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san diego rescue mission leadership

Donnie Dee

Donnie Dee became the President and CEO of the San Diego Rescue Mission in 2017 to be a part of the solution to our city’s number one issue: homelessness. Donnie comes to us from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) where he served 27 years, most currently as the Director of the Tom Landry Associates in the Western Region. Prior to this, Donnie served as FCA’s Regional Director for Southern California, Colorado State Director and the COO of FCA from 2009-2014. 

As a Kansas City native, Donnie played football and basketball for Oak Park High School and was a four-year letterman in football at the University of Tulsa, graduating from there in 1988 with a business management degree. He was then drafted by the Indianapolis Colts and played in the NFL for two years. After his time in the NFL, Dee began his FCA career in Colorado in 1990. 

Donnie is a high capacity leader committed to changing the state of homelessness in San Diego. His love for Jesus Christ and for others motivates him to create a culture of excellence and honor.

Leadership Team

Edvin Liku
Edvin Liku

Vice President, Operations

Paul Armstrong
Paul Armstrong

Vice President, Programs

Michelle Cardenas
Michelle Cardenas

Vice President, Development

Michelle LeBeau
Michelle Le Beau

Vice President, Church & Community Engagement

Laura Bertagnolli
Laura Bertagnolli

Vice President, Finance

Becca Phelps
Becca Phelps

Vice President, Administration & Culture

Program Directors

Ashley Brown
Ashley Brown, MSW

Downtown Navigation Center Director

Mario Montoya
Mario Montoya

Director of Outreach

Luis Sanchez Children’s Center Director
Luis Sanchez

Children’s Resource Center Director

Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson

Oceanside Navigation Center Director

Tim Yzaguirre

Mission Academy Program Director

Department Directors

Alan Kennedy

Food Services Director

Rey Lontok


Zenaida Orellana

Director of Partners for Hunger Relief & Warehouse Operations

Contact Leadership Team

Thank you for your interest in the San Diego Rescue Mission. We invite you to contact us to receive information about how you can get involved in saving lives today.

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Edvin Liku

Edvin started working for the San Diego Rescue Mission in early 1999 as Education Director for the men’s residential program. In 2006, he was promoted to Program Director for the men’s program where he continued to wholeheartedly serve men experiencing homelessness and witness God work in the hearts of many.

“Providing a safe haven for the poor, lost and forgotten has strengthened my faith and humility believing that God’s power in changing people’s lives is real and evident. I have been blessed and honored to be part of this life-transformation journey and see people’s lives change forever through the Rescue Mission.”

In 2010, Edvin’s role was expanded when he was promoted to Vice President of Operations. He holds a Bachelors of Arts in Education with a minor in Social Work from Point Loma Nazarene University. In addition, he has completed a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Counseling from Point Loma Nazarene University as well as earning a Non-Profit Management Development certificate from Harvard Business School.

Married to his wife Erona for 16 years, they have two boys, Jason and Mattias. While they live in Scripps Ranch, their family attends services at First Church of Nazarene in Point Loma.

Paul Armstrong

Paul served over twenty years in the United States Navy as a Supply Corps Officer and Chaplain before transitioning into Social Services. Passionate to see the Church impact the community, he retired from the Navy and pursued his vision of serving those experiencing homelessness. Formerly the Social Services Director at the Salvation Army and the Chief Programs Officer on San Diego’s Regional Task Force on the Homeless, Paul joined us as Vice President of Programs in 2020.

“When the Body of Christ fully utilizes all of our gifts and talents, there is no one better than us to tackle the issue of homelessness.”

His extensive education background and experience make Paul an incredible addition to the San Diego Rescue Mission team. Paul received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of New Mexico. He earned his Master’s in Busines Administration from Brenau University, Master of Divinity from Bethel Seminary and his Master’s in Social Work from University of Southern California.

Paul and his wife Andreya met at the University of New Mexico. They have four adult children: Nathan, Zach, Andreya and Caleb. Their family worships at North Coast Church.

Michelle Cardenas

Michelle joined the Rescue Mission in 2016 and served as the Community Relations/Event Manager for two years then became Director of Marketing. In 2019, she was promoted to her current role as Vice President of Development in which she guides fundraising, communications, marketing and events.

