Who We Are

Board of Directors

Headshot of Beth Brooks

Beth A. Brooks, PhD, RN, FACHE

President, The Brooks Group, LLC

Chair,  Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Dr. Brooks has a unique blend of leadership experiences from three distinct sectors of the health care industry; nursing administration in a health care system, academic administration, and leadership positions in the for-profit arena; specifically in marketing communication agencies specializing in employment branding, communications and employment marketing.

 Dr. Brooks earned a Doctor of Philosophy in nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a Master of Science in nursing administration from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Valparaiso University. Her doctoral studies resulted in the creation of Brooks' Quality of Nursing Work Life Survey. Her survey has been used in twenty-five countries from Iran to Thailand and has been translated into five languages. She is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Headshot of Michelle Saddler

Michelle Saddler

Principal at Kittleman & Associates

Vice Chair, Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Michelle Saddler brings several decades of experience and strong records of accomplishment in numerous government and not-for-profit organizations, and provides executive search as well as other consulting services for clients. Prior to joining Kittleman & Associates, Michelle served as Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and Chief of Staff to Former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. During her five years as IDHS Secretary, Michelle provided overall management and direction to Illinois’ largest and most diverse state agency.

 Michelle earned her undergraduate degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and her Master’s in Management Degree from

Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Headshot of Tobeka Green

Tobeka Green

Management Consultant

Secretary, Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Tobeka Green is a management consultant and veteran C-suite executive with diverse nonprofit and corporate management experience committed to advancing educational equity and inclusive leadership.

 Most recently, Tobeka provided transformational leadership as President and CEO of the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), the only national nonprofit focused exclusively on the education and wellbeing of Black children and families. Tobeka has also served as Senior Managing Director at District of Columbia Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI), and was CEO of Communities In Schools of the Nation’s Capital.

 Tobeka received a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Florida A&M University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Baruch College - City University of New York, where she was a National Urban Fellow.

Headshot of Celena Roldán

Celena Roldán

American Red Cross of Illinois

Past Chair, Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Celena is the CEO of the American Red Cross Illinois. Prior to joining the Red Cross, Roldán was associated with Erie Neighborhood House which was founded in 1870 to strengthen low-income, primarily Latino families through skill-building, access to critical resources, advocacy and collaborative action. She began her tenure at Erie House in 2001 as the Social Worker and Disabilities Coordinator and then became Director of Child Care in 2006 before taking on the role of Executive Director in 2010.

 Celena also served on Governor Quinn’s Illinois Human Services Commission and served on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Education Transition team, and Mayor Emanuel’s Early Childhood Task Force. She holds a Master's degree in Early Childhood Administration from National Louis University, as well as Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Lachar

Lachar Crayton

Chair, IAFC Head Start Policy Council

Member, Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

LaChar is the mother of three children. Her twins, a boy and a girl, are in the IAFC Head Start Program, and her baby boy attends the IAFC Early Head Start Center based at the Dolton site. LaChar is a regular volunteer at the Dolton site and at home spends time doing activities with her children.

 LaChar is a resident of Dolton and is very active in her community. She is a member of C.H.A.R.T.E.R.S. (Children Have Rights to Education Remedies) and a member of the Mentoring Program at Lincoln Junior High School.

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Hardik Dalal

Vice President of Finance, Central Chicagoland PSA Advocate Aurora Health

Member, Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Hardik Dalal is an experienced leader in the healthcare industry, specializing in financial operations, growth, and development. Currently the Vice President of Finance at Central Chicagoland PSA Advocate Aurora Health, Hardik brings nearly 20 years of experience in the financial and healthcare sectors. In his current role, Hardik provides executive leadership over finance and matrix support for supply chain, patient access, and health information management for Illinois Masonic Medical Center and Good Samaritan. He previously served as the Executive Director of Finance for Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

Hardik earned his bachelor’s degree and M.B.A. from Purdue University.
He currently lives in Chicago with his wife and two children.
 

Headshot of Jennifer Farrington

Jennifer Farrington

President and CEO, Chicago Children’s Museum

Member,  Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Starting her career at Chicago Children’s Museum as an education intern almost 25 years ago, Jennifer Farrington has never lost sight of her goal to improve children’s lives through education and the arts. As President and CEO of Chicago Children’s Museum—the city’s only major cultural institution focused solely on young children and their families and caregivers—Farrington and her staff now reach more than 400,000 children annually through a variety of exhibits, programs, and partnerships at their home on historic Navy Pier and throughout the neighborhoods of Chicago.

 Known for her innovative and progressive approaches, Jennifer has positioned the museum as a national leader in child development and play-based learning, and as a fierce advocate for all children to have access to high quality museum experiences. She lives, works, and plays in Chicago where she resides with her husband and two teen-aged children.

Linda Hodo

Linda Hodo

Assistant Director, Learning Strategist and Solution Leader

Crowe LLP

Member, Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Linda is an experienced HR, Learning, and Organizational Development leader skilled at collaborating with leadership to create integrated talent management strategies that foster a culture of high performance to achieve business results. She has served in the capacity of officer, leader, consultant, and strategic business partner for senior leaders across a variety of industries. Her current role is Assistant Director, Learning Strategist, and Solution Leader, Crowe LLP.

