John R. Bruno, Founder (1927-2021)

During his tenure as press secretary to former New Jersey Governor Robert B. Meyner in the late 1960s, John R. Bruno, Sr. recognized a glaring need in our communities: many municipal and county units of government did not have the resources and capacity to effectively pursue and administer grant opportunities state and federal level. His on-the-job training in the inner sanctum of government was a natural springboard for his establishment of Bruno Associates, Inc. which has become one of the leading grant and public relations consulting agencies in the State of New Jersey.  One of the state’s most recognized business professionals for over 45 years, John was also active on the local level. John chaired his Town’s Recreation Commission for 15 years and served as Chairman of the Cancer Society Fundraising Program, as well as many other charitable organizations. He was the recipient of numerous awards, which include the Italian-American Police Society Award and one from the Newark Municipal Council for 30 years of service to the Council. Other awards include a Commendation from Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough; a Certificate of Appreciation from Rahway Mayor James J. Kennedy; an Appreciation Award from Newark Councilman-At-Large Luis A. Quintana; and a Recognition Award from Rutherford Mayor William Eireinhoffer.

In 2002, he convened the Mayors of Essex County’s five largest urban cities to form the Essex County Anti-Gang Regional Task Force. This project successfully held a first-ever forum on anti-gang initiatives and in attendance was a representative from every law enforcement agency, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the prosecutor’s office, and other community groups.

Chris Brown, Chief Executive Officer

Since taking on a position of leadership in 2011, Christopher has helped solidify the vision of service that inspired Mr. Bruno to create this company. This vision has led to growth for Bruno Associates, Inc. and its many clients. Over the past 13 years, Christopher has compiled an excellent record of service and has secured over $100 million in grant funding for his clients. With such valuable writing and administrative skills, Christopher has simultaneously managed company affairs while developing strategic plans and writing successful grant applications for nearly every client of Bruno Associates, Inc. He has vast experience with the needs of municipalities, boards of education, MUAs and non-profit organizations. He is very knowledgeable and has successfully written grants for fire prevention, law enforcement, environmental and green issues, green acres, open space, hazard mitigation programs, transportation, health programs, educational and literacy programs, housing and development, and recreation. He has quickly developed a sound base of contacts within funding organizations who respect his grasp of the grant process and his insight when it comes to fulfilling clients’ needs.  Christopher is a graduate of Widener University with a Bachelor of Science degree in business and is highly qualified to teach Special Education in the public and private educational systems in New Jersey.

Melissa Castelbuono, Director of Finance & Administration

Melissa has been a member of Bruno Associates since 2007. In her role as Director of Finance and Administration, she is accountable for managing the company’s administrative and financial operations. Melissa oversees all aspects of the firm’s strategic plans and is responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures, as well as data management and compliance. Additionally, she is responsible for managing the RFP/RFQ process for the firm’s public sector clients and serves as Public Relations Specialist, ensuring brand consistency across all accounts while maintaining and adding to the firm’s existing positive voice, identity, and image.  She publishes grant award spotlights, press releases, and expands client awareness regarding the BAI Team’s performance and services.

Melissa has  22 years of experience serving in administrative and management positions. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Advertising and Marketing Communications from the New York Fashion Institute of Technology.

Joseph DiFranco, Senior Director

Joseph DiFranco joined Bruno Associates after nearly two years of professional experience for North Jersey Media Group’s Essex County division. During that time he received a number of awards from the New Jersey Press Association for his unique perspective engaging issues. During his formative college years Joseph interned for Public Mind polls, an independent research group that conducts public opinion polling and other research on politics, society, popular culture, consumer behavior and economic trends, at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Madison campus. Upon joining Bruno Associates, Joseph received his grant writing certification at the State University of New York. Joseph has demonstrated an innate ability to connect with clients by simplifying the grant management process and allowing clients to integrate it into the other responsibilities that come with running a local municipality.

