Board of Directors
The Board of Directors is the legal owner of Villa de Vida. The responsibilities of the Board are
1) to oversee all operations to ensure that they conform to our vision in both spirit and substance, and
2) to ensure that Villa de Vida remains financially stable.
EDWARD B. MERCHANT – Chairman
The Chairman of the Board of Directors organizes the activities of the Board and serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Villa de Vida.
Edward Merchant, familiarly known as “Ted”, was born and raised in Pasadena, California. He is an alumnus of John Muir High School, University of California at Berkeley and Georgetown University School of Medicine. He obtained his post-graduate training at Cedars-Sinai, University of California at Los Angeles and Los Angeles County Medical Centers. He retired from his thirty-five year career in obstetrics and gynecology, in Pasadena California, in April, 2013. He was a founding partner of HealthCare Partners Medical Group. During his career, Dr. Merchant served on the Medical Executive Committees of HealthCare Partners Medical Group and Huntington Memorial Hospital as well as a multitude of lesser committees in those institutions. He also served as Professor of Gynecologic Surgery at University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine.
Ted is the current chairman of the boards of directors for Building Healthcare for Humanity and Villa de Vida. His voluntary community activities serve La Canada Presbyterian Church, Light of Hope Missions Ethiopia, Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum, Planned Parenthood of Pasadena and the Los Angeles Premier Symphony Orchestra. He is married since 1978 and has three grown children. Hobbies include skiing, cycling, machining, large-scale model trains, art, and anything that is done in a garage.
DENISE LONGO – Secretary
Denise is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles and was an educator prior to starting a family and becoming a community and school volunteer. Denise has been president of PTA and the District Advisory Council and an active member of many boards including, School Site Council, National Charity League, PTA, La Canada Presbyterian Church Parent Education and Deacon Ministry. Most of Denise’s time and energy has been given to her family, especially managing the education and daily life of her Autistic son.
ERIC A. (TONY) GRONROOS, CPA, MBT – Treasurer
With more than 25 years of experience, Tony began his career with Ernst & Young in Los Angeles where he practiced in the areas of manufacturing, distribution, litigation support and corporate reorganizations. He later founded his own accounting practice, which he merged to create HKG LLP. Tony continues to specialize in tax consulting, mergers and acquisitions and estate planning. Additionally, he provides tax consulting and representation to businesses in IRS audit disputes. He frequently speaks at educational seminars and other industry events. Tony holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master’s degree in Business Taxation from University of Southern California.
AARON VORELL – Director
Aaron Vorell is the Executive Director of Casa de Amma, a nonprofit residential community for adults with developmental disabilities. Aaron has been with Casa de Amma since they opened in 2004. He has helped establish Casa as a unique model program for special needs adults who want to achieve a greater level of independence, while also maintaining close social relationships and a sense of community. Casa de Amma has since established a very long waiting list and expanded services to those living in the local community. Aaron also provided consultation and support to those looking to replicate the unique Casa model.
Before coming to Casa de Amma Aaron worked with Hospice and in mental health as a social worker. Aaron graduated in 2001 with a degree in Social Work. He currently lives in Ladera Ranch and is married with 4 children.
DREW FREIDES – Director
Drew is a Senior Vice President at the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) where he leads their Los Angeles based private wealth management team. He began his career in financial services in 1999 at Goldman Sachs Private Wealth Management, where, in 2008, he successfully achieved membership in the firm’s influential Leadership Council. Drew enjoyed a previous career in the design, construction and racing of custom yachts, including those raced in the America’s Cup. A distinguished member of the Pinnacle Council, which represents the top 1% of advisors at UBS, as well as “Banking Champion,” for his exceptional lending expertise, Drew was named to Barron’s “Top 100” Financial Advisors in California for 2013 and their “Top 1,000” list for 2013.
He obtained an M.B.A. from the Darden School of Business at University of Virginia with honors, in addition to a B.S. and an M.S. in naval architecture and marine engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Sailing and animals are Drew’s passions outside of his work. He is an active member of the New York Yacht Club, the San Diego Yacht Club and the California Yacht Club, serving on multiple boards at these clubs. He also sits on the boards, and serves as treasurer for two nonprofit animal rescues, Farm Girl Dog Rescue Inc. & AHPHA—Animals Help People & People Help Animals. Drew is also a member of UJA Federation.
Julia Uhll - Director
Julia Uhll is on a mission to impact and improve the lives of others. She is a Realtor with Realty ONE Group San Diego, practicing for over 16 years. Previously she has been a professional ice skater, worked in television, owned a restaurant and worked in IT. Julia is married to Ossie Arciniega, her partner in life and business. Their son, AJ, has Williams Syndrome and is very proud of it!
Julia is heavily involved with the special needs and seniors community in San Diego: advocating for individuals and families, working on adult programs that inspire person-centric goals. Super exciting stuff!
Mollie Merchant - Director
Mollie is an artist with a focus on the ways art and other non-verbal expressions connect us to ourselves, one another and the world. Whether it be through an art installation helping people connect to a cause, or facilitating the use of a color and a mark for expression, at the heart is always COMPASSION, CONNECTION, COMMUNITY.
She has a background in museum education where she developed programs bringing together teens of varying ages, backgrounds, abilities and disabilities to work together, accomplish together and gain professional experience.
Mollie has her BA in Studio Art and Art History from Whitworth University and has certificates in Art4Healing and Capacitar International. She focusses her efforts with Villa de Vida on communication and visual impact.
HUNTER CHRISTIAN – Executive Director
The Executive Director participates in all aspects of Villa de Vida including, but not limited to, development, fundraising, budget, advocacy, operations, services and community relations. The Executive Director reports directly to the Chairman of the Board and, although not a member of the Board, advises and attends all board meetings.
Hunter holds a BSBA degree in Finance from the University of Florida, and a Master's Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and Systems from the Warrington College of Business Administration, University of Florida, graduating with honors.