Our Story

Friends of the Children - Chicago

Over the last few years, local and national media attention about Chicago has been about gun violence and gangs. Challenging that narrative, a group of concerned citizens came together around the belief that with the right support, every child can achieve greatness.

Bringing Friends of the Children to Chicago started as a whimsical dream. However, through their passion, persistence and commitment, our early champions obtained the enthusiastic support of the Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation, the Steans Foundation, the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation and many other individuals deeply invested in the children who need it most. Launched in January 2018, Friends of the Children - Chicago is proud to serve children in the Austin and North Lawndale communities.

Our Values

Our values guide us to achieve our mission. Each value applies not only to our youth, Friends, and program teams, but also applies to all Friends of the Children employees, volunteers, and partners. We use our values to make informed decisions; to hire, coach, and manage; and most importantly, we use our values to change the way the world treats and views our most vulnerable youth.

Put Children First

We intentionally serve youth who are facing the greatest obstacles. To help our youth discover their limitless potential, we foster their internal resiliency. We listen to our youth and base decisions on each youth’s needs and dreams. We prioritize self-care so that we bring our best selves to our work and focus on our youth.

Build Relationships on Love

We nurture long-term relationships from a foundation of love, acceptance, and culturally-informed practice. We don’t give up easily, and take a no matter what approach to our work. We commit for the long-term. We intentionally develop collaborative relationships over time with trust, empathy, and healthy communication. We believe that we build community through one-on-one connections that are authentic, respectful, and meaningful.

Commit to Empowerment

We leverage personal strengths to take ownership of our futures. We build relationships within the communities of our youth and families to strengthen social networks and provide bridges to new opportunities. We consistently inspire possibility through empathy, hard work, and fun. We model all of this for our youth, families and each other.

Pursue Goals Relentlessly

We celebrate all achievements, big and small. We are disciplined in our commitment to goals, while innovative in how we reach them. We believe that the definition of success requires intentional reflection and adjustment over time. We work together and hold ourselves accountable with data to achieve short and long-term outcomes.

Demand Equity

We acknowledge the historical and present injustices impacting marginalized communities. We demand equity from ourselves and from our community. We insist that all people have the necessary support to achieve all of their hopes and dreams. We amplify the voices of our children, families, and communities. We bring together different experiences, skills, and backgrounds to provide opportunities to overcome personal, systemic, and institutional barriers.


Taal Hasak-Lowy

Executive Director

Seth El-Jamal

Program Director

Leslie Levy

Director of Operations

Yvonne Judice

Director of Development and Marketing

Felix Kombwa

Professional Mentor

Melanie Adams

Professional Mentor

Phalon Carpenter

Professional Mentor

Chanel Dotson

Professional Mentor

Luckson Emmanuel

Professional Mentor

Keenan Palmer

Professional Mentor

Maurice Washington

Professional Mentor


Tom Abrahamson

Board Chair

Executive Counsel, Lipman Hearne

Oak Park, IL

Linda Filler

Vice Chair

President – Retail (Retired), Walgreens

Northfield, IL

Jeannie Affelder


Actor & Philanthropist

Oak Park, IL

Ruth McLaren

Senior Vice President, Community Bank of Oak Park and River Forest

La Grange Park, IL

Larry Ettner

Professor of Management Practice, Atkinson School of Management, Willamette University

Salem, OR

Elayne Granger

Director External & Legislative Affairs, AT&T

Chicago, IL

Jackie Hairston


Chicago, IL

Sheila Harris


River Forest, IL

Kristina Mourlot

Director, Vista Equity Partners

Chicago, IL

Bart Moy

Area Coordinator, Chicago Police Department

Chicago, IL

Aletra Nicholson

Director, Social Solutions Global

Oak Park, IL

Cara Pavlicek


Village Manager, Village of Oak Park

Oak Park, IL

Darnell Shields

Executive Director, Austin Coming Together

Chicago, IL

Jason Stiehl

Partner, Loeb & Loeb LLP

Chicago, IL

Kirstin Wells

Economist, Federal Reserve Board

River Forest, IL

Julie Wilen

Executive Director, Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation

Chicago, IL

Stacey Williams


River Forest, IL


Friends of the Children is committed to the communities we serve, to equal employment opportunity, and to diversity in our workplace.

We do not currently have any job openings.