Joseph specializes in grant management services at the County, State and Federal level from sources, not limited to the Department of Environmental Protection to the Department of Transportation. Above all else, he believes his ultimate job is to make yours easier and to help clients mobilize the funding for positive change.  Prior to his professional career, Joseph graduated Montclair State University where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, along with a minor in Leadership Development through Civic Engagement.

Claire Crimando, Director

Claire Crimando serves as a grant consultant for Bruno Associates. Claire joined Bruno Associates after nearly two years working as a social worker and advocate in Essex County, New Jersey, where she managed grants and passionately served her clients. Claire has experience working in healthcare and social services and is proud to be working with Bruno Associates to secure funding to create meaningful change through programs and projects. Claire harnesses her creativity, passion, and leadership skills to bring any endeavor to fruition.

Claire holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work with a minor in Political Science from Rutgers University-Newark. Claire also proudly attended Sussex County Community College where she reestablished the Social Work Club and received the SCCC 2015 Leadership Award. Claire holds multiple certifications from advocacy groups such as Equal Justice USA, The NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and other anti-violence organizations.  Claire also holds an Associate’s degree in photography from the Fashion Institute of Technology and enjoys running her small photography business on the side.

Maysan Varoqua, Director of Education

Maysan Varoqua, a Director at Bruno Associates, works closely with several Boards of Education throughout the State of New Jersey.  Together with her excellent leadership and writing skills, Maysan has secured funding for a variety of different programs and projects for schools. Maysan strives to get the most out of grant funding for students and staff to ensure they are properly equipped with the resources needed to expand or begin projects at their school. Maysan is passionate about being a part of the ever-changing education world and has guided districts to the best grant opportunities available that match their specific needs. She is a firm believer of preparing today’s youth with the best education they can possibly receive, as they are this country’s future leaders and innovators. Maysan has an intuitive feel for the grant writing process and is proactive with any project given to her. Maysan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from William Paterson University and has a certification in grant writing from the County College of Morris.

Stephen Welsh, Director

Stephen S. Welsh joined the firm of Bruno Associates as an Account Executive three years ago and he is now a Director with the firm. He is very knowledgeable and has successfully written grants for water and sewer systems, law enforcement, community development, environmental and green issues, green acres, open space, NJDOT, health programs, housing and development, and recreation. He previously served as a Township Business Administrator in local Municipal Government. In that role, he successfully obtained community development, NJDOT, and open space grants. He has completed courses for eligibility to obtain certification as a CMFO and completed training through the Project Management Institute as a Project Manager. Steve also served for over 27 years as an elected official in the Borough of Morris Plains, his hometown, giving him valuable insight to the problems experienced by local Governing Bodies as they deal with diminishing revenues and budget caps. Previous to his job as a Business Administrator, Steve worked as an Information Technology professional skilled at solving every day and complex business problems with a strong track record for increasing productivity, improving efficiency and reducing operating costs while achieving desired results. Steve also possesses significant experience in Management, Application Development, and Software Package installation. In his experience, Steve has developed and managed projects for Financial Services, Manufacturing, Engineering, Insurance, Utility, and Pharmaceutical firms.

Steve holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from William Paterson University. He is involved with service to his community through the Morris Plains Rotary Club for 39 years and as Chairman of the Morris Plains Memorial Day Parade Committee from its’ start in 1987 through today.

Stephanie Gundermann, Director

Stephanie Gundermann is a Director at Bruno Associates Inc. She graduated with a MA in English from The College of New Jersey. Stephanie has a passion for the nuances of language and organization. Prior to working for Bruno Associates, Stephanie worked for a construction company and a library, where she experienced how grants benefit the local community. A product of a small-town upbringing, Stephanie witnessed the impact local politics has on each member of the community. Stephanie is committed to improving the quality of life in each of her clients communities through dedicated proposal delivery and grant consulting.

