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We provide help and hope for low-income families.

We are professionals, community leaders and volunteers dedicated to assisting underserved local families. We are committed to finding and connecting resources to build confidence, self-sufficiency and financial well-being in families.

Meet Our Staff

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Erica Chianelli, Executive Director

Erica leverages more than 20 years of nonprofit leadership experience and service as she leads efforts to strengthen and empower low-income, working families at FamilyForward. Erica came to FamilyForward in December 2021, bringing strong interpersonal and communication skills and focused energy and passion for making a difference in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. She believes the important work of FamilyForward has a ripple effect across neighborhoods as families learn and grow and become self-sufficient, contributing to the well-being of the greater community at large.

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Sarah Harte, Program Manager

Sarah joined FamilyForward in May 2018. Her work experience includes Special Olympics, adult day services for people with dementia, and hospital-based day rehabilitation. She holds a master's degree in social service administration and she has volunteered at several social service organizations in Arlington Heights.

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Pam Van De Walle, Case Manager

Pam has worked with students at the Special Education District of Lake County (SEDOL), seniors in residential and home settings, and currently with the families of FamilyForward. During her time as a case manager at FamilyForward, she believes she has been educated, challenged and inspired to advocate for neighbors who are in need of not only financial mentoring, but guidance and support in their everyday lives.

Board of Directors and Committees


Tim Wayman, Chair

Retired business owner

Greg Ford, Vice Chair

Retired assistant manager for the Village of Arlington Heights

 Chris Farnsworth, Corresponding Secretary

Retired sales and forecasting coordinator

Donna Anderson, Recording Secretary

Educator and former chair of FamilyForward, formerly known as Faith Community Homes

Tina Richards, Treasurer

Ex-American Red Cross instructor; community volunteer; ex-financial analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

John Sonderegger

Board Member Emeritus

Retired International Minerals & Chemical Corporation executive; former chair and board member, Northwest Community Hospital Foundation


Paul Cochran

Retired actuary

Jane Drezen

Vice President at Village Bank and Trust, Arlington Heights

Steven Gaus

Business Development Director, Palatine Chamber of Commerce

Jim Mayer

Retired Kohler Company executive

Courtney T. Podkowa

Attorney at Drost Kivlahan McMahon & O’Connor (DKMO) law firm

Becky Reel

Founder, Reel Home Care Consulting 

Claudia Starck

Arlington Heights realtor

Jennifer Strimling

Retired AT&T director

Chet Tambe

CEO, Avion Technology, Inc.

Lou Walton

Community activist


FamilyForward has five standing committees comprising board members and volunteers from the community. Contact us if you are interested in serving! 


Greg Ford, Chair

Monitors low-income housing availability in our community and advocates with local government and others for additional affordable housing.


Tina Richards, Chair

Reviews our financial position regularly and develops the operating budget for the fiscal year. This committee also engages an outside accountant for an annual review.

Fund Development

Jane Drezen, Chair

Plans and organizes annual events, sends a yearly appeal letter and seeks out new and innovative ways to raise funds.

Marketing and Communications

Chris Farnsworth & Kris Mainellis,* Co-Chairs

Plans and organizes newsletters and curates website, social media, marketing and branding material.


Jen Strimling & Jim Mayer, Co-Chairs​

Works to establish and maintain relations with stakeholders such as churches, service clubs, local government bodies, chambers of commerce and local businesses.

* Non-FF Board member​​

Advisory Board


Becky Reel

Courtney T. Podkowa


Lisa Ballotti 

Marketing Consultant

Janelle Brown

EHSFP Manager, Northrop Grumman

Celeste Cecchi

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Trainer & Consultant, Mosaic Consulting Service

Michael DeMeyer

Food Drive Coordinator,

Faith Feeds

Siddharth (Sid) Doshi

Solutions Architect, Avion Technology, Inc.

Kerri Grabowski 

Real Estate Broker, The Ortman Group, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Starck Real Estate

Rebecca Haltman

Real Estate Agent, Compass

Josephine Hamel

Attorney, Drost Kivlahan McMahon & O’Connor, LLC

Heather McCollum

Attorney, Lavelle Law

Amy Neumann

HR Executive, Royal Power Solutions

Brian O'Hara

Financial Analyst, Grainger

Paul Ohlson

Corporate Training Coordinator,

Elgin Community College

Dr. Tunde Olatunji

 Chiropractor, Olatunji Chiropractor

Sandy Saikumar

Internal Audit Analyst, AbbVie


Laurie Thomson

Vice President & Controller, Grainger

Vlad Vakher

Assistant Branch Manager,

Village Bank & Trust

Sara Vasilev

LCSW, LifeChoice Hospice

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