find their voice, develop inner strength, and become self-directed agents of change in their own lives.

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Our Story

For over 40 years Su Casa has protected families from domestic violence. The agency was founded in 1979 by Petra Medelez, a survivor, who out of her own home took crisis calls and housed victims and their children. Petra’s vision was to fill her community with peaceful homes. In order to truly realize her vision, Su Casa expanded its services to include not only immediate shelter from danger but also case management and counseling (to residents and to victims still living with their batterer), shelter-based certified childhood education, community awareness training, and transitional housing. Su Casa remains dedicated to Petra’s belief that every individual has the right to live free from violence or the threat of violence.

Inherent in this belief is the agency’s commitment to the values of diversity and empowerment. Su Casa values each individual and embraces the ethnic and cultural diversity prevalent in Southern California. All direct service staff are bilingual (Spanish/English) and cultural competence is emphasized in staff training and practiced throughout all service modalities. Management continues to improve our programs and educate our staff to better serve the growing numbers of Asian and Pacific Islander victims seeking our help. The value placed on empowerment drives the agency’s ever-expanding range of services that are victim-centered. Services are practical, therapeutic, and educational.

The addition of the transitional shelter in 1996 is a direct response to the awareness that 30 days is not enough time for women to put the pieces of their lives back together in order to become self-sufficient and stable. This expansion is supported by research, showing that women who enter transitional shelters are far less likely to return to violent situations. The extended time enables families to bridge the gap between crisis and independent living. In addition, our continued efforts to enhance and expand outreach and counseling services to victims in the community who are not yet ready to take the step of leaving their batterer further exemplify the agency’s commitment to meet women where they are and help them achieve self-sufficiency on their own terms.

Baylee’s Story On Overcoming Domestic Violence

This video is an advocacy piece against domestic violence. It was made by Chris Baltierra for his journalism class at California State Long Beach. Please take a look this message directly from Baylee, a domestic violence survivor

Board of Directors

Debbie Vince

Board Chair

Debbie Vince – Board Chair
Debbie Vince joined the Su Casa Board of Directors in 2016. She is a Director of Sales for New York Life. Debbie joined New York Life in 2009, and has more than 20 years of experience in financial services, including 17 years in the retirement plan industry. Prior to joining New York Life, she was a Senior Vice President with National Retirement Partners (NRP) and worked as a Retirement Plan Consultant at 401k Advisors and helped launch RPAG. Debbie received a BS in Business Management from the University of Redlands. She maintains FINRA Series 6, 7, and 63 registrations and holds life and health licenses in all states.

Jesse Rivera

Secretary/Vice Chair

Jessie Rivera – Secretary/Vice Chair

Jesse is the Human Resources Manager at the Hustler Casino. His broad areas of expertise include HR Compliance, Recruitment, Compensation, Employee Relations, Performance Management, Training & Development, and HR Administration. Jesse is a professional speaker and some of his speaking engagements have included the Cypress Chamber of Commerce and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. Giving back to the community is also important to Jesse as he has served on the Board of Directors at Su Casa since 2016. In his spare time, Jesse enjoys reading, traveling, and visiting art museums.

Tania Whiteleather


Tania Whiteleather – Treasurer
Tania L. Whiteleather has been a member of the Su Casa Board of Directors for over a decade. Tania is a civil rights attorney who has practiced largely in the field of disability rights, representing students in administrative hearings and federal and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals cases since 1989. She is a member of the Rotary Club of Lakewood and serves on the boards of the Weingart-Lakewood YMCA and the Lakewood Regional Medical Center.

Ashley Bradney


Ashley Bradney – Director
Ms. Bradney became part of the Su Casa Board of Directors in 2016. She is an avid volunteer in the Long Beach community and is currently Co-Chair of the Resource Development Committee at Su Casa.

Susan Held


Susan Held – Director
Susan Held owns Manor Insurance Agency, an independent insurance agency in Downey, CA. She has served as President of the Mid-Cities Insurance Association and is a member of the local Chamber of Commerce. Susan is very active in improving the lives of women and girls through social and economic empowerment programs with Soroptimist, a global women’s organization dedicated to that cause. Ms. Held has held many positions within the organization including Governor of the Camino Real Region and Secretary/Treasurer of Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA), which encompasses North and South America and several Pan Pacific and Asian countries. She has traveled internationally representing the SIA board and presenting workshops at Conferences and Conventions. Susan currently serves as President of the Bellflower Soroptimists. Through Bellflower Soroptimists, Ms. Held became aware of Su Casa and has worked to increase her club’s and her personal involvement with Su Casa.