Victoria Zurla, Associate

Victoria Zurla brings a keen understanding of the inner workings of public education to Bruno Associates. She joined the team after serving four years as an educator in the New Jersey Public School System. Her hands-on approach helps her accurately assess and target the needs of clients, as well as enhances the strong rapport she builds with each of them. She has experience and training in New Jersey Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Prevention, as well as the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. Victoria specializes in grant services at the County, State, and Federal level, with experience in projects related to transportation improvements, Community Development, and law enforcement and fire-related grants. Her devoted work ethic and articulate writing skills allow her to effectively communicate on behalf of clients to gain funding in a wide-range of areas. Victoria holds an undergraduate degree in English, as well as a dual-degree Masters degree in Teaching English and Students with Disabilities from Montclair State University.

Margaret Morse, Director

Margaret Morse serves as Grant Consultant for Bruno Associates, Inc. Prior to joining the firm in January 2022, Margaret worked as Research Associate at Millennium Strategies, LLC where she familiarized herself with imperative funding opportunities at the local, state, federal, and philanthropic level. Margaret holds a B.A. in Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Media and Minor in Anthropology from the University of Kentucky and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Kean University. In undergrad, she served as Treasurer then President of the Anthropology Club and wrote for the school newspaper. In grad school, Margaret now serves part-time as Graduate Research Assistant where she collaborates directly with the Assistant Dean of Students and MPA Program Director to develop evaluation metrics for the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Implementing Overdose Prevention Strategies at the Local Level (IOPSLL) program. At Bruno Associates, Inc, Margaret is responsible for collaborating directly with municipal clients on concurrent projects as a primary client-facing consultant. She researches, drafts, and submits strong proposals that help communities secure funding to address environmental and sustainability issues, public health, economic and community development, education, etc. When not busy writing grants, however, Margaret assists with internal business development initiatives. Margaret, or Maggie, is an advocate of reform who believes in building healthy, perpetual relationships with her clients while conducting high-yielding business.

Alexa Reed, Director

Alexa serves as a Grant Writer and Consultant for Bruno Associates. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies with minors in Earth &  Planetary Sciences and English.  Alexa has experience in the environmental sector, particularly with non-profits both local to New Jersey and in Maryland. Prior to working with the firm, Alexa assisted with securing funding for environmental programs local to her college and saw first-hand the importance of grants and grant funding. Similarly, Alexa has a strong customer service background, focused on providing the best experience for clients. Alexa is reliable, motivated, and passionate.

Carson Monks, Associate

Carson serves as an Associate Grant Writer for Bruno Associates. He graduated from Montclair State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Prior to working for Bruno Associates, Carson worked as an Outreach Liaison for Representative Josh Gottheimer’s New Jersey District Office. Carson was responsible for event planning and community outreach, increasing Rep. Gottheimer’s presence and service to the 5th District. He saw firsthand Rep. Gottheimer’s commitment to helping secure grant funding for New Jersey’s communities, gaining valuable insight into the federal grants process. Carson has worked in several communities throughout northern New Jersey as an Emergency Medical Technician, and hopes to serve fellow first responders across New Jersey through his work at Bruno Associates.

 Kym Jones, Associate

Kym serves as an Associate Grant Writer for Bruno Associates.  She has several years of grant experience and is well-versed in managing both existing and new grants to maintain and obtain funding. She is experienced in expanding access and funding for housing, healthcare, and youth development, and has a successful track record with both public and private grant funders. Previously, Kym worked for NYC and NJ nonprofits where she managed, edited, and wrote multiple multi-million-dollar grants for emergency housing and social services, as well as grants for youth development, and submitted proposals for and managed contracts with city and county government agencies.

Kym’s career also includes educating a diverse group of communities. She is highly qualified to teach English and had done so prior to pivoting to a career providing grant services. Kym continues to focus her professional efforts on assisting organizations and agencies obtain the funds necessary to broaden community access to needs and services.

Kym received her BA in Literature and Writing from Columbia University, New York, New York and her Secondary Education Teaching Certificate from Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, Tennessee.

Jonathan Bruno, Corporate Counsel

Mr. Bruno serves as Bruno Associates’ Legal Counsel. His focus is reviewing the firms’ contracts with municipalities, school districts, housing authorities, and non-profit organizations. Jonathan has over a decade of experience throughout the state in municipal and contract law.  Jonathan is a graduate of Montclair Kimberly Academy and Lehigh University.