The Center for Independent Futures staff is made up of dedicated and
diverse individuals who share a commitment to supporting individuals
with disabilities.

Our Staff


Richard Malone, Executive Director

Richard “Dick” Malone most recently served as the President and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. Prior to that, Dick was a senior executive at Tribune Publishing and the Chicago Tribune. A graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, he also holds an M.B.A. from Northwestern University. As a parent of an adult with disabilities, Dick is highly motivated and invested in Center for Independent Futures’ mission.


Cathy Norris, Director of Operations

Cathy brings significant experience in human resources management and operations, working in the past in both for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations. Her work experience includes a variety of roles including VP, HR, Director, and Manager for organizations such as Thresholds, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Leo Burnett Company, and Hewitt Associates. She also owned and operated her own human resources consulting practice, HR Matters. Cathy has an M.B.A. from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management and a B.S in Mathematics from Saint Mary’s College. Cathy’s experienced perspective and first-hand knowledge working for several not-for-profits will help us continue growing. She looks forward to supporting our staff, enhancing the status of Center for Independent Futures as a great place to work, and improving the organization and effectiveness of our operations processes.


Samantha Kolkey, Director of Programs and Services

Samantha (she/her) received her BA in Psychology and Women’s Studies from the University of Michigan, and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois-Chicago. She is a licensed clinical social worker and moved into the field of disability services in 2017 as the Director of Programming with a small nonprofit supporting and empowering disabled young adults and adults in their pursuits of post-secondary academics, employment, and independence. In 2018, she became the executive director of the organization, developing an interest in nonprofit management and team leadership. Within this organization, Samantha developed, implemented, and evaluated a variety of programs and services to add to the repertoire of support offered and improve the already existing programming to ensure better and more sustainable outcomes for those served. Embracing her neurodivergent identity inspires Samantha’s wholehearted approach to her work. Leaning into her personal values of vulnerability, connection, collaboration, and empathy, Samantha believes in approaching everything with compassion and encouraging a growth mindset. Samantha has dedicated her career to supporting and empowering individuals and family systems, as well as inspiring the community and providers to lean into the social model of disability and creating opportunities for everyone to build their own fulfilling life.


Kathleen L. Lyons, Project Director

Kathleen L. Lyons, Director of Community Outreach and Strategy

Kathy combines experience in business, law, and education with a passion for social justice. Through our New Futures Initiative training and consultation services, she works with families and organizations to create new housing solutions and build more inclusive communities. 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 advocate for her son with disabilities, Kathy began work with the Illinois State Board of Education and with Evanston schools more than 20 years ago. Kathy received her JD degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and her Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) from the University of Michigan.


Image of Cecilia Palma smiling

Cecilia Palma, Accounting/Finance Consultant

Cecilia brings more than 25 years in finance management across the non-profit sector. Her diverse background includes oversight within domestic and international non-profits, religious, educational, and health-related organizations. She has successfully managed a variety of system implementations, implementation of robust internal controls, and provided guidance and training to staff on understanding internal financial reports and budgets as they relate to their impact on future strategic decisions. She has effectively managed the coordination of financial audits that were based in the United States and Central America. Cecilia holds a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from National University.


Photo of Joanie Ducayet, Communications and Marketing Manager

Joanie Ducayet, Communications and Marketing Manager

As a proud mother of two adult autistic sons, Joanie joined Center for Independent Futures with a passion for communicating with individuals with disabilities and their families. She began her career in education as a high school teacher and public speaking coach. After raising and advocating for her two sons, she worked in communications for several local nonprofits. She holds degrees from the University of Chicago in English Language and Literature and Columbia University Teachers College in Secondary English Teaching. She currently serves on the board of the Warren “Billy” Cherry Scholarship Fund in Evanston, Illinois.


Rob Larson, Program Manager

Rob Larson, Senior Program Manager

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.


Jeff Morthorst, Activities Director & Community Life Coordinator

Jeff Morthorst, Activities Director & Program Manager

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.


Julie Miller, Life Skills Tutor

Julie Miller, Life Skills Coach

Julie received her Masters of Social Work from Jane Addams School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2021. Being involved with the disability community on a deeply personal level, it has always been her goal to deliver the service to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities that she did not receive. Her work revolves around a person-centered and strengths-based practice, bringing out the participants’ best features to support them in facing whatever challenges may arise.


DeeDee Block Goldman, Life Skills Coach

DeeDee Block Goldman, Life Skills Coach

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.


Marney Orchard, School and Agency Consultant

Marney Orchard, My Full Life™ Product Manager

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.


Molly Bulger, My Full Life™ Consultant

Molly Bulger, My Full Life™ Schools and Agency Consultant

Molly graduated from Butler University with her B.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2019. Since graduating, Molly has worked primarily with adolescents with disabilities. Molly joined the CIF team in 2021, she is now working as a Certification Class Instructor, My Full Life Consultant, and the CIF support person for Evanston Township High School. Molly is extremely passionate about helping people with disabilities achieve their fullest potential.


Pat Finnell, Office Administrator

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.


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