Carmel Mission Foundation appoints new executive director

Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. – The Board of Directors of rhe Carmel Mission Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of Stephanie Zelei as Executive Director. In this position, Stephanie will lead the role the Carmel Mission Foundation plays in preservation and restoration of the historic Carmel Mission through fundraising and a member of the Preservation Team, working closely with the community of Carmel, the Parish, the Diocese of Monterey, and the architects, artisans, contractors, docents, and generous donors, all of whom make critical restoration efforts possible.

Ms. Zelei takes over leadership of the Foundation following Vic Grabrian, who served for nine years prior to his retirement at the end of June 2018. Most recently, from 2010- 2018, Stephanie led her own business development firm, The Zelei Group, working with luxury resorts, member clubs, and lifestyle outfitters. From 2006-2010, She served as National Sales Manager for the Pebble Beach Company, overseeing business development and lead generation for their Sales team and tournament office. Stephanie began her career in Sales and Event Management in New York City, working with top hotels, renowned restauranteurs, and high-profile event companies. Stephanie graduated from Carmel High School in 1995 and earned a double B.A. degree in history and fine arts from Smith College in Northampton, MA, where she played collegiate Softball and Volleyball. Stephanie’s commitment to our community has involved event organization, sponsorships and hospitality sales, and donor contributions to benefit local charities such as the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, Boys and Girls Club, American Red Cross, Best Buddies, and the Salvation Army. Stephanie is an avid golfer, Plein Air artist, and a volunteer coach for Carmel Youth Baseball.

New leadership coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the Carmel Mission Foundation, a fruitful period that began with the restoration of nine bells in the Basilica’s south bell tower and led quickly to addressing the challenges of seismic instability and deferred maintenance, due to exposure to the elements over time among the Mission’s 11 historic structures constructed of unreinforced stone or adobe, and a crumbling infrastructure running below the surface of the 22-acre campus.

Stephanie Zelei joins a group of Carmel Mission friends and supporters who share the belief that its buildings, grounds, priceless works of art, and historical artifacts are worthy of our time and care, for in this place a confluence of cultures led to the rise, complete destruction, and rebirth of a jewel in our midst. Quite literally on the Carmel Mission’s adobe and stone foundations rests the stage on which the drama leading to the formation of the modern State of California unfolded.

The Foundation is engaged in development of a multi-phase, multi-year strategic plan for preservation and restoration. The Preservation Team managed the $5.5 million restoration of the Basilica, completed in 2013, and is the recipient of two major preservation awards, including the 2015 Governor’s Historic Preservation Award. The same team completed the $2.0 million renovation of the Mission’s Quadrangle Courtyard in August 2016, a lovely space for quiet reflection, spirited gatherings, and community events alike. Both projects were completely funded by generous donations to the Foundation.

Though the Preservation Team successfully completed several major restoration projects, there lies an enormous amount of work ahead in preserving the remaining historic structures within the Mission’s campus. The Board of Directors continues its fundraising efforts for future projects so that the Carmel Mission may grace succeeding generations as a parish, a community gathering place, and welcome host to visitors and pilgrims from around the world drawn to witness what became the birthplace of the State of California, Carmel-by-the-sea, and the final resting place of the Mission’s founder, St. Junípero Serra.

For more information, contact the Carmel Mission Foundation at, P.O. Box 221351, Carmel, CA 93922. (831) 624- 3261.

About the Carmel Mission Foundation

The Carmel Mission Foundation was founded in 2008 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and is independent from any religious organization. Its purpose is to fund the restoration and maintenance of the historic Carmel Mission structures, the art and artifacts housed there, and to ensure their preservation. Learn more online at

The Carmel Mission (Mission San Carlos Borroméo del Rio Carmelo) was founded in 1771 and served as the headquarters for the California Mission System. It is the repository of generations of culture, tradition and history, as well as a highly significant part of California’s heritage. The Mission is a major tourist attraction and a significant economic engine for the Monterey Peninsula.


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