 

Over the course of her career, Linda has also been an adjunct instructor for coaching in Northwestern’s MSOD program and an adjunct for Columbia College. At present, she is the owner of thepivotpage.com where she continues to help individuals and organizations take their ideas and turn them into actions for change. Additionally, she has had extensive experience as a Board member with non-profits and industry associations.

 

Linda has her BA in Journalism from Drake University, her MS in Marketing Communications at Roosevelt University, and the Doctoral Program (ABD) HR Development/Planned Organizational Change at George Washington University.

Catherine Merritt

CEO, Spool Marketing and Communications

Member, Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Catherine Merritt is the founder and CEO of Spool Marketing and Communications, an integrated marketing and PR agency she founded along with a cohort of media and agency ex-pats who believed a new agency model is needed for today’s companies and brands. So, she set out to build it with Spool.

Catherine is an innovative, results-driven communications and marketing leader who has worked with startups and Fortune-top companies and many in between. She has more than 15 years of communications and marketing leadership experience from her roles at global agencies where she has overseen many of the agencies’ largest communications and public affairs clients.

Chris Knapik

Chris Knapik

Process Transformation Senior Director

PepsiCo

Member, Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Beginning his career with Deloitte & Touche LLP as an IT auditor, Chris eventually transitioned towards SAP (Enterprise Software Company) as a specialty area.  He practiced systems implementation work with Deloitte in the Aerospace and Defense and Consumer Products industries before transitioning to a Global SAP security lead role at PepsiCo in 2014. In his seven years at Pepsi Chris has served a variety of security, control, governance, and process-oriented roles including his most recent promotion to the lead of the process transformation team serving CFOs, Controllers, and IT.

 

With his wife in the education field and two young daughters, Chris was drawn to IAFC for our work in early learning.

 

Chris has a B.A. (Management Information Systems, Finance) and a sales certificate from Ohio University.  He also maintains certifications as a Certified Information Security Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Headshot of Peter Kim

Peter Kim

Attorney at Law, JLL

Member, Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Peter Kim is an attorney focusing on employment and labor law. Before joining JLL as in-house counsel, he was a partner of a national law firm representing a wide sector of industries on finding solutions to employment and Human Resources (HR) related matters. At JLL, Peter is the lead in-house counsel managing legal employment exposure and providing HR counseling fairly and equitably. He is also active in the legal community, promoting DEI initiatives and mentoring young attorneys.

Peter also serves as a board member of a social service and social justice non-for-profit, providing services to the immigrant communities and championing the rights of the undocumented community. Peter earned his Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago and a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Amirh Collis

Amirh Collis

Trust Solution Partner – Pricewaterhouse Coopers

Member, Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Amirh Collis is a Trust Solutions Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (“PwC”), a professional services firm. Amirh has over 17 years of client service experience working with multinational Fortune 500 and privately held audit clients in various industries including automotive, industrial products, consumer markets, and business services.

She is very active in the Firm’s people initiatives and has served in various roles directly impacting the People experience at PwC. She has always maintained a passion for working with children through her volunteer efforts and serving on the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation nonprofit board, whereas she is the Audit Committee chair and a member of the Finance committee. Amirh has a Masters and Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of South Florida. Also, she is an active certified public accountant (CPA) with licenses in several states including Florida, Illinois and North Carolina. Currently, Amirh resides in Chicago, IL with her family, husband and daughter.

Jason Smith

Jason G. Smith

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Supervision Manager

Member, Board of Directors, Illinois Action for Children

Jason is a is an independent board director, senior advisor, financial Expert, and managing director. In his governance roles, he serves as an experienced audit, finance Committee member, DEI Committee member, and governance committee member. His successful tenure as a finance and compliance and risk management has included leadership roles over team and units in the insurance, anti-money laundering and OFAC Sanctions, capital management, credit risk, consumer compliance and information technology areas.

Jason has twenty-two years in banking and investments and 16 years of regulatory and compliance experience. Jason has a strong knowledge of financial laws and regulations and corporate governance. Jason is also responsible for building staff development programs, hiring, onboarding, and training staff.

In the community Jason is also Director on the Board of Focus Fairies Mentoring serving a Vice Chair of the Board, Focus Fairie provides mentoring, and wellness support for girls and young ladies; and Can &Will Help Foundation, which provides ESL and GED services for young adults as well supports and resources to displaced families through shelters. Jason is founder, honoree and partner of the “Honorable Achievement” Scholarship Endowment Fund at Northfield Mount Hermon High School (Nov 1, 2022).

Jason is a member of the American Bankers Association (ABA) and serves on the leadership council of the ABA black banker ERG. Jason is a member and volunteer with the National Black MBA Association (NMBAA Chicago). Jason also serves his community, volunteering with the Woodlawn Community Food Pantry through the Edward G Irwin Foundation (EGIF) Achievement Center. Jason is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated, Chicago Alumni Chapter.

In terms of leadership and education, Jason is a graduate of the Chicago Urban League (CUL) Impact Program through the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He received his B.A. in Economics from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. An is a Commissioned Bank Examiner.

Jason resides in Chicago, Illinois and is a proud father of two children, Jaylen (23) and Ava (4).

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