Allissa Hall is the Executive Director and Founder of the Family Communications Centers, a nonprofit, 501(C)3, organization working to enrich the lives of children, youth and families by providing a safe, conflict-free environment; promoting positive parenting, healthy individuals and communities. Formerly, Alissa was the Executive Director of the Springfield Community Federation (SCF). UAct and FCC are formally partnered and work together to advance each organization‚ mission. Allissa is an active leader of REAP and FCC hosts its monthly meetings.
DeAndre Neal has been working under contract with UAct since 2015 to help advance UAct/REAP initiatives. Currently, he is a Neighborhood Outreach Worker for UAct‚ Smart Neighborhoods Campaign and an active member of REAP. DeAndre began his community work in Springfield in 2010, working as a case manager and class facilitator for the Springfield Urban League. In 2015, DeAndre Neal was the Program Manager for the Springfield Community Federation (SCF) in Brandon Court where he helped develop their Community Health Connections Initiative. He supervised the program‚ Community Health Workers and served as a trained Community Health Worker. While at SCF, DeAndre also oversaw a pilot project with Dr. Dave Steward from SIU School of Medicine that delivered health screenings for 78 homeless individuals and provided project coordination for an asthma pilot project with St. John‚ Hospital. In partnership with SIU Department of Medicine, UAct and DeAndre worked again with Dr. Dave Steward to plan and conduct a program to help medical school residents better serve low-income and minority populations. In 2019, DeAndre Neal also began assisting The Outlet as a mentor for troubled youth.
Rebecca Luke provides staff support to the Urban Action Network including project management assistance, coordinating events and public relations. She manages Urban Action Network’s web page and social media presence online. Rebecca has worked with our partners to use audio, video, graphic design and photography to educate the public and share stories to encourage investment in building strong community leaders. Rebecca has served in a variety of leadership and development roles with both urban and rural community groups including the University of Illinois Extension 4-H Program, the Illinois Innocence Project, and Sojourn Shelters.
Sam Johnson is a trusted supporter of UAct and an active member of REAP. He was a facilitator for REAP engagement sessions in 2017 and assists UAct in the exploration of community development strategies for East Springfield. Sam is a technology entrepreneur and community activist with strong ties to Springfield. A graduate of Springfield High School, Spoon River Community College and Lemoyne-Owen University, he is the owner of Pryority Tax Service in Memphis and CEO of The Keep It 200 Network. Sam is a proud father of one and continues to actively mentor youth in the community.
Aaron Pinkston-EL is a Neighborhood Outreach Worker for UAct‚ Smart Neighborhood Campaign in Springfield, Illinois. Aaron is also an active member of REAP. He serves as the lead member for its beautification efforts and is a member of UAct‚ new Quality Housing Coalition. Over the last five years, Aaron has been notably engaged in various community projects. In 2014, Aaron Pinkston-EL volunteered for the Springfield Urban League‚ anti-violence program Cease Fire. In 2015, he worked as Community Health Worker for the Springfield Community Federation where his tasks included assisting the homeless obtain identification and connect with a primary care physician. He also provided them with transportation to medical appointments and general social service needs. Aaron Pinkston-El is an advocate for the Springfield Police Department‚ Focused Deterrence program which is designed to reduce gun violence in the community. In 2018 Aaron was honored by the Faith Coalition for the Common Good for his work as chairman of their Restorative Justice Task Force.
Ashley Stapleton is a local activist who serves as a member of UAct’s Resident Engagement Action Project (REAP). She enjoys using her talents to engage with neighbors and address issues in her community.
Bill McMahon brings a wealth of experience to UAct and is an active member of REAP. Bill is a 17-year veteran in workforce and economic development. He spent ten years as an Assistant Commissioner for Workforce Development for the City of Chicago, where he focused on saving and strengthening Illinois’ manufacturing base. He helped found the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council, an ambitious public/private partnership which reformed the city college system, set up the first manufacturing high school ‚Äì Austin Polytech ‚Äì and created ManufacturingWorks ‚Äì the first manufacturing One Stop in the Midwest. Bill has also served on the board of the Independent Voters of Illinois/Independent Precinct Organization in Chicago and was recently Executive Director of Local First Springfield ‚Äì a +300 member alliance of local, independent businesses, non-profits and individual citizens who came together to build vitality in the Springfield economy by emphasizing the importance of patronizing local, independent businesses.
Sara Jacobs is an active member of REAP. She assists with organizing events and acts as a liaison with area leaders. Sara recently completed her Master’s in Oral History and has a keen interest in preserving and telling the stories of activists. She skillfully conducted interviews of local activists involved with UAct and artfully presented their stories in short audio clips and full-length interviews. See UAct’s Oral History Page to listen.
