Blurb about why Forefront rocks, caption for photo
Forefront team members during our 2019 Annual Luncheon.
Forefront team members during our 2019 Annual Luncheon.

Our Staff

Monique B. Jones, President & CEO • 312-327-8945

Monique B. Jones, LCSW is a visionary leader with an extensive background in mental health, violence prevention, philanthropy, and gender & racial equity. With over 20 years of experience in her career, her civic interests span the intersections where the lives of those most vulnerable fall victim to structural oppression and inequity. Monique most recently served as the President & CEO at the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF), making her the second CEO and first African American since its founding in 1986. During her tenure, she was successful in diversifying the board, staff, and community investments to reflect the voices of the community.

Previous to ECF Monique served as Director of Programs for the Chicago Foundation for Women, leading the establishment of the 100% Project for gender equity. She also served as the Director of Violence Prevention for the Cook County Department of Public Health and Clinical Director for the Jane Addams Hull House Association. Monique is a graduate of The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with a B.A in Social Work and The University of Texas at Austin with a M.S. in Social Work. She completed the Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management executive program at the Harvard School of Business. In her self-care moments, she enjoys running with her Peloton Tread family, golfing, sewing, and showing appreciation for life with her husband, daughter, and Yorkie in Chicago.

Derek Stovall-Leonard, Chief Financial Officer • 312-327-8910

Derek joined the Forefront family in May 2018, with a strong background in accounting, finance, and strategic planning. His career has spanned myriad industries including: pharmaceuticals, consumer products, education, hospitality, and associations. He earned a BS in finance from Wiley College, as well as an MBA from Temple University. He has also studied strategic leadership at Penn State University. Derek finds joy in giving back to his community and does so through his service as a trustee of his alma mater and is a member of his church’s Finance Commission and Scholarship Committee.

Dawn Melchiorre, Chief Operating Officer • 312-327-8930

Dawn joined Forefront in March of 2016 and serves as Chief Operating Officer, leading the Member Engagement and Policy teams that oversee Member programming, education, statewide partnerships, strategic initiatives, and policy/advocacy. Prior to Forefront, Dawn held positions at the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Voices for Illinois Children. Dawn spent over a decade owning and running small businesses before pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector. Dawn has a BA in Political Science and Communications from Loyola University of Chicago, an MS in Public Service and Public Policy from DePaul University, and a MBA in Nonprofit, Public, and Organizational Management from Concordia University Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and wine with her husband and three adult children.

Yusef Garcia, Vice President, Development and Communications • 312-327-8915

For more than 10 years, Yusef has been committed to helping build a more vibrant Chicago region through philanthropy and social impact. As Vice President of Development & Communications, Yusef and his team activate stakeholders with Forefront’s work plus deepen relationships through cultivating collaborative partnerships. Prior to joining Forefront, Yusef led institutional fundraising and engagement strategies for organizations focused on public media, arts & culture, and human services. Yusef actively volunteers as Chair of The Chicago History Museum’s OUT at CHM initiative, and serves as Board Member of AFC (AIDS Foundation of Chicago). In addition to his passion for convening partners, building relationships, and influencing social change, Yusef is a trained chef, having graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Yusef is a native of Chicago, a lover of House Music, and an avid volleyball player. He and his husband Adam live in the Uptown neighborhood with their dog and two cats.

Lisa May Simpson, Vice President, Learning and Engagement • 312-327-8931

Lisa oversees Forefront’s Member Engagement programming to ensure it is designed to meet the needs of Illinois grantmakers, nonprofits, and advisors. She joined Forefront in 2012 as Member Services Manager, was promoted in 2016 to Director of Education, and now serves as Vice President of Learning & Engagement. Lisa has served as an independent coach, facilitator, and consultant for a variety of individuals and organizations including Chicago Women in Philanthropy, the Chicago Arts Learning Initiative (CALI), and Ingenuity, Inc. Lisa currently serves on the board of Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense Center and the Leadership Council of Barrel of Monkeys. She has trained as a facilitator and educator with Kansas Leadership Center, Interaction Institute for Social Change, and the Institute of Cultural Affairs in the U.S.A.. She holds a BA in theater from Western Washington University.

