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Board Member Spotlight: Sarah Orleans

sarah-orleans-photoHaving spent the last 20 years of her career as the executive director of 3 children’s museums, including the current president and CEO of the DuPage Children’s Museum, Sarah Orleans has seen first-hand the power of the parent-child learning partnership. Through her role with the DuPage Children’s Museum, she was introduced to Project HELP as the museum partnered with us to support parents as they navigate these critical first years of a child’s life.

“New to Illinois, I have been looking for an opportunity to serve on a board of a non-profit dedicated to supporting families in our region,” Sarah noted. “Project HELP met all my criteria: exceptional staff; strong leadership; and a research-based program with positive results and data driven outcomes.”

Sarah is also involved in our parent mentoring program. She has noted that it is a great fit for her and she is able to see the results of her volunteer efforts on a weekly basis. “I am very grateful to be a part of this organization and look forward to sharing my skills in finance, organizational and fund development, as well as strategic planning, to my new role as Board Member.”

Board Member Spotlight: Kari Burg

As the chairperson for the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Women In Business (WIB) committee, Kari was part of the team that decided to ‘adopt’ Project Help as their charity in 2015. Prior to that time, she didn’t know anything about them. Her first exposure was when she learned about the parent mentor program at one of the WIB meetings when one of our parent mentors, Neil Samuels, spoke about the program to the attendees.

Several months later, Kari wanted to get more involved personally with a charity and followed up with Project HELP to see if she could participate in the parent mentorship program. She took the mentorship training class that is required of all parent mentors and was assigned a family in October 2015, which she is still mentoring. “Although I had initial trepidation about my qualifications to be a parent mentor, like ‘do I have the skills, will I be able to help, I’ve never done this before, I want to do a good job,’ I realized once I started talking with my family that the leadership and organizational development skills that I had learned throughout my career helped me in guiding and leading this family in good parenting skills,” Kari noted.  “Plus just being a parent myself and having gone through some trials and tribulations of my own raising a daughter as a single parent helped me to connect.”

Since Kari was no longer the chairperson for WIB in 2016, she reached out again to see if she could get more involved in a leadership capacity since she had more to give, including her time. After talking with existing board members, who are also parent mentors, she knew how much our board members really care about Project HELP, the families we serve and the community. “I wanted to be a part of that and knew I could help the organization further expand it’s mission,” Kari noted.

Please help us welcome Kari Burg to Project HELP’s Board of Directors!

Board Member Spotlight: Susan Fritz

Susan Fritz1Susan is committed to the mission of Project HELP because she knows it makes a difference in the lives of families.  “Parenting is one of life’s greatest challenges, no matter what your life circumstance, and I believe in our mission to support parents, strengthen families and hold precious a child’s life,” said Susan.

With over 25 years of experience in non-profit management and resource development, she is excited to serve on the Project HELP board to help raise necessary resources to reach more families in need.  She is a graduate of North Central College / Naperville and has worked for a number a number of local non-profit organizations including the Naperville United Way, Little Friends, and Marklund Children’s Home.  Susan hopes to lend her knowledge and experience to meeting the needs in our community.

Frank Mallinder: Passionate About Getting Involved


FRANK MALLINDER_cropHaving been a member of the Exchange Club for over a decade and a past president, Frank Mallinder believes wholeheartedly in Project HELP’s mission. He knew Chris Tomczak, a prior Project HELP board president, and had seen her passion for the organization. When he was asked to join the board, he couldn’t refuse.

“Being on Project HELP’s board is a natural extension of my involvement in the community and is part of my way of giving back,” said Frank. “Project HELP has allowed me to do things I really enjoy: interact with talented, giving people; think and act strategically; and contribute to enriching the lives of people who are struggling.”

Frank has observed that it makes a huge difference to a non-profit organization when it has an executive director with unlimited energy and passion for what she does and lots of talent, like he has seen at Project HELP. He also noted that he has learned a great deal about the magnitude of the need for Project HELP’s services in the community.

“Project HELP does so much for families in need. I am amazed at all of the little things that the organization does to help these families. I would love to see us grow our funding so that we can expand the reach of our services. It is vital to the community!”

Christine Tomczak: Longtime Board Member and President to Retire

One of the constants of the Project HELP board for over 20 years has been Christine Tomczak and we are sad to say that she has decided to retire after so many years of dedicated service.

Over the years Christine has seen many changes within Project HELP. She started as a volunteer for the Exchange Club in 1989 and then joined Project HELP’s Board of Directors. Christine was the 2nd president of the board up until 3 years ago after personally being requested to serve by the first board president, Ann Marie Siwik.

One of Christine’s first changes as board president was to reduce its size from 18 to approximately 9 members, making it more effective and easier to manage. Throughout her years with Project HELP, she has seen an increase the number of parent mentors and families being served. Originally the organization only offered parent mentoring services, but she has seen those services expand to also offer parent education classes that are so beneficial to families.

When asked why she volunteered her time for so many years, Christine said, “I am dedicated to the Project HELP board because I love the programs we offer. I am so happy to see how many families we have helped over the years.”

When asked what qualities made the best volunteer, whether as a mentor or a board member she said, “It’s someone who has a true love for helping people and children. There are many not-for-profits in the area offering many services, but someone who has a heart in the area of helping children directly would prove to be an excellent volunteer for the organization.”  She also noted, “There are many ways someone can volunteer for Project HELP – as a board member, assisting in fundraising activities, or helping with marketing for the organization.”

Although Christine is retiring from the board, she plans to keep busy with travel and just “trying to keep up with 7 grandchildren.”

Project HELP would like to offer sincere thanks to Christine for her many years of service to the organization and wishes her the best in the new chapter of her life.

Mike Shumaker: From Volunteer to Board Member

Mike_ShumakerWe are pleased to introduce you to one of Project HELP’s newest board members, Mike Shumaker.

Mike started with Project HELP a few years ago as a volunteer for the Jazz Fest fundraiser. He was impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment exhibited by other members of the organization. “The mission of Project HELP resonates very strongly among everyone involved and I am honored to be a part of such a dedicated team,” said Mike. “Joining the board of directors has offered me the opportunity to increase my involvement within the organization, strengthen my professional skill set, and give back to the community as a whole.”

We are glad to have Mike’s vision and enthusiasm on the Board.

Mike obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from Benedictine University and is in the process of obtaining his Masters of Business Administration.  He has been a Sales Manager at the Matt Soergel State Farm Insurance Agency in Darien, IL for the past two years.  He also operates a fishing guide service on the Fox River.

Welcome Peggy McGuire!

Peg's headshotAll of us at Project HELP are thrilled to announce the selection of Peggy McGuire as our new Executive Director!

“We are very pleased to have Peggy join Project HELP,” said Vicki Coletta, Project HELP Board President.  “Peggy brings a strong understanding of family needs and networks in DuPage County.  Read more