Donna Lomelino is the Outreach Director for the Inner City Mission in Springfield and has worked with people who are homeless for 9 years. She also works as a Community Health Worker with the SIU Enos Park Collaborative. Donna has her Bachelor‚ Degree in Human Services and is a graduate of Lincoln Christian University.
Marcia Dean has been involved in community development for over 25 years. After a successful career advocating for low-income housing in Chicago, she moved to Springfield to continue her education at the University of Illinois Springfield. Marcia is currently working on a project with Faith Ministries International to provide a jobs program outfitting shipping container homes for low and moderate income families.
Steven Black is a lead partner with UAct on the Quality Housing Coalition and, as a founder of Friends of Transit , helped facilitate the partnership that led to the SMTD rider satisfaction survey project conducted by UAct’s Neighborhood Outreach Workers. Furthermore, Steven is a trusted advisor of UAct and was a content contributor to the website when it was launched. Steven is an undergraduate student of Environmental Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield, with a concentration in sustainable urban development. Steven‚ interests are sustainable transportation systems and walkable design. A Springfield native, in 2009 Steven lived in Halifax, Canada, to study public transportation planning while on a one-year, independent work/study program. Steven has also served as a student intern for the Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) and member of the Springfield Area Transportation Study (SATS) Citizens Advisory Committee. Prior to SDAT, he helped organize a successful campaign for evening bus service in Springfield. Additionally, he owns and operates a small commercial cleaning enterprise, specializing in sustainable custodial techniques.
John Farrell was UAct’s first champion and is a trusted advisor. UAct and John worked together to promote the Midwest Inland Port and its potential for Springfield development. He helped make the connection to IFF for UAct which blossomed into a relationship promoting affordable housing alternatives for Springfield. John is the Chief Executive Officer of Illinois Ventures for Community Action (IVCA) headquartered in Springfield, IL and serves on the boards of various state and local organizations including: Illinois State Micro-Enterprise Initiative and UIS School of Business Advisory Board.
Rev. Johnson is the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church and CEO of the Nehemiah Expansion Project. Rev. Johnson has been an important contributor to the East Springfield community for many years. He currently serves as co-chair of the Eastside Community Foundation, member of the Mayor’s Homelessness Task Force and member of the Safety Committee for City Water, Light and Power.
Tom Hughes is a well-known and highly respected figure in Illinois‚Äô state government and politics and throughout the public health community. Through UAct, Tom has committed to helping support the Springfield Community Federation in their development of the Community Health Worker program. Tom currently serves as the Executive Director of the Illinois Public Health Association. Prior to his move to the IPHA, he worked for the Illinois House of Representatives where he staffed the Executive Committee, Labor and Commerce Committee and managed appropriation and budget legislation. As Deputy Director of the Office of Health Protection at the Illinois Department of Public Health. Tom oversaw the operations of the three Illinois State laboratories, the Division of Food, Drugs and Dairy, Environmental Health and Infectious Diseases sections. During his tenure he dealt with the emergence of West Nile Virus, training for emergency response after 2011 and improved the emergency response of his office for natural and manmade disasters.
Wynne Coplea is an active partner with UAct and helped create and develop the Sustain Springfield Green Map. She is now leading our efforts to promote the map throughout the community. Wynne worked for over 20 years in recycling and recycling education at several levels of government. She has consulted as developer of the environmental education plan for Erin‚ Pavilion/Southwind Park, facilitated board leadership retreats, developed online curriculum for Sustainable Resource Management, and taught Environmental Education at the University of Illinois Springfield. She currently serves on the advisory board of the IL Green Business Association and as Past-President of the IL Recycling Association. Holding a B.A. in Liberal Arts/Environmental Education and M.A. in Communication, Wynne started i2ipartners.net, a consulting business providing assistance with the development of “green teams” and sustainability efforts for small business and non-profit organizations.
Julie is the long-time Director of Workforce Development at Lincoln Land Community College where she also developed and oversaw their Green Center. She partnered with UAct to further develop the Sustain Springfield Green Map and helped secure LLCC support for the project. Julie is retiring from LLCC in 2019 but plans to stay involved in our Sustain Springfield Green Map work group.
