gavinGavin Thornton

Executive Director

Gavin Thornton joined Hawai‘i Appleseed in 2012, and became Co-Executive Director in 2016, and Executive Director in 2019. Gavin began his career in the AmeriCorps program in Kona, Hawai‘i in 2002. Since that time, Gavin’s work has focused on trying to ensure that low-income people have the basic resources they need to build a safe, stable foundation for a successful life.

Gavin serves on the boards of the HMSA Foundation, PHOCUSED, and Partners in Care, where he chairs the advocacy committee. He has previously served on the Board of Directors of the Young Lawyers Division of the Hawai‘i State Bar Association, the Hawai‘i District Court Rules Committee, and the Board of TeamChild, an organization that assists youth at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system. For his work in subsidized housing, Gavin was awarded the National Housing Law Project’s annual Housing Justice Award. He is a 2002 graduate of the University Of Virginia School Of Law.

nicoleNicole Woo

Senior Policy Analyst

Nicole Woo started her policy research and advocacy career in Washington, DC, focusing on workers’ rights at the Preamble Center for Public Policy and the Citizens’ Committee Against Sweatshops. She then served as the Associate Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, where she directed research projects, provided technical assistance to emergency food programs, and advocated for policies to improve the lives of food-insecure New Yorkers.

Nicole moved back to Washington, DC, to work on national anti-hunger policies as a senior policy analyst at the Food Research and Action Center, specializing in childhood hunger and the national school meal programs. She then applied her expertise in an international context, serving as a Congressional Hunger Fellow in India, working with the largest school meal program in the world, the Akshaya Patra Foundation.

As the Director of Domestic Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, back in Washington, DC, she covered a broad range of U.S. economic policy areas, including labor markets, financial reform, federal budgets, and social insurance. Nicole received her B.A. from Harvard University, where she concentrated in Government.

Daniela Kittinger

Hunger Coalition Director

Daniela Kittinger is the director of a new project at Hawai‘i Appleseed aimed at strengthening community connections and building a broad coalition to address hunger in Hawai‘i. For the past 10 years, Daniela has been working on health issues and food system change in Hawai‘i. Most recently, she led the Department of Health’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) initiative. In this role, she identified levers for policy and systems change, directing the use of federal funds to build leadership and capacity in the areas of school wellness, early care and education, community food access, and the build environment.

eileenEileen Lacaden

Development and Operations Manager

Eileen came to Hawai‘i Appleseed as an AmeriCorps VISTA in 2015 to lead a project that facilitated the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) through community education. The ADU project aimed to encourage the creation of additional long-term rental housing on O‘ahu. Currently, Eileen is focused on raising resources to support the organization’s critical work and managing general operations.

Will Caron

Communications Director

Will was born and raised on Oʻahu and graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa in 2012 with a BA in traditional art media and creative writing. He has eleven years of professional media experience, beginning with editorial positions at Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi, including two years as Editor-in-Chief. After graduating, he worked at the Honolulu Weekly editing the news section (“Honolulu Diaries”), as well as the Arts & Culture section. From 2013-2018 he worked as a journalist and editor for The Hawaii Independent, as well as for print quarterly Summit. He has also worked as a freelance media and communications consultant for various advocacy campaigns, and does freelance graphic design and illustration work for various clients. He holds a Hawaiʻi Publishers Association “Paʻi” award and an Associated Collegiate Press award.

Lawyers for Equal Justice

Tom Helper

Director of Litigation

Tom Helper became Director of Litigation at LEJ in January 2019. He graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 1988, Order of the Coif, and served as an editor on the law review. Prior to law school he worked for three years as a canvasser and canvass director for the Ohio Public Interest Campaign and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

Tom came to Hawaiʻi in 1990 to work as Chief of Staff for State Representative Cynthia Thielen. He then began a 27-year career in the Civil Division of the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Hawaiʻi, defending federal agencies in a broad variety of cases, particularly tort and employment discrimination cases. He was lead counsel in two dozen federal court trials. He became Chief of the Civil Division in 2013, supervising 10 attorneys and staff. He took early retirement in late 2018 because he felt he could no longer effectively represent the United States under the current administration.

Hawaiʻi Budget & Policy Center

Beth Giesting


Beth Giesting is the Director of Hawai‘i Appleseed’s new Hawai‘i Budget & Policy Center. She has a noteworthy background in health care delivery and policy, especially for underserved and low-income communities in Hawai‘i. She was most recently employed in the Governor’s Office to head up health care transformation efforts, focusing on behavioral health innovations. She was previously the CEO of the Hawai‘i Primary Care Association and Executive Director at Kalihi-Palama Health Center. Awareness of the fundamental connections between socio-economic conditions and health status led to her passionate interest in economic equity and opportunity and, hence, to her new role at HBPC.



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