ABOUT OUR TEAM
PA Wilds Center is a nonprofit organization that serves 13 counties in north central and northwestern Pennsylvania, one of the largest blocks of green between New York City and Chicago. Our staff and administrative support are spread across the region, with our program staff working remotely and our shop employees working on public lands and in communities. This allows us to be nimble and be true stewards of our region, as we are engrained in the communities we serve.
Founder & CEO
A fourth-generation resident of the region, Ta has a rural entrepreneurship background and 20 years of experience in journalism and public communications in Alaska and Pennsylvania. As Founder and CEO of the PA Wilds Center, Ta has scaled the nonprofit and built a team that is developing models for asset-based rural development that are recognized nationally. Prior to founding the nonprofit in 2013, Ta served as the PA Wilds Small Business Ombudsman for five years, working with entrepreneurs across the 13-county PA Wilds region. A former journalist, Ta is the author of an upcoming memoir about her experience leading the PA Wilds work, which is expected to be released in 2024-25.
The Center’s first hire, Abbi oversees organization-wide programs, strategies and approaches. The first Chief Operations Officer at the Center, she co-founded four of the Center’s most visible programs: The Wilds Cooperative of PA network of rural entrepreneurs; the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a growing retail operation based at state parks in the PA Wilds that help rural entrepreneurs get products to market while improving the visitor experience; the PA Wilds Marketplace, an online retail commerce platform; and Round-Up for Conservation, a charity checkout campaign that reinvests in state parks and forests in the region. After attending Kutztown University, Abbi moved to Los Angeles before relocating to the PA Wilds. She’s served as the leader of an arts nonprofit and in the magazine, fashion and music accessories industries.
Chief Financial Officer Julie Iaquinto has been with the PA Wilds Center since its founding. Julie founded the Center's Finance Department and oversees the nonprofit’s finances, grants management and human resources. Julie has lived her entire life in the PA Wilds. Prior to joining the PA Wilds Center, she operated an accounting business for many years serving clients from diverse fields across the public and private sectors. Julie has more than a decade of experience working with nonprofit organizations, including PA Travel and Tourism, PA Route 6 Alliance, Potter County Education Council, Education Council of the Upper Allegany, and Potter County Visitors Association. She has also helped set up and establish both for-profit and nonprofit startups.
Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Director
LaKeshia started working with the PA Wilds Center as a contractor in 2017, providing outreach services for the Wilds Cooperative of PA and youth entrepreneurship programming in area schools. She quickly grew into communications roles with the organization and became a full-time staff member in 2018. LaKeshia became Communications Director in 2020 and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Director in 2021. She now oversees the PA Wilds entrepreneurial ecosystem, which includes nonprofit communications, the Wilds Cooperative of PA business network and related partnerships, programs and services. A PA Wilds native, LaKeshia earned dual degrees in Political Science and Art from Lock Haven University and worked in journalism before transitioning to the nonprofit sector.
Sustainable Commerce Director
Libby joined the PA Wilds Center in 2017 and manages the PA Wilds commerce platforms, including the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park, a unique gift shop featuring items that have been designed and hand-crafted from artisans who are members of the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, and the PA Wilds Marketplace at ShopThePAWilds.com. Libby has played a critical role in helping the nonprofit develop its first PA Wilds Conservation Shop store into a replicable model that is now expanding across the region. The second physical store opened at Leonard Harrison State Park in 2021. A native of Kane, Libby graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford with a degree in Psychology. She spent 20 years in the Washington D.C. area managing retail stores before moving back to the PA Wilds in 2015.
Finance Manager Social Enterprises
Lucia was building her career in the banking and financial services industry when she made a career shift to the nonprofit sector and joined the PA Wilds Center team in 2021. She quickly assimilated to her role as Finance & HR Assistance and went on to serve as Finance & HR Director before being named the new Finance Manager - Social Enterprises in 2023. Reporting to the Sustainable Commerce Director, Lucia oversees financial transactions relating to the Center's revenue-generating programs and continues to support accounting and human resources operations. As a lifelong resident of the PA Wilds, Lucia takes great pride in knowing that she works for an organization that is creating a positive impact on not only the environmental sustainability, but also the economic diversity and opportunity of the 13-county PA Wilds region.
Britt joined the team as communications manager in 2022, helping to tell the stories that make our region so unique, whether that is covering our beautiful landscapes, the innovative businesses, or the spunky people that call it home. She had worked the last 10 years in radio and news broadcasting, and now she’s continuing to connect media outlets with positive news stories. Britt oversees external communications, media relations, and paid and volunteer content on the blog. As someone who grew up in Clearfield County and moved back shortly after college, Britt is eager to share her passion for the PA Wilds and help our area grow and shine.
Conservation Shop & Licensing Manager
Hannah joined the PA Wilds team in late 2020 to be a liaison between businesses and the PA Wilds brand. In 2022, Hannah was promoted to become the manager for the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Leonard Harrison State Park. She continues to manage the PA Wilds licensing program and helps businesses leverage the brand for their products and marketing materials, encourages business-to-business relationships, and maintains the PA Wilds brand standards. With a bachelor’s in Communication from St. Vincent College, Hannah has worked with private businesses and municipal governments. Both have given Hannah a first hand look at the benefits of the PA Wilds as a place-based brand.
Executive Financial Manager
Carol Szymanik has been with the PA Wilds Center since its founding. She assists the Chief Financial Officer, Julie, with accounts payable and receivable, invoicing and data entry. Carol works part-time for the Center. For more than 31 years, she and her husband have owned and operated the Susquehannock Lodge on Scenic Route 6 in Potter County in the PA Wilds.
Value Chain Manager + Media Lab Keyholder
Ashley joined the PA Wilds Center team in 2021 as a Community Connector Keyholder at the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park and the PA Wilds Media Lab. In 2023, Ashley became the Center's first Value Chain Manager. She manages the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania, helps entrepreneurs discover new opportunities with the PA Wilds brand and continues to play an integral role in PA Wilds commerce operations. A native to the Monongahela Valley region south of Pittsburgh, Ashley earned a B.S. in Commercial Music Technology from California University of Pennsylvania. She has worked as a freelance audio/lighting/theater technician, multi-instrumentalist, designer and artist. Seeking a new adventure, she relocated to the PA Wilds in 2020 and enjoys helping to make a positive impact as a member of the PA Wilds team.
Community Connector Keyholder
Jason serves as the Community Connector Keyholder at the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park where he regularly interacts with customers and helps orient them to the attractions of the region. A PA Wilds native, Jason graduated Salutatorian from Smethport Area High School in 2001 and attended Lycoming College in Williamsport. After graduating cum laude with a degree in English/Creative Writing in 2005, Jason worked several years at The Bradford Era newspaper. As a reporter and then News Editor, he learned even more about this PA Wilds area as the paper covered local news in Cameron, Elk, McKean and Potter counties.
Megan joined the PA Wilds team in 2023 as the Marketplace Manager for ShopthePAWilds.com, with a mission to grow the online marketplace and support the makers who sell there. Prior to working for PA Wilds Center, she worked alongside the PA Wilds team and its members to help grow the marketplace from an external role. For the past 5 years, she has worked closely with small businesses, understanding common challenges to help overcome them and be successful selling online. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurs grow, and sees ShopThePAWilds.com as a vital piece in making products from our region available to customers all over the country and the world.
A number of organizational and individual contractors from across the Pennsylvania Wilds provide services to assist our small staff.
Potter County Education Council (PCEC)
PA Wilds Dinner & Awards support
Hello Social Co.
PA Wilds and Wilds Cooperative of PA social media support