Who We Are
Leza Raffel, founder and president, is the driving force behind Communications Solutions Group. A graduate of Ithaca College with a BS from the School of Communications, Leza worked as a public relations specialist and director of public relations with other companies before starting her own firm. Leza specializes in overseeing the development and implementation of complete marketing plans. She also excels at media relations, with myriad contacts and connections. In addition, Leza has extensive experience in the area of marketing research.
Beth Drost, Senior Public Relations Specialist, has supported the needs of Communication Solutions' clients since 2001. She received her undergraduate degree from Providence College and her graduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. She also earned a J.D. from Temple University School of Law. Beth has managed countless comprehensive public education campaigns and enjoys the challenge of taking technical information and packaging it in a format that is interesting to the general public. She also has extensive grant writing experience and has prepared grants for a wide range of projects.
Kellie Patrick Gates brings more than 20 years of writing, interviewing, research and editing experience to her role at Public Relations Specialist at Communication Solutions. She’s adept at explaining complex concepts in language everyone understands and sharing stories about people in a way that make readers feel they’ve met them. As an award-winning daily newspaper reporter, she wrote extensively about public schools and higher in New York, Florida and Pennsylvania. Most recently, she covered schools in Bucks and Montgomery counties for The Philadelphia Inquirer. As a web-based journalist at PlanPhilly.com, she covered planning, development, and urban life in Philadelphia. A native of Elk County, PA, she also understands rural- and small town issues.
Shari Berg brings 12 years of experience in daily newspaper reporting to her position as public relations specialist with Communication Solutions’ Pittsburgh clients. Her background in reporting gives her the edge in not only understanding how to compose a good story, but also how to promote one to the local media. Shari brings her ability to work both sides of the story to Communication Solutions' school district and nonprofit clients. Shari received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Pittsburgh, with a secondary concentration in English Literature. Shari has worked at daily newspapers in central PA and most recently, western PA.
Kellie Dietrich believes everything can be turned into a story. As a public relations associate for Communication Solutions she is able to tell clients’ stories through press releases, newsletters, annual reports and social media posts. Kellie has been published in The Reading Eagle, Lehigh Valley Style and Lehigh Valley Business. In addition to journalism, she gained PR experience at the Lehigh Valley Arts Council and marketing agency SWBR. Kellie graduated from DeSales University with a B.A. in communication and served as the college newspaper’s editor-in-chief.
Nicole Modrell makes things happen. As Communication Solutions Group’s Special Project Manager, her behind-the-scenes mastery in logistical coordination takes events and projects from concept to reality. She creates multi-media presentations for both Communication Solutions and clients. She cultivates clients’ on-line presence, handles media buys in print, broadcast and on-line, and negotiates with vendors. Nicole also uses her keen organizational and interpersonal skills to oversee day-to-day business operations and provide support to other staff members. She had logged more than eight years of executive assistant experience prior to joining Communication Solutions in 2006.
Bill Lessa brings 40 years of public school administrative experience and non-profit business leadership to his role as a public relations specialist. He received an undergraduate degree in art education, a master’s degree in counseling and a Ph.D. in educational leadership from the Pennsylvania State University. In his work as a principal, school district superintendent and executive director of a regional art center, Bill has been involved in dozens of public relations and marketing campaigns. His greatest strength is understanding the complexities of public education and non-profit organizational issues and translating them into manageable and comprehendible information for stakeholders at all levels.
Liz West is an award-winning graphic designer with experience in all aspects of design and print production. A graduate of West Chester University with a BA in art, Liz worked as an artist/designer and art director for several advertising agencies before coming to Communications Solutions Group. Her creative artistry puts a special sparkle into corporate identities and logos, brochures, newsletters, annual reports, ads and books. Liz works quickly and efficiently, taking projects from design through finished art for printing.
Eliza Whitney is a talented designer and branding guru who is skilled at creating captivating websites, logos, and print collateral for a diverse range of market segments and industries served by Communication Solutions. She graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a BS in Industrial Design and has been in the industry for over 15 years. Before joining the Communication Solutions team, Eliza worked with the Philadelphia Flower Show, managing the complete overhaul of its new brand and designing everything from 75 foot long billboards to 150+ page books.
Eric Caldarale is an award-winning creative director and graphic designer from Philadelphia. He graduated from Burlington County College with an Associate of Arts degree in graphic design. With a background in print design and branding, Eric creates edgy and colorful marketing materials for Communication Solutions' school district clients, fire company clients and the California Trucking Association. His work has appeared in magazines, TV commercials, annual reports, brochures and on billboards.
Cindy Graul As Communication Solution's skilled photographer, Cindy's unique style captures the true essence of the moment. Cindy began creating images in the darkroom as a high school photo major. She earned her BS in Education in Rehab and a minor in photography and has been working for 19 years in the field. Her photography is the perfect complement to Communication Solutions' award-winning design, and has appeared in annual reports, calendars, brochures and newspapers nationwide.
Tim Hufnell is Communication Solutions’ photographer for all of our fire department and EMS needs. As a retired broadcaster and volunteer firefighter, he is the perfect person for the job. His photography features firefighter training sessions and special events that appear in brochures, newsletters, postcards, billboards and websites to increase volunteer recruitment and retention. Tim received his B.A. in communication from Temple University and retired as a senior video editor after 30 years with New Jersey Public Television. In addition to firefighting, he served his country as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, a police officer and a shift supervisor in the emergency communications center.