Senior Director of Programs and Quality Assurance

Dr. Maureen Hellwig

Maureen Hellwig took on her role in March 2006. Throughout her career, Maureen has worked on issues including community access to technology, housing and financial cooperatives, workforce preparation, neighborhood commercial area revitalization, community empowerment through neighborhood organization and the role of settlement houses as community change agents.

From 1997-2005, Maureen was the program coordinator for the Policy Research Action Group (PRAG) at Loyola University, where she was able to combine her 25 years of experience working with community-based organizations on neighborhood issues with her academic credentials, to carry out PRAG's mission to promote university/community collaboration. In 1999, she was appointed Graduate Program Director for Loyola University Chicago's new Chicago Studies Master’s Program.

Prior to her years at Loyola, Maureen worked as Director of Community Economic Development for Erie House from 1991-1996. In this capacity, she initiated many new projects, including the Pathways to Success workforce preparation program. Other employers have included the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Cook County Board of Review, Uptown Center Hull House, NCO/Community 21 Office, St. Benedict High School and Santa Maria Addolorata School.

Commitment to Service

Since 1968, Maureen has lived in West Town and has served as a volunteer and a member of the Erie House Board at various times over the past 30 years. She is also involved with:

  • Erie House Heritage Committee, Member
  • Greater West Town Project, President of the Board
  • Chicago Area Women’s History Council, Treasurer
  • Spertus College Non-Profit Management graduate program, Adjunct Instructor
  • National Louis University Social Sciences graduate department, Adjunct Instructor

Education 

Maureen received her Ph.D in public policy from the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She also holds a Master's in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor's from Alverno College.

Senior Director of Operations

Betty Sanchez-Azadeh

Betty Sanchez-Azadeh has served as Erie's Director of Finance since 2001 and as of November 2012, Betty will be serving as the new Senior Director of Operations. She is responsible for the overall guidelines and policies for the supporting departments of Erie Neighborhood House, including making financial decisions relating to the overall management and physical well-being of the organization. Since the inception of Erie Elementary Charter School in 2005, Betty has provided financial oversight for both Erie Neighborhood House and Erie Elementary Charter School. Under Betty's stewardship both organizations have grown from a combined $4.5 million to more than $13 million. 

Prior to working at Erie House, Betty worked for the City of Chicago as the Finance Manager of the Central Region within the Chicago Park District. Prior to that, she worked in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange where she represented “Specialists/Traders” and assisted them with the execution of orders.

Commitment to Service

In addition to holding the Director of Finance role, Betty, demonstrates her leadership ability by serving the Loyola University Latino Alumni Board as a current advisory board member and former Board Treasurer and Board President. In the past she has collaborated with H.A.C.E. in providing Loyola students workshops and mentoring.

Education

Betty holds a Bachelors of Business Administration from Loyola University Chicago and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management at North Park University. She is currently working toward her MBA at North Park University.

 

Senior Director of Development and Communications

Kirstin Chernawsky

Kirstin is the newest member of the Senior Leadership Team at Erie Neighborhood House, serving as the Senior Director of Development & Communications. Highly skilled, she is responsible for setting the organizations strategic fundraising agenda to achieve and exceed Erie House’s revenue goals. Kirstin is responsible for representing the agency in external relations, media activities, overseeing agency special events and communications.

Prior to working at Erie Neighborhood House, Kirstin worked at BUILD as Director of Development & External Operations, where she helped launch the BUILD: The Future Capital Campaign. Prior to that, Kirstin worked as the Manager of Institutional Giving at Northwestern Settlement House, where she was an integral member of the “opening team” that oversaw the opening of Rowe Elementary School. 

Commitment to Service

In addition to holding the Senior Director of Development role, Kirstin, demonstrates her leadership ability by volunteering for numerous social service agencies in Chicago. Kirstin also chaired the national Youth Visioning Project for United Neighborhood Centers of America as part of their 100th anniversary celebration.

Education

Kirstin holds a Masters of Science in Public Service Management and a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology, both from DePaul University. She also received her Certified Nonprofit Accounting professional designation. 

