Different backgrounds, common passion

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

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.

 

Image of Cecilia Palma smiling

Cecilia Palma, Interim Finance Director

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.

 

Niki Moe, Director of Development

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 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.

 

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 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.

 

Photo of Cathy Norris, HR Coordinator

Cathy Norris, HR Coordinator

Cathy brings her solid human resources and operations background to Independent Futures. She has worked in a variety of roles including analyst, director, and consultant when she owned and operated her own human resources consulting practice, HR Matters. Cathy’s experienced perspective and first-hand knowledge working for several not-for-profits helps Independent Futures continue to grow while supporting our staff in their work serving our community. 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.

 

Riya Patel, Accounting and Payroll Assistant

Riya Patel, Accounting and Payroll Assistant

Riya comes to Independent Futures with 5 years of accounting experience in both the for-profit and nonprofit industries. Previously, she has worked in tax preparation and bookkeeping under CPAs at Highpoint Advisory Services and under William Kuesel, CPA. Riya is currently attending Purdue University Global and working toward her Bachelors degree in accounting.

 

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.

 

Jamie Annenberg, Life Skills Tutor & Volunteer Coordinator

Jamie Annenberg, 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 volunteer coordinator, Jamie enjoys her role and feels grateful every day to work with so many wonderful people.

 

Amy Fox, Senior Managing Director of Consultation Services

Amy Fox, Senior Managing Director of Consultation Services

Amy is an innovative and experienced leader with a successful history in education, healthcare, and nonprofit engagement. She has worked in a variety of consulting and strategic positions to create consensus, innovative initiatives, education, and strategic direction. Fox has long been connected to children and adults with varying abilities through teaching therapeutic riding and creating educational curriculum platforms, and is also a parent to a phenomenal child with Down Syndrome. She loves achieving results through active collaboration with private and public partners and finding solutions to complex problems. Her work in education has been recognized by the Florida Surgeon General, Maria Shriver, Illinois House of Congress, NPR, and TIME Magazine. She holds a BA from Michigan State University in English and a minor in Economics.

 

Kathleen L. Lyons, Project Director

Kathleen L. Lyons, Director of New Futures Initiative Training & Consultation Services

Kathy combines experience in business, law, and education with a passion for social justice. She works with families and organizations to create inclusive 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.

 

Marney Orchard, School and Agency Consultant

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 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.

 

Megan Madigan, Program Director

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 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 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 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

Cynthia Witherspoon, Director of My Full Life™ Development and Consultation

Cynthia joined Center for Independent Futures in 2007. She earned both a B.S. and M.S. in Special Education and brings more than 20 years of educational experience to her work as a Life Skills Tutor, Community Life Coordinator at three of our Community Living Options, a My Full Life Consultant, and now as the Director of My Full Life Development and Consultation. She provides tutoring to individuals and training to new consultants on our Skills Inventory, Planning Process, and Life Skills Tutoring. Cynthia brings a passion for creating innovative educational opportunities and effective management systems to her work with individuals, students, and services providers.

 

DeeDee Block Goldman, Life Skills Coach

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.

 

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