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A year of growth and gratitude

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

Erica Chianelli looks back with gratitude on her first year as executive director of FamilyForward.

Erica Chianelli, Executive Director of FamilyForward
Erica Chianelli, Executive Director of FamilyForward

Looking back on the past 15+ months, it’s time to take stock of my first year as executive director of FamilyForward. I feel both humble and grateful for the opportunity to be part of this organization. I have met so many generous people willing to give their time, talent and treasure to help low-income, working families in our community.

For me personally, this time has been truly eye-opening, knowing that our work is impacting some of my own neighbors. And while many of us may be fortunate to live in relative financial security, the need is here, among us, the need is now, and the need is vast. I remain in awe at the dedication of all our supporters, who enable us to keep pushing forward. It is both inspiring and motivating.

I feel so fortunate to work with Program Manager Sarah Harte and Case Manager Pam Van De Walle, who do the heavy lifting, working directly with our families daily. Their persistent compassion and dedication to go above and beyond — meeting our clients where they are — makes FamilyForward so unique. Their efforts have allowed me, in my first year, to get my feet wet in as many things as possible, while keeping our future — to continue to serve and grow — ever in sight.

Community involvement grows support

I have really enjoyed being part of three different chambers of commerce and meeting so many wonderful contacts to build awareness of FamilyForward and grow our base of supporters. I’m thrilled to have started our Advisory Board, comprising 14 professionals in the community dedicated to serving as ambassadors of the organization and working to build our circles of outreach. I found great joy in meeting many of our volunteer mentors at a recent breakfast we hosted in their honor. And, I was excited to have brought together more than 40 faith organizations earlier this year as we look for more ways to work together to better serve families in need.

It was a delight to bring back our golf outing last year, after a decade-long hiatus. We’ll be back on the links again at Old Orchard Country Club, Mt. Prospect, on Wednesday, June 7, so save the date! My first Giving Hope event, back in October, really did feel like a “homecoming.” It reminded me of a reunion, and it was great to see long-time supporters networking with new ones, coming together while all being moved by Mom J and her powerful story. And wasn’t our live auction exciting? Save the date for this year’s Giving Hope, on October 15!

Remaining alert to changing needs

As we continue to celebrate our 20th anniversary year throughout 2023, we must be ever mindful of the need to not only reflect on our accomplishments but also remain alert to the changing needs of our clients, adapting to serve them to the best of our abilities. I look forward to the year ahead and am confident that while we will continue to face challenges, we will work collaboratively, further developing relationships and partnerships to best serve the low-income families who live and work among us.

Thank you again for your continued support! I welcome the opportunity to meet with anyone who would like to learn more and engage with FamilyForward. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at


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