A graduate of Point Loma Nazarene College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, Michelle also earned her Masters of Human Services specializing in Non-profit Management from the University of the Rockies. Since then, she’s served at-risk youth, international refugees and survivors of sex trafficking. After securing funds to purchase the first long-term home for survivors of sex trafficking in San Diego, Michelle was called to the San Diego Rescue Mission.

“Serving the most needy and vulnerable of our community has been my greatest joy and honor, but serving here has taken my love and excitement for seeing God’s children healed to new heights. He is truly changing lives here and this is an incredible time to be a part of it.”

Michelle lives in the University Heights neighborhood and attends All People’s Church.

Michelle Le Beau

As the Vice President of Church and Community Engagement at the Mission, Michelle oversees church partnerships, the volunteer program and three holiday outreach meals.

Michelle’s career began with 16 years in corporate marketing, communications and special events and led to 16 years in church ministry.  Michelle’s heart for “loving thy neighbor” whether down her street, in the inner city, over the border or around the world began at a young age but became the primary focus of her calling in recent years. She grew up in Los Angeles, where her father pastored a large Presbyterian church for nearly 30 years.

Michelle believes God has called her to make meaningful connections that ignite transformation in the lives of those she encounters. She loves engaging the local Church in the work God is doing through the San Diego Rescue Mission, not only for the healing it is bringing to the marginalized throughout our region, but for the change it is bringing to the body of Christ as more people step confidently out of their comfort zones to truly live and love like Jesus.

Michelle received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing Communications from Whitworth University in Spokane, WA. She has been married for over 33 years to Jim. Their sons Jimmy and Jake are both full-time San Diego City Lifeguards. The family is active at St. Brigid’s Parish and also enjoys worshiping at other churches throughout the County.

Laura Bertagnolli

Laura Bertagnolli of Signature Analytics, LLC joined the Rescue Mission in 2021 as Vice President of Finance.

With 27 years of professional leadership experience in non-profit, corporate, and small business environments, Laura has worked across multiple industries, continually increasing her breadth of responsibility, competency, and leadership skills. Most recently, Laura served as CFO and Managing Director of Christian Youth Theater, the largest national youth theater program, where she managed all facets of accounting and finance as well as HR for the company and advised its 31 branches across the country.

Passionate about making a difference, Laura brings value to our leadership team through delivering clear, concise financial results that drive decision making. She thrives in this environment where she can make an impact and be part of transforming lives using her God-given gifts and talents.

“I love the vision, mission, and values of the Rescue Mission. Homelessness is a complex problem and I believe that the Rescue Mission has the right solution to address it. The Rescue Mission is not just a shelter but a place of true healing and transformation using Christ as the center of the solution.”

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Laura holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Accounting and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Finance from Texas A & M University.

Laura and her husband, Mark, have two teenage sons, Tyler (17) and Jake (15), who both attend Santa Fe Christian School and are avid soccer players. The Bertagnolli family lives in La Jolla and attends church at both St. Brigid’s Parish and Torrey Pines Church.

Becca Phelps

Becca Phelps joined the Rescue Mission team in 2021 as Administrative Assistant to the CEO. In this role, she supported the CEO, Leadership Team, Board of Directors, Steering Committee and Development department in reaching their annual objectives.

Passionate about following where God leads, Becca was promoted Vice President of Administration and Culture in October, 2023. She oversees the HR Department in its endeavor to strengthen our culture, maintaining the SDRM values of faith, integrity, compassion, and excellence. In addition to serving the President/CEO and Board of Directors, Becca will identify ways for all Rescue Mission departments to work together and foster greater alignment with organizational priorities. She also sets direction for our Partners for Hunger Relief team. Becca is excited to provide support in a greater capacity organization-wide.

Prior to joining the Rescue Mission, Becca taught Spanish for 12 years. For 26 years, she was an active church leader and her experience also includes serving faith-based non-profit organizations. She was a member of the Board of Directors for ACTION Ministries and currently serves on the Board of Riverwind, Inc., an international mission serving in Peru. Becca holds a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a minor in Religion from Western Michigan University.

A resident of Lakeside, she attends Shadow Mountain Community Church. She has three adult children. Becca enjoys hiking, cycling and playing with her four grandchildren.

Contact Program Directors

Thank you for your interest in the San Diego Rescue Mission. We invite you to contact us to receive information about how you can get involved in saving lives today.

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