Who we are
Toward the end of 2016, as gun violence in Chicago reached its highest levels in 20 years, a group of Chicago area business, faith, community, non-profit, civic and government leaders met to explore the common question they asked themselves:
Is there more that can be done to address the root causes of the current level of violence we are experiencing?
They realized that though the challenges in Chicago are highly complex and have developed over decades, there are strategic actions that can be taken to create a “collective impact”. Through these conversations, the desire to form a new nonprofit organization grew and Together Chicago was born. We formally launched Together Chicago in the fall of 2017 and are currently engaged in our five areas of focus – economic development, education, violence reduction, gospel justice, and faith community mobilization.
MISSION & VISION
Together Chicago exists to be a catalyst for lasting transformation in the city of Chicago.
Our vision is to renew Chicago, together with churches, businesses, community leaders and government officials to inspire hope within the communities we serve.
FIVE AREAS OF FOCUS
- Support job and business creation in disinvested communities in Chicago
- Help corporations localize their supply chain
- Encourage corporations to open locations in disinvested communities in Chicago
- Support workforce development through partnerships and faith communities
- Develop industrial and commercial real estate
- Build high quality residential housing in urban communities for equity ownership
- Engage churches in educational volunteerism
- Form partnerships with targeted CPS schools, churches and/or relevant non-profits
- Form afterschool mentoring programs
- Improve educational outcomes through endorsement of best practices
- Support churches at the forefront of violence reduction in their community
- Care for victims and families affected
- Partner with leading non-profits that are working to reduce violence
- Convene key community stakeholders for catalytic conversion
- Catalyze the development of local, community-based justice centers in partnership with local churches
- Provide comprehensive legal services at an affordable and reduced cost that aligns with the felt-needs of those within the community
FAITH COMMUNITY MOBILIZATION
- Support rhythms of prayer and partnership throughout the year in tandem with Chicagoland United in Prayer
- Connect communities of faith with opportunities to put prayer into practical action alongside each other in their neighborhoods
Michael Allen is a Co-Founder of Together Chicago and serves as the Chief Strategy Officer. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica and immigrated to Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his family in 1977. In 1986 he became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Early in his professional career, Michael was called into ministry under the leadership of Dr. O.S. Hawkins, First Baptist Church – Ft. Lauderdale (1989). In 1997, Michael served as Assistant Pastor of Urban Outreach and Evangelism at The Moody Church in Chicago, IL . Michael also served as the Associate Pastor at Sagemont Church in Houston, TX (2002).
Michael currently serves as the Senior Pastor at Uptown Baptist Church. He also serves as Vice Chairman of the board of the Pacific Garden Mission.
Michael holds a Masters in Divinity from Trinity International University, a Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Studies from Trinity College – Miami, FL and an Associates in Computer Electronics.
Michael is married to Marilza from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and they have 4 children.
Alvin Bibbs, Sr.
As a child, Alvin Bibbs was pointed out in a crowd by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while at Wayman A.M.E. Church in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood of Chicago. MLK’s words challenged the congregation to take responsibility for cultivating the youth and preserving their community. Alvin clung to those words and has been an advocate for change ever since.
Alvin serves on Together Chicago’s faith community mobilization team as the Community, Faith Engagement Officer and is also the founding President and CEO of The Justice Journey Experience (An organization designed to bring multi-cultural and inter-generational leaders, churches, corporations, and NFP organizations together for honest dialogue on race relations and relevant issues on social justice). In addition, Alvin is the founder & Principal of The Obsidian Consulting Group, LLC and has previously served as the Multi-Cultural Regional Director for the Willow Creek Association in South Barrington, IL. Under his leadership at Willow, The National Compassion Network and The Chicago Pastors’ Alliance launched.
Alvin is the author of Crazy Enough to Care: Changing Your World Through Compassion, Justice, and Racial Reconciliation and is also a contributing author on A Heart for Community: New Models for Urban & Suburban Ministry, Moody Press 2009; and City Lights: Ministry Essentials for Reaching Urban Youth, Group Publishing 2003.
He is also a contributing cast member in the film, Hoop Dreams (1994) and holds a Master of Arts in Leadership and Development, from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA.