Lily Blouin, Regional Coordinator, Statewide Partnerships • 309-351-8568

Serving in Forefront’s Galesburg office, Lily brings expertise in program development and community engagement, as well as more than ten years of experience working in the nonprofit sector. She most recently served as the Director of Education and Outreach for the National Railroad Hall of Fame where her work in youth and public programming helped expand national awareness of the project and increased local participation in organizational activities. Lily holds a BFA in musical theater and a Master of Arts in history from Western Illinois University in Macomb. She resides in Galesburg, Illinois with her husband, Kevin, and their two miniature dachshunds, Buster and Penny.

Noah Cruickshank, Director, Communications • 312-327-8919

Noah oversees all marketing, public relations, and digital communications for Forefront across the state. Committed to nonprofit work for most of his career, Noah has worked at small organizations with direct impact to massive institutions like the Field Museum, where he oversaw adult outreach and engagement. Originally hailing from Canada, Noah has called Illinois his home for the last twenty years, receiving both a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Chicago. When not at Forefront, Noah produces a monthly event at storied Chicago institution The Hideout called “A Scientist Walks into a Bar.”

Niyisha Foley, Administrative Coordinator • 312-327-8916

Niyisha joined Forefront in October 2017, where she provides front line customer service and primary support for administration and finance. She has worked in administration in the nonprofit sector for over 2 years and always ensures kind and friendly reception. She has a bachelor’s degree in business management and administration from Governor’s State University. Outside of the office, she volunteers her time at her daughter’s school, is a girl scout troop leader, and team mom on her daughter’s cheer team.

Nora Gregor, Communications Coordinator 312-327-8935

Nora spends her days at the helm of Forefront’s social media outreach, email marketing, and website. A graduate of Carleton College with a bachelor’s degree in Cinema and Media Studies, she’s proud to advance Forefront’s mission and brand through creative multimedia content. When not at work, Nora spends her free time eagerly adding to the brain cache by learning languages, playing music, and going on aimless walks alongside her dog and her favorite podcast hosts.

Katharine Keller, Director of Corporate & Foundation Partnerships:

Kat is driven to listen and build partnerships that achieve mutual goals for long-term change. As Director of Corporate & Foundation Partnerships, her focuses include stewardship, prospecting, cultivation, proposal development to support Forefront’s growing programming and foundation and corporate partners. Kat has 10+ years of experience and previously managed global partnerships for Lions Clubs International Foundation, managing 200+ volunteer leaders in the U.S. and Canada, to developing and executing corporate fundraising strategic plan. Prior to these roles, she was a Communications Director at CCS Fundraising, serving as the fulltime/onsite consultant for a global campaign that mobilized 5,000+ volunteers to raise $200M for eyecare capacity building in an effort spanning 200 countries and 12 languages. Kat believes human stories can build bridges and inspire change. She earned a BA in English Lit. from Calvin College; she is currently a Chicago Innovation Mentee (Cohort 8; January-July 2020) and lives in Downers Grove with her husband, two young sons, and an adopted cattle-dog.

Suzy Lee, Director, Nonprofit Strategy and Engagement • 312-327-8914

As part of the Engagement Team, Suzy’s focus areas include nonprofit membership, #ILGive for #GivingTuesday, the Nonprofit CEO Roundtable, the B Corp community, and supporting Forefront’s racial equity work. Suzy previously served as the Senior Manager of Children’s Nutrition Policy at the Greater Chicago Food Depository and led the Illinois No Kid Hungry campaign. Prior to that, Suzy served as the Vice-Chair of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program Association and was responsible for policy research, program evaluation, and development. Suzy actively volunteers for many organizations and is a member of the Hanover College Alumni Recruitment Team. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Hanover College, and a Master’s of Public Administration from DePaul University School of Public Service. When she’s not working or volunteering, you can find her in her garden, trying a new ice-cream recipe, or playing with her English bulldog. Follow her on Twitter @ClassicLee_Suzy.

