Blurb about why Forefront rocks, caption for photo
Forefront team members Suzy Lee and Yoselyn Ovalle during our 2019 Annual Luncheon.
Forefront team members Suzy Lee and Yoselyn Ovalle during our 2019 Annual Luncheon.

Our Staff

Eric Weinheimer, President and CEO
eweinheimer@myforefront.org • 312-578-0090

Since 2014, Eric has been the President and CEO of Forefront, overseeing its mission to uplift and maintain the vibrant social impact sector for the people of Illinois. Prior to Forefront, Eric was President and CEO of The Cara Program, a nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive training, job placement, and support services to individuals who are homeless and struggling in poverty. Eric serves on the Advisory Board for Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation and on the Board of Directors for the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation. He is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago.

Dawn Melchiorre, Chief Operating Officer
dmelchiorre@myforefront.org • 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.

Derek Stovall-Leonard, Chief Financial Officer
stovall-leonard@myforefront.org • 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.

Yusef Garcia, Vice President, Revenue Development and Communications
ygarcia@myforefront.org • 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, Board Member with AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and committee member for the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Faces of Philanthropy luncheon. 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
lsimpson@myforefront.org • 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.

Anita Banerji, Director, Democracy Initiative
abanerji@myforefront.org • 312-327-8912

Anita leads Forefront’s Democracy Initiative, Census 2020 outreach, and civic engagement work. Having worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. and the Illinois State Government, Anita has a penchant for policy; she enjoys working in advocacy and her nonprofit experience has provided her the opportunity to focus on social policy issues over the last decade. Most recently, Anita served as Legislative Director for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She holds a master’s degree in multicultural and organizational communications from DePaul University and a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also sits on the Associate Board of the Indo-American Center, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to recent immigrants in the Chicagoland area.

Lily Blouin, Regional Coordinator, Statewide Partnerships
lblouin@myforefront.org • 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.

Kimberly Casey, Director, Philanthropy Strategy & Engagement
kcasey@myforefront.org • 312-327-8948

As Director of Philanthropy Strategy & Engagement, Kimberly is responsible for overseeing the learning and action of all Member Networks at Forefront, including creating opportunities for networking, education, policy engagement, leadership development, partnership, and collective action among members. She was a speaker at the Breaking It Down Conference and at Corporate America Diversity Programs: Lessons for Nonprofit Leaders. Previously, Kimberly managed member programs for Chicago United. In addition to her professional work, she serves as a board member for Trilogy Inc., is a core group member with the Greater Chicago Dialogue and Deliberation Community of Practice, and a member of the Chicago Urban League’s Metropolitan Board. Kimberly earned bachelors’ degrees in political science and African-American studies from Purdue University.

Noah Cruickshank, Director, Communications
ncruickshank@myforefront.org • 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
nfoley@myforefront.org • 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.

Tenishia Greer, Coordinator, Communications
tgreer@myforefront.org • 312-327-8915

As a part of the Communications Team, Tenishia (as known as Nisha) supports content creation and strategy across social media, email, and the web. Prior to Forefront, she created and maintained digital marketing campaigns for SaaS startups in Chicago. Tenishia currently serves as an active volunteer for Black Girls Code and ChicagoNORML. She earned a BA in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago and a Certificate in Digital Marketing from Startup Institute.

Suzy Lee, Director, Nonprofit Strategy and Engagement
slee@myforefront.org • 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
registration@myforefront.org • 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, Librarian
zmagierek@myforefront.org • 312-327-8921

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, Coordinator, Member Networks
kmontgomery@myforefront.org • 312-327-8922

As Coordinator of Member Networks, 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
jona@myforefront.org • 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.

Yoselyn Ovalle, Associate Manager, Democracy Initiative
yovalle@myforefront.org • 312-327-8905

As Associate Manager of the Democracy Initiative, Yoselyn manages and leads efforts for the IL Count Me In 2020 program, ILVote program, and Forefront’s 42 Get Out the Count (GOTC) grantees. Previously, she was the Chicago Program Associate at New Sector Alliance where she facilitated the launch of their annual 11-month Resident in Social Enterprise (RISE) fellowship, a program she participated in the year previous. As a RISE fellow, she worked with the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago (PHIMC) where she coordinated their Community Reentry Project. Currently, she is a mentee for the Women in Leadership Program by Chicago Women in Philanthropy. Yoselyn graduated cum laude from DePaul University with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Sarah Rice, Librarian
srice@myforefront.org • 312-327-8921

As a Forefront librarian, Sarah aids both Members and the general public in conducting research and utilizing the Library’s databases, and creates tools and research guides for Forefront’s educational programming. Most recently Sarah worked at the Forest Park Public Library as an assistant in the youth department. Prior experience includes serving as Outreach and User Experience Librarian at Sullivan University, and overseeing library services as the 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 volunteers with the Animal Care League, helping stray and abandoned animals find new homes.

Genita C. Robinson, Director, Mission Sustainability Initiative
grobinson@myforefront.org • 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 is a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, 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.

Aaron D. Sims, Director, Converge Consulting
asims@weconverge.org • 312-327-8903

Aaron D. Sims is the Director of Converge Consulting, Forefront’s financial consultancy practice. Aaron is tasked with managing and expanding this important resource to Forefront’s nonprofit and foundation Members by leveraging his experience cultivating strong relationships through customer service. Prior to building a financial advisory practice specializing in preparing small businesses for banking relationships, Aaron spent 14 years in the corporate finance industry. He has worked for notable institutions such as LaSalle Bank, MB Financial Bank, and GE Capital. Most recently, Aaron held the role of Senior Vice President with Associated Bank. Aaron played Division-I baseball at and received a finance degree from Alabama A&M University. He actively contributes to several local and national philanthropic organizations by sitting on their Board, Advisory Board, planning committees, or mentoring. Aaron is also a member of The Chicago Leadership Alliance and is continually looking to improve Chicago’s civic landscape.

Lolita Slaughter, Controller
lslaughter@myforefront.org • 312-327-8944

Lolita oversees Forefront’s day-to-day financial management and bookkeeping. She has served the nonprofit financial community for over 10 years in various positions, including as Controller for The Resurrection Project. She is very passionate about accounting and is skilled in telling a company’s story through numbers. Lolita earned her bachelors from Northeastern Illinois University and she is a member of her church’s finance and Parish Pastoral Council.

Sarah Tapscott, Director, Statewide Partnerships
stapscott@myforefront.org • 217-572-1866

Sarah leads Forefront’s statewide work by organizing education and training for local nonprofits, promoting partnerships, and collaborations within the region’s nonprofit and philanthropy sector. Sarah has spent the last fifteen years engaging with the nonprofit sector in multiple capacities including community impact work, fundraising, volunteer management, and community engagement. She has worked for national organizations including United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the American Lung Association. She earned a BA in Community Health Education from Illinois State University. She is a graduate of Leadership Springfield and earned a Leadership Certificate through the Organizational Leadership Institute at Illinois State University. Sarah is also a recipient of the Springfield Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award. In her free time, she serves on a local nonprofit’s board of directors and is very involved in her children’s school, St. Agnes, serving as the annual Gala Chair for the past three years and a volunteer room parent.

Bryan Zarou, Director, Public Policy and Advocacy
bzarou@myforefront.org • 312-327-8911

Bryan is responsible for advancing Forefront’s policy platform and advocacy goals, including building Forefront’s relationship with key policy makers 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 served as co-chair of a successful Dover City Council campaign; his primary responsibilities were debate preparation, research, press releases, and speech writing. Bryan holds both a bachelor’s and master’s in political science, from Wesley College and Long Island University, respectively.

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