Ann C. Sickon, Executive Director
Ann, who joined Center for Independent Futures in 2012, has an adult sibling and a child with disabilities. Building a career combining health, business, and law, she has worked in hospital research, community health nursing, and starting and managing healthcare businesses. Ann’s health law practice focused on merger and acquisitions and healthcare management issues. Ann earned her J.D. from Loyola University School of Law, her Nursing Diploma from Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing and her Bachelor of Science degree in healthcare administration from University of Michigan-Flint. She remains active with multiple charities, primarily focused on children and services for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Erika Wade, Director of Operations
Erika joined Center for Independent Futures as a passionate advocate for community service. She has more than 20 years of experience working in non-profit accounting and finance for organizations such as Union League Boys & Girls Clubs, Action for Children, and Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.). She received her M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix and B.A. in Accounting from National Louis University in Chicago. With her extensive financial background, Erika brings prolific, sustainable solutions to our mission and purpose. Erika is a devoted mother of three grown children and one teenager. In her spare time, binge-watching reality TV is her reward for long hours of studying and working.
Niki Moe, Director of Development
Niki received her B.A. from Eastern Illinois University in marketing and worked for the Disney Corporation for more than a decade in marketing, sales, and special events. After taking time to raise her children and volunteer at multiple non-profits and schools, Niki joined Center for Independent Futures, where she leads fundraising efforts and plans a variety of events. Since joining Center for Independent Futures, Niki has been inspired to continue her education at Northwestern University in Strategic Leadership in the Nonprofit Sector.
Gerilyn Miller-Brown, Development Manager of Grants & Foundations
Gerilyn received her M.S.W. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. She began her career in geriatrics and has many years of experience in project management, research, grant writing, and program development and evaluation. Having a child with a disability has involved her in work with organizations, boards, and commissions that serve individuals with disabilities and has brought her to Center for Independent Futures, where her role includes grant research, grant writing and reporting, and foundation relations.
Christina Gatechair, Finance & HR Coordinator
Christina has over 15 years experience in accounting & human resources. She obtained her Master’s degree in Business Administration from Robert Morris University Illinois, with a concentration in Human Resources Management. Before joining Center for Independent Futures, she served as an HR/General Manager in the Health Care Industry for over 5 years. Christina has also recently obtained her certification as a Life Coach. She enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Connor Larsen, Marketing and Development Assistant
Connor graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a B.A. in communication arts, political science, and history. Before joining Center for Independent Futures, she volunteered her social media expertise for political campaigns and service groups in Seattle. Responsible for content creation and supporting development, Connor is dedicated to creating lasting change through sustainable solutions.
Pat Finnell, Office Administrator
Pat brings her years of experience in the corporate world to the administrative duties at Center for Independent Futures. Her career includes sales and marketing positions, primarily within the software industry. After moving back to the Midwest from New York City, Pat is enjoying learning about the Evanston community.
Claudia Quijada, Office Administrator
Claudia is a bilingual professional (Spanish-English) who brings years of experience in the Government and Educational sectors. She has worked for the Consulate of El Salvador in Houston, Texas, and Northwestern University. Claudia holds a B.A. in Law from UCA-El Salvador and an M.B.A. with a project management concentration. Her experience providing consular services and her bilingual skills will contribute to improving our services to Spanish-speaking families.
Jacqueline Eddy, Director of New Futures Initiative Training & Consultation Services
Jackie has worked with Center for Independent Futures since 2002 in marketing communications, product development, and training. Jackie holds a B.A. in Art from St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and an M.B.A. from Northeastern University in Boston. She brings her experience in general management, marketing, and training positions to her work with Center for Independent Futures.
Chrissy Dale, Director of My Full Life Product Development & Consultation Services
Chrissy began her career in sales and marketing before pursuing a master’s degree in education in 2001. She gained experience as a teacher, case manager, and guidance counselor in Chicago Public Schools while receiving a master’s degree in counseling. After transitioning into the non-profit sector, Chrissy joined Center for Independent Futures to advocate for educational access and resources for students with disabilities.
Marney Orchard, School and Agency Consultant
Marney graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in media studies. She worked in media sales as well as non-profit fundraising and marketing, and later followed her passion for teaching by pursuing a master’s degree in education from DePaul University. Before joining Center for Independent Futures, Marney taught middle school social studies and thrived on the energy of the school environment. As a member of the School Consultation Staff, she is excited to bring person-centered planning to as many classrooms as possible.
