We are thrilled to welcome Erica Chianelli as the new executive director of FamilyForward.
Erica Chianelli has joined FamilyForward as our new executive director! We are thrilled to welcome Erica and work alongside her, and we want you to get to know her, too. For starters, Erica is one busy person. In addition to her primary role with FamilyForward, she consults and does marketing work for two other organizations. Erica also has an active volunteer life, in addition to being involved in the activities of her three children. Married to Todd, their family lives in Arlington Heights.
Erica has an abundance of energy and passion for helping others. She has been involved in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years in organization management, program management, and as a volunteer. “My Jesuit education at Loyola University Chicago helped pave the way toward a career focused on helping others and giving back to my community in a meaningful way.” She is passionate about the importance of financial education but understands “there are many factors (not just financial) that contribute to a family’s instability.” She helped write a financial education curriculum, “Faith and Finances,” at her first job out of college and remains involved in advocating for financial education.
Erica has previously served as executive director for three other nonprofit organizations, gaining experience in a variety of fields, with a variety of boards, and within a variety of service areas.
Drawn toward serving in her own community
When Erica learned FamilyForward was searching for a new executive director, she was immediately drawn to the idea of making an impact working in her own community. “FamilyForward’s mission of supporting low-income families on their path to self-sufficiency is something that truly resonated with me.”
She was already aware of FamilyForward through her involvement in a women’s small group at her church. Each year at Christmastime, the group sponsors a family by providing gift cards. Erica saw the ability to serve with staff, the board and other volunteers — working together to make a tangible difference in the community — as a meaningful opportunity for personal and professional fulfillment. Not to mention, “the idea of walking to the office in my own community was a definite benefit!”
Beyond this fulfillment, Erica saw something exceptional about FamilyForward. She loves that “FamilyForward transforms lives by working with families for years, to truly empower them on their path toward financial stability and independence. We are not about funneling people in and out. We invest in our clients not only with financial rent support, but through our time — with professional case managers and trained volunteer mentors. The mentoring aspect of our program is unique. We meet with clients weekly when it’s convenient for them, offering them stable, consistent support.”
Erica feels that the greatest impact FamilyForward has on the community is that “we support working families: families who we all live with and work with, whether we realize it or not. We are empowering families so they can be financially stable and independent, which makes them more engaged and active members of the greater community.”
Witnessing true change
As she settles into her new role, Erica is looking forward to witnessing “true change in the well-being of our clients — not just financially, but socially and emotionally as well. The little steps that may not have been possible before, may be possible after being part of our program. Something that may seem so minor could actually be the start of something much greater in a person’s life. That’s transformative.”
She adds, “FamilyForward has reiterated to me in the short time that I have been here that you cannot judge a book by its cover. Life is hard and complicated. You never know what someone else is going through. Your friend, your neighbor, your co-worker, could all be experiencing truly tough times that you may not begin to fully comprehend. We all just need to show more compassion, and not take anything for granted.”
Erica is excited to serve at FamilyForward. “While I am constantly learning, I’m confident my experience will enable me to lead FamilyForward and build on its legacy previously established through the great work of my predecessors.”