 

Director of Child Care

Louis Falk

Louis began his tenure at Erie Neighborhood House in 1984 as a lead teacher in one of two Early Childhood Education classrooms. Since then he has had many roles at Erie Neighborhood House leading to his current role as Director of Child Care. During this time he has seen the program grow from two classrooms and ten-person staff to twelve classrooms and a fifty-five-person staff. Louis is a dedicated advocate for promoting excellence in Early Childhood Education with optimal learning and development for children and their families. Louis has always been a strong supporter of the idea that the relationship between parents, staff and children is the key to the successful experience offered at Erie. The other important key is making the program fit the needs of the families that walk through Erie’s doors.

Commitment to Service

Louis has also been recognized by National Louis University with the Next Generation of Chicago Leaders Award for his role as a Early Childhood Education administrator in the city of Chicago.

Education

Louis holds a Master’s of Arts in Administration and Supervision from Roosevelt University and graduate certificate in Executive Education Leadership from Loyola University Chicago School of Business Administration. Louis received his Bachelors of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education from Roosevelt University.

Director of Youth Options Unlimited

Joshua Fulcher

Joshua joined Erie House in August 2007 as the Education Programs Coordinator and has also served as Assistant Director of Youth Options Unlimited (YOU). His previous experience as an educator has been essential in his ability to strengthen the academic component of the YOU programs and fully develop the Monday night mentoring program (TEAM SS).

Commitment to Service

Not only is Joshua actively involved in the Illinois Student Assistance Coalition, a network that connects both resources and colleagues in order to support schools, CBOs and – ultimately – students. He is also a member the following:

  • SHPE Chicago
  • A.C.E. Advocates (Chicago Region)

Joshua has been recognized as Supervisor of the Year by the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and is often asked to speak on his tutoring technique: Model-Coach-Fade; How to Teach Anything.

Education

Joshua graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a major in psychology and earned his Master of Education while teaching in Montgomery, AL through the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education program. 

 

Director of Adult Programs

Cristina Garcia

Cristina Garcia began her career in non-profit management at Erie Neighborhood House in 2005 and has served in various leadership capacities since. In 2006 she was promoted to manage the Citizenship & Immigration Program. Presently, Cristina is Director of Adult Programs where she oversees seven programs with an operating budget of over $1 million in revenue. These include Proyecto Cuidate, a violence prevention and family well-being program; English as a Second Language (ESL), Community Literacy and Technology Education; and Citizenship & Immigration program. Among Cristina’s most recent accomplishments has been leading the design and implementation of Buen HOGAR, a Latino outreach initiative of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) with the primary goal of providing education, assistance, and outreach in the Latino community.

Additionally, Cristina has been a strong advocate of fair immigration policies and solutions, and has worked at the local, national and international levels to help advance pro-immigrant rights legislation. She has facilitated dialogues and trainings on issues such as immigrant inclusion and integration and on the importance of being civically involved.

Commitment to Service

Cristina serves on the Associates Board of Latinos Progresando. Previously, Cristina served on the Board of Directors for the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC). While serving on the Board of NALACC, Cristina played a leadership role in organizing press events, facilitating community dialogues and serving as delegate at international conferences in Colombia, Mexico, and Switzerland.

Education

Cristina holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Robert Morris University and a Master’s degree in Social Policy from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

 

Director of Health and Leadership

Michael Guarrine

Before joining Erie in 2007, Michael worked in child welfare for eight years.  At Illinois Action for Children he served as the Supervisor of Community Outreach managing a team of forty outreach volunteers that promoted IAC’s programs, developed relationships with major children’s welfare agencies, and presented at various conferences on behalf of Action for Children, the National Association for the Education of Young Children Conference, Chicago Metropolitan Association for the Education of Young Children Conference, and the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies Conference.

Education

Michael has a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology from Loyola University with a Minor in Social Work.  He is currently working on his Master of Arts in Applied Professional Studies in Community Leadership Development at DePaul University.

Director of Facilities

Paul Kasper

Paul Kasper has worked in the non-profit sector for over 30 years.

His past duties have included being a manager of Workforce Development for economically disadvantaged adults at Association House of Chicago, a prominent social service agency in Chicago. He went on to become the Office Manager at Illinois Action For Children, an advocacy group for abused and neglected children in the Juvenile Court system, where he was responsible for bookkeeping, human resources and payroll.

