New Leadership Emerges for Erie House Board of Directors

October 30, 2015 | Chicago, IL

Patty PerezPatty Perez was named the new president of the Erie Neighborhood House board of directors after outgoing president John DeCarrier concluded his board tenure earlier this month.

The Monterrey Security executive previously served as board vice president and is excited to take on this new leadership role for Erie House. “I love what we do with entire families, providing people with a hand up,” explains Patty, emphasizing the continuum of empowering services Erie House provides. “It aligns with my values so well.”

Patty first joined the board of directors when she was working as director of administration for Drinker, Biddle & Reath. She was quickly enamored by the sense of community she observed on the board and within staff and participants. “It sounds cliché,” she says, “but once you’re part of Erie House, you’re part of a family.”

She brings with her a wealth of experience and knowledge from the for-profit sector, having served at various law firms and as a consultant prior to joining Monterrey this summer. “Nonprofit organizations are complex, just like any business. It’s a lot more complicated than just providing a service,” she says, pointing out that other key factors—such as a support network, strategic hiring, and advocacy, to name a few—are all vital to the success of a nonprofit organization.

“I’ve always been impressed with the quality of staff at Erie House—these are all people who choose to work here because they care about the mission of the organization,” says Patty.

Erie House executive director Celena Roldán-Moreno is excited to have Patty step into her new role. “Patty is a tremendous asset to the Erie House community,” says Celena. “She possesses great energy, identifies well with the population we serve and has a proven track record when it comes to leadership.”

Patty is joined on the board’s executive committee by newly appointed vice president John Van Pelt (formerly board secretary), current treasurer Jim Fitzpatrick, and newly appointed secretary Gail Taggart. Sy Nelson will also act in a support role as an at-large member of the executive committee during the transition.

John Van Pelt
John Van Pelt first encountered Erie House as a volunteer mentor in the TEAM program. “The idea of mentoring a high school kid was intriguing,” he recalls. “That’s really what got me engaged. I found it to be a very enjoyable experience.” In all, John participated in TEAM for seven years and had the unique opportunity to co-mentor alongside his daughter one of the years.

The then executive director Ric Estrada reached out to John when he was a TEAM mentor to see if he’d be interested in joining the board of directors. “It was an opportunity to learn about the other programs at Erie House (in addition to TEAM),” he says.

Since retiring from a 29-year career with Northern Trust, the Lake Bluff resident has become increasingly active in the Erie House community, most recently serving as board secretary. “Erie House helps people achieve things on their own,” he says. “That’s a great result.”

Jim Fitzpatrick
Years ago, Jim Fitzpatrick ran across a volunteer opportunity at Erie House while paging through a copy of Streetwise, the weekly periodical published and sold by street vendors as a means of empowerment for Chicagoans facing homelessness.

He signed up to tutor in the ESL program at Erie House, and soon began to explore additional ways to connect with the Erie. Upon encouragement from Ric Estrada, he sat down for lunch with Mark Jolicoeur, board president at the time, and Sy Nelson, also a previous board president. “Mark and Sy could not have been better spokesmen for Erie House,” he says.

Jim has a strong background in administration, finance and general management and brings 40 years’ experience with both Fortune 500 and small, privately-owned businesses to his work on Erie’s board. Serving on the Board of Directors and as Treasurer has allowed him to apply his skills to the strategic planning and growth of a nonprofit organization. “I get an opportunity to work with a lot of talented, dedicated people in an organization that is making a difference.”

Gail Taggart
L3 Hospitality Group partner/president Gail Taggart is the sole new member of the executive committee, having joined the Erie House board of directors in 2013 upon the invitation of Celena Roldán-Moreno.

Gail feels a strong conviction about her increased level of responsibility given the current budget impasse in the state of Illinois. “I feel that now more than ever, individuals have to step up to help non-profits that are doing valuable work,” she says. “We can’t expect others to step up if we aren’t willing to do so ourselves.”

For Gail, the mission of Erie House—and its longevity—inspire her to continue finding the time and energy to lend a hand. “Erie House has been providing services and critical resources to the immigrant community for more than 145 years,” she points out, citing the fact that Erie House programs are designed to empower individuals to build strong, healthy communities. “In my mind, that work has benefitted everyone in this city, past and present, whether they realize it or not.”


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