Dr. Kemia Sarraf has long been an advocate for healthy communities both privately and professionally. She received her Medical Degree and Master of Public Health at the university of Utah School of Medicine, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine. More than a decade ago she launched genHkids, a successful non-profit public health initiative in Central Illinois. As the founder and president of genHkids, Dr. Sarraf designed numerous evidence-based programs, teaching thousands of children and their grownups to “Eat Real. Move More.” in their schools, communities and homes. Today she continues this work by providing valuable counsel to Urban Action Network’s programs and mentorship of other activists.
Larissa Hansen serves as the Executive Director at genH Kids, a close partner with UAct in advocating for healthy families in Springfield. Larissa is also owner of Targeted Marketing Resources, and is a member of many local organizations, including the Chatham Area Chamber of Commerce, where she serves as a Board Director and Women Entrepreneurs of Central Illinois (WE-CI), where she serves on the board as Membership Chair.
Chris Richmond serves as Springfield’s Fire Marshal and is responsible for the Community Risk Reduction program. His office engages with citizens in an effort to educate families about emergency planning, smoke alarm use and fire safety.
Leslie Sgro serves in the elected office of Springfield Park Board President and has served for twenty-seven consecutive years. Leslie serves on several not for profit boards and is an active volunteer in the community. She has served as trustee of the Mitchell S. Cutler Foundation since its inception, helping to direct funds to organizations that reflect the organization’s mission.
Derek Harms has served as the Executive Director of the Springfield Park District since 2014. He leads the organization and works closely with the Board to advance the District‚ mission. Throughout his career, Harms has managed a wide range of facilities and programs at four Park Districts located in North Eastern and Central Illinois. Harms brings a diverse 19 years of experience in the park and recreation field.
Lynn Saputo is Director of Recreation & Marketing for the Springfield Park District, with responsibility for overall facility management, recreation programming, marketing campaigns, brand management and special events for the District. She has been with the District since 2010. Her Recreation Team includes facility and program managers that comprise over 15 recreational facilities and programmatic areas, but instead she likes to say her team is ‚Äúresponsible for everything FUN at the Park District!‚Äù
Jane Ford is a generous friend of UAct. She provided a grant to support our Neighborhood Outreach Workers efforts to survey Springfield bus riders after SMTD‚ major route restructuring and continues to be engaged in our work. Jane taught school at Little Flower Grade School for 24 years and completed the Diocese of Springfield Lay Ministry Formation Program in social concerns . At retirement in 1996, Jane became a fierce advocate for transportation access in Springfield and is co-founder of Friends of Transit. She is also a local philanthropist having established a fund for quality of life and homelessness issues at Land of Lincoln Community Foundation.
Kristen DiCenso is a good friend of UAct and helped in its inception by developing and maintaining its Facebook page and providing staff support to UAct‚ early initiatives. Kristen currently works as the Development Director for the Illinois Health Care Association and serves as the Ward 6 Alderman on the Springfield City Council. She has a varied background including stints in Hollywood and Chicago before coming home to Springfield and spending 12 years in state government. After her service in state government where she held high-level positions at both the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois department of Transportation, Kristin opened KDD Consulting, a public affairs consulting firm specializing in strategic communications, event management, social media and strategic planning. Kristen’s clients have included the genH Healthy Kids Coalition, the Illinois Council of Convention and Visitors Bureaus, several small transportation events and the Urban Action Network.
Michele Sommers has been involved with UAct from its inception, first as an advisor and then as a team member of the group exploring affordable housing options in Springfield. Michele has over 20 years of consulting, operations, sales, marketing and leadership experience. She is Director of Operations at Square Root Architecture + Design, leading sales and marketing, and has been instrumental in gaining traction with a modular product in the Chicago market. She is passionate about the current state of housing in the United States and presents to various interest groups on the topic of sustainable communities and the critical role quality housing plays in the sustainability mosaic.
Jeff Sommers was also instrumental in helping UAct‚ formation and has served as a member of the affordable housing exploration team. Jeff is the founding principal of Square Root Architecture + Design and a recognized industry leader in sustainable design and prefabricated construction. With his passion for architecture, building science and technology, Jeff set out to define a better way for marrying quality design with high performance and construction efficiency. In 2010, after several years of R&D, Jeff successfully built Chicago‚ first prefab modular, LEED Æ Platinum, residence, known as the C3 Prefab, on the City‚ near Westside. Since then, Jeff has continued to refine his designs and leads the way as a pioneer in urban architecture and construction. His award-winning work has been recognized in many publications, including Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid (foreword by Robert Redford), Green Building & Design Magazine, Inhabitat.com and others. Jeff was recently recognized by the readers and editors of Curbed.com, a renowned design and real estate blog, as 1 of 8 groundbreakers in the field of architecture in the United States.