Paul joined Erie's staff in September 2001 as the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director. In 2005, Paul became the Director of Operations, where he is responsible for planning, organizing, directing and controlling the activities of facilities, management and engineering, strategic planning and energy management for all Erie sites throughout the city of Chicago.

Director of Workforce Development

Julián Lazalde

Julián is the newest member of the Leadership Team at Erie Neighborhood House, serving as the Director of the Workforce Development. Julián is responsible for providing leadership, strategic thinking, and high quality management for all phases of the Pathways to Success workforce development bridge programs.

Prior to working at Erie Neighborhood House, Julián worked at Catholic Relief Services as a Program & Advocacy Officer, helping over a dozen dioceses in the Midwest region. Prior to this, Julián worked for three different community-based organizations in Chicago, including The Resurrection Project and Enlace, as a community organizer, over a span of six years. He worked on issues such as comprehensive immigration reform, higher education access for immigrant students and violence prevention initiatives.

Commitment to Service

Julián sees this position as another step taken on the path towards building a more just and equitable society. He is excited about joining the committed staff of Erie to continue building and strengthening the Workforce Development programs offered, while maintaining a focus on other avenues to work with Erie participants who are looking to improve their vocational skills in the hopes of a better, more economically stable life for themselves and their families. 

Education

Julián holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in History from Williams College and is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration degree from DePaul University’s School of Public Service. 

Director of Finance

Leslie Okamura

Leslie Okamura joined the Erie Neighborhood House team as Director of Finance in January, 2013. Prior to working at Erie House, Leslie worked at Casa Central Social Services, where she began her career in nonprofit accounting and managed the daily accounting functions for over 5 years. Her previous experience in corporate finance working at American Book Display has helped the agencies she has served to maximize the benefit from donations and grants received.

 

Commitment to Service

Leslie is the volunteer treasurer at her church, Bethany Baptist Church, and has held that position for many years. Leslie has a passion to serve children in Chicago, as she and her husband adopted children from Chicago.

Education

Leslie graduated with a degree in Accountancy from Northeastern Illinois University and is a Registered Certified Public Accountant in Illinois. 

Director of Human Resources

Maria Perez

Maria Perez has been part of  the Erie family since 1987. Starting as a Financial Administrator, Maria also served as a Payroll Administrator before taking on her current role, 13 years ago, as Director of Human Resources. When Maria began at Erie House there were approximately 60 employees and she has seen the agency grow to the now over 150 employees, hence, the reason the HR department was implemented in 1999.   In addition, she has overseen the HR functions of the Erie Elementary Charter School since its inception in 2005 when it began with 2 employees and now has grown to approximately 50 employees. Prior to Erie House, Maria spent 10 years as a bookkeeper at Youth Guidance, a non-profit social service organization.

Commitment to Service

Maria is an active member of SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) and the Greater Chicagoland Not-for-Profit Human Resources Forum.  

Education

Maria holds a Bachelors of Arts in Integrative Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.

Director of After School Programs

Valery Sheppard

With over 15 years of experience in social services and education, Valery is the current Director of After School Programs. She joined Erie House in 1994 after having served as the Assistant Director of After School at Resurrection Lutheran Church.

Education

Valery holds a Master’s in Education from National Louis University and has extensive experience developing children’s curricula.

 

 

Meet the Leadership

Senior leadership's passion, talent, and commitment is not only reflective of the entire Erie family, but also at the core of our excellence.

Dr. Maureen Hellwig

Senior Director of Programs and Quality Assurance

Kirstin Chernawsky

Senior Director of Development and Communications

Louis Falk

Director of Child Care

Joshua Fulcher

Director of Youth Options Unlimited 

Cristina Garcia

Director of Adult Programs

Michael Guarrine

Director of Health and Advocacy

Paul Kasper

Director of Facilities

Julián Lazalde

Director of Workforce Development

Leslie Okamura

Director of Finance

Maria Perez

Director of Human Resources

Betty Sanchez-Azadeh

Senior Director of Operations

Valery Sheppard

Director of After School Program

 

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