Sharon Purdy, School and Agency Consultant
Sharon holds a Bachelor of Science in Special Education with an endorsement in grades K through post-high school. After completing a full teaching career, Sharon joined Center for Independent Futures first as a volunteer. Today, as a member of the School Consultation Staff, Sharon supports individuals in school settings.
Kathleen L. Lyons, Project Director
Kathy combines experience in business, law, and education with a passion for social justice. She leads the Change Champions Project which provides organizations with tools to create more inclusive environments. Previously the Executive Director of the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, Kathy has also worked at the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and as an employment lawyer in private practice. As a parent of a son with disabilities, Kathy has worked with the Illinois State Board of Education and with Evanston schools since 1999. Kathy received her J.D. degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and her Bachelors of Business Administration (B.B.A) from the University of Michigan.
Megan Madigan, Program Director
Megan received her B.A. in Political Science from Loyola University in Chicago in 2008. Her background in childcare provided her with the opportunity to work with children with disabilities, sparking her interest in working with older individuals with disabilities and their families. Megan joined Center for Independent Futures in 2009 as a Life Skills Tutor and now oversees all programming, ensuring that each individual gets the support they need.
Margaret Tanenberg, Director of Family Connections & Community Resources
Margaret began her career working many years as a psychiatric social worker in an outpatient community mental health center. When her son was diagnosed with a disability, her focus shifted to advocating for and working with children and adults with disabilities in many settings as well as informing legislators about disability issues. Holding both a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Master of Social Work from the University of Illinois along with L.S.W. and A.C.S.W certifications, Margaret has been affiliated with Center for Independent Futures from its inception.
Jeff Morthorst, Activities Director & Community Life Coordinator
Jeff began working at Center for Independent Futures in 2007 as a Personal Assistant and Life Skills Tutor, using his background as a Certified Nurse Assistant to support individuals with disabilities in reaching their health-related goals. For the last 11 years, he has served as Community Life Coordinator for one of our Community Living Options. As Activities Director, Jeff coordinates the monthly calendar of social, cultural, and physical activities that build connections in the community.
Rob Larson, Community Life Coordinator & Life Skills Tutor
Rob graduated from Bethel University in Minnesota with a B.A. in Fine Arts and has been working with families and people with disabilities since 2005. Rob supports individuals through Skills Training and coordinates services for residents in the Chicago Avenue and Harrison Street Community Living Option communities.
Cynthia Witherspoon, Community Life Coordinator & My Full Life Consultant
Cynthia joined Center for Independent Futures in 2007 and brings more than 20 years of educational experience to her work as a Community Life Coordinator and a My Full Life Consultant. She holds both a B.S. and an M.S. in Special Education and taught in multi-categorical classrooms where she worked with middle and high school students with a wide range of abilities. Cynthia currently serves as the Community Life Coordinator of one of our Community Living Options, and as a My Full Life Consultant provides both tutoring to individuals and training to new consultants with our Skills Inventory and Planning Process. Cynthia brings a passion for creating innovative educational opportunities and effective management systems to her work with individuals, students, and service providers.
Jamie Annenberg, Life Skills Tutor & Volunteer Coordinator
Jamie graduated from American University in Washington, DC, and began working in the corporate event industry, eventually owning and then selling her own company. She went back to school while her children were in high school to pursue a Masters in Special Education from Northeastern University. She launched her new career at a Transition Program on the North Shore helping young adults become more independent before joining Center for Independent Futures in 2014. Working as a life skills tutor, skills inventory consultant, and volunteer coordinator, Jamie enjoys all her roles and feels grateful every day to work with so many wonderful people.
DeeDee Block Goldman, Life Skills Tutor
DeeDee earned her Masters in Social Work from Loyola University in Chicago and worked as a therapist with young adults and families for many years. After taking time off to raise her two daughters, she re-entered the workforce as a life coach and has been with Center for Independent Futures since 2011. This work sparked her interest in supporting adults to achieve their dreams. Working as a life skills tutor and skills inventory consultant, DeeDee is passionate about supporting individuals with disabilities to live full and independent lives.
Jake Rohde, Life Skills Tutor & My Full Life Consultant
Born in Chicago and raised in Evanston, Jake has dedicated himself to giving back to his community. After earning a degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, he began volunteering at Evanston Township High School, where he served as an assistant football coach for over eight years. For the past several years, Jake has supported Center for Independent Futures participants in creating personal goals to live full and independent lives.