David Dillon is President and Co-Founder of Together Chicago with over 30 years of experience in the application of advanced technology concepts and solutions for the financial services industry. As the CIO at CRT (a leading Chicago-based derivatives firm sold to Nations Bank), David led a global technology organization that built and supported real-time pricing, trade execution, and risk management capabilities that were instrumental in CRT’s success and ultimate sale. At Nations Bank and then Bank of America, David was a leader in the Global Corporate and Investment Bank in finding innovative technology solutions for complex corporate banking problems. David then ran the New Ventures Group for Citadel Investment Group in Chicago before forming the Dillon Kane Group in 2001.
Dr. John Fuder is the Founder and Director of Heart for the City. Doc Fuder’s passion to teach and train others to engage the city comes from his many years of experience in ministry in California and training students in Urban Studies at Moody Theological Seminary. Now Doc Fuder is equipping the broader body of Christ to engage more deeply in contextualizing the Gospel in their local communities.
He has also been leading the PrayChicago movement that began in 2014 and still growing today. He holds a B.R.E. from Prairie Bible College, an M.A. in Religion from Pepperdine University and a Ph.D. from Biola University.
He and his wife, Nellie, have three children and a granddaughter and live on Chicago’s north side.
Damien Howard is an educator with 12 years of experience, primarily with Chicago Public Schools. He cares deeply about Urban Education Reform. Damien teaches character development and life skills to help students thrive in all aspects of their lives. His current work targets schools on the South and West sides of Chicago.
Damien graduated from the University of Illinois (05′) with a degree in Special Education. Damien received his M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (10′). Damien is married to Sharial and Gabrielle is their daughter.
Christopher Mallette is a renown community safety strategist and management consultant.
Christopher Mallette has devoted his life to advocating for social justice and serving residents and children in the city of Chicago and other U.S. urban communities. He is the former Executive Director of the Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy (CVRS) where he worked to reduce group and gang violence in the City of Chicago. The focus of Christopher’s work has been and continues to be the development of collaborative strategies that reconcile communities by helping members to identify and value one another’s place in the social fabric of the community.
Prior to assuming his role with CVRS, Christopher served in the Mayor’s Office as the Director of Community Safety Initiatives where he focused on youth violence prevention, juvenile justice, gang intervention and prevention, and ex-offender reentry initiatives. Before his appointment to the Mayor’s Office, Christopher served as the Executive Director of Chicago’s Juvenile Intervention Support Center. He has also served the City of Chicago as an Assistant Corporation Counsel, various roles at the Faith Community of St. Sabina, and Chicago Public Schools.
He is also the Head Football Coach at Chicago’s Whitney M. Young Magnet High School. Mallette is a Princeton University graduate and received his Law Degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. Christopher and his wife Kendall have four sons: Luke, Zion, Judah and Levi.
Christopher has been featured on 60 Minutes, ABC’s Nightline, 20/20, the CBS Evening News, Fox in the Morning news broadcast, CNN, and Fox News’ Hannity and Colmes.
Brian Ng is a native Chicagoan from the Bridgeport neighborhood. In addition to serving as Associate Director of Economic Development for Together Chicago, Brian also serves as the Director of Finance and Sr. Director of City and Global Ministries for Holy Trinity Church in Chicago. He received his MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has been interested in topics such as work and faith integration, stewardship and social entrepreneurship.
Prior to seminary, he worked in finance and investments for 12 years in Chicago, New York and Hong Kong. He has a BS in Finance from NYU’s Stern School of Business and a MBA form the Booth School of Business. Brian is married to Rebecca and they have two young active sons, Tyson and Ethan.
Mark O’Halloran is a manufacturing entrepreneur with 25 years’ experience starting and running engineering-centric businesses. As CEO, Mark has created shareholder value by reinventing factory floors to achieve productivity gains of 400% – 600%, building world-class teams, securing intellectual property, and then bringing those competitive advantages to global customers.
Mark got his start at Griffith Foods where he was mentored by the CEO and financial team to study new markets, develop business plans, and allocate capital for their dozen international subsidiaries.