Dorothy Owen


Dorothy Owen – Director
Dorothy Owen has been a part of the Su Casa Board for a number of years. Dorothy attended Vanderbilt University and received her Bachelor of Arts from California State University Fullerton with a Latin American Studies Major and a Business Administration Minor. Dorothy retired after 17 years in the insurance field and became a community volunteer. She is in her sixth year as President of 1st CEB Adoption Committee; which was formed to administer the City of Cerritos’ adoption of the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion stationed in Camp Pendleton. Dorothy is a long time member of the Woman’s Club Artesia-Cerritos, a civic Member of the Cerritos Chamber of Commerce, Artesia Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Artesia Historical Society. She is also a member of The American Association of University Women and she now serves on the ABC School District First Business & Education Round Table, and Adult School Institutional Advisory Council.

Anne Rodriguez


Anne Rodriguez – Director
Anne Rodriguez has been a Su Casa Board Member since 2014. She is the Finance Manager for the City of Lakewood and has been working in government finance since 2007. She also worked at Su Casa as a Grants Accountant for two years before transferring to local government. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Master’s degree in Business Administration.  She finds both the non-profit and public sectors to be very rewarding industries to work in. Anne has served as Board President of the Soroptimist International of Lakewood/Long Beach and has also served as Board Treasurer and Board Secretary for the organization. Soroptimist’s mission aligns with that of Su Casa, which is to empower women and girls in the community. She’s excited to be given the opportunity to serve families who have been victimized by domestic violence and help them stand on their own feet.

Leadership Team

Susan Stel

Executive Director, Interim

Susan D. Stel’s previous position was Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC).  Ms. Stel was named CFO of the Year in 2012 by the Los Angeles Business Journal for outstanding performance in the role of corporate financial steward and exceptional financial leadership in a Non-Profit Organization. A native of California, Ms. Stel was born in Alhambra, and currently resides in Covina. She holds a B.S. in Accounting, summa cum laude from the University of La Verne, and has an active CPA license, is a member of the AICPA, and currently serves as a director on eight nonprofit Boards and an investment committee for a hospital.

Mary Parra

Director of Finance

Mary Parra joined Su Casa in 2017. She brings with her, 20+ years of experience working in the non-profit sector, and numerous County departments with pass-through Federal Awards.  Before transitioning to the non-profit sector, Ms. Parra worked 7+ years in public accounting where she successfully passed the CPA exam. Her commitment to serving includes attending the State mandated 40-hour Domestic Violence Victim Advocate Training to better integrate the financial aspects of her role as the Director of Finance, with Su Casa’s mission of bringing an end to domestic violence. Ms. Parra looks forward to seeing Su Casa continue to strengthen its financial infrastructure, as it implements new programs and expands current ones. She is excited to be part of this organization committed to making the community a better place to live.

Dean Lockwood

Director of Development and Community Engagement & Assistant Interim Executive Director

Dean Lockwood is a Southern California native, having grown up in Palm Springs. He attended San Diego State University where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation Administration with an emphasis in Youth and Family Agency Administration. He has worked with a number of non-profit agencies, including Boys and Girls Clubs, Financial Counseling agencies, and other Domestic Violence Shelters. Dean is currently serving on the Zaferia Business District board of directors and a member of the Lakewood Rotary Club.

His background also includes over 10 years of nonprofit leadership as executive director of a Senior Center in Palm Springs California. Dean enjoys music, and spending lots of time on his bicycle looking for new and adventurous roads to explore.


Jennifer Herrera

Administrative Coordinator

Jennifer joined our team in May 2020.She received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Whittier College. She has 10 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. In her free time, she likes to travel, spend time with her husband and hunt for new items to add to her collections.

Maria Mendez - Outreach Manager

Maria Mendez

Outreach Manager

Maria recently joined our team in 2022 as the Outreach Manager. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health from the University of California, San Diego. Maria’s community health background ranges from serving different regions in Southern California to different villages out in Thailand and Honduras. She is very passionate about health and promoting holistic wellness to all. Outside of work, Maria enjoys an active lifestyle filled with weightlifting, hiking, and traveling.

Adrian del Castillo

Network Administrator

Adrian joined our team as the Network Administrator for Su Casa in 2016.  He was born and raised in Long Beach and received his BS in Business Information Systems from CSU Dominguez Hills. Adrian brings over 10 years’ experience in systems and network administration from the health care industry. He is very passionate about IT systems and providing solutions that allow businesses to grow and work more efficiently through the use of IT. On his off time, he enjoys spending time with his family, working on cars, and playing golf.

I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.

- Malala

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