Emily Long, Manager, Education • 312-327-8943

Emily assists in the development and execution of Forefront trainings, workshops, and other educational programs and manages the Peer Skill Share program. Previously, Emily worked on the communications team for the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and fine art from Loyola University Chicago and a Certificate in Historic Preservation from Northwestern University.

Zoe Magierek, Manager, Knowledge Services • 312-327-8949

Zoe provides reference services and does research for Members and staff. She also helps patrons in the Library to access and navigate Library resources. Previously, she was the Librarian at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. She actively volunteers with children and animals and has served on the board of the Chicago Herpetological Society. She has a bachelor’s in sociology from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in library science from Dominican University.

Kenneatha Montgomery, Associate Manager, Grantmaker Engagement • 312-327-8922

Kenneatha (also known as Key) supports efforts in managing, organizing and promoting programs to engage Members in Peer Networking, Collective Action Groups, and educational opportunities. She has several years of experience in health promotion and program expansion to increase the accessibility of services for resource-limited populations. She earned a Bachelor of Science in applied health science and a Master’s of Public Health from Indiana University Bloomington. In her spare time, she enjoys practicing Bikram yoga, which allows her to embrace life one pose at a time.

Joe Ona, Executive Associate • 312-327-8941

Joe has been with Forefront since the spring of 2018. Prior to Forefront, he worked in the legal field for 15 years. Joe is the office liaison to the building, technology services, and many of Forefront’s vendors. He works directly with the Forefront leadership team with calendar management, travel arrangements, and various tasks. Joe assists the administration team as well.

Sarah Rice, Librarian • 312-327-8921

As a Forefront librarian, Sarah aids Members, staff, and the general public in conducting research and utilizing the Library’s resources. Her work also entails organizing Forefront’s archives and managing the Library website. Additionally, she presents workshops and creates tools and research guides for Forefront’s educational programming. Most recently Sarah worked at Triton College as a reference librarian. Prior experience includes serving as Outreach and User Experience Librarian at Sullivan University, and overseeing library services as the manager of Strayer University’s Learning Resource Center. Sarah has a bachelor’s in English from the University of Louisville and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Kentucky. Sarah is a member of the Forest Park Historical Society and the League of Women Voters.

Genita C. Robinson, Director, Mission Sustainability Initiative • 312-327-8947

Genita began consulting with Forefront in March 2017 as Director of the Mission Sustainability Initiative. Genita is a lawyer by training, having graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and practiced commercial litigation at Sachnoff & Weaver, now Reed Smith LLP. She has always been drawn to mission-driven work. Genita served for four years under the leadership of Arne Duncan at the Chicago Public Schools, and for seven years she led Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth, which provides cash and in-kind support to community-based mentoring programs. She serves on the board of the ACLU of Illinois and is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow. She previously served on the boards of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership, and she is an active alum of the Edgar Fellows Program. Genita is a native Chicagoan, born on the South Side, and while she oscillated between Chicago and Washington, DC for several years, she has called the South Loop home for over two decades.

Bryan Zarou, Director, Public Policy and Advocacy • 312-327-8911

Bryan is responsible for advancing Forefront’s policy platform and advocacy goals, including building Forefront’s relationship with key policymakers at both the state and federal level. Born and raised on Long Island, Bryan spent many years in the private sector. He taught a wide range of political science courses as an Adjunct Professor in New York City, and has volunteered and advocated for nonprofits to both local and federal officials. Bryan currently sits on the board of the largest Palestinian-American organization in the United States, the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine. Bryan also teaches as an Adjunct Professor at Aurora University’s Dunham School of Business & Public Policy; lecturing on a wide range of topics including Public Policy and Business Administration. Bryan holds both a bachelor’s and master’s in political science, from Wesley College and Long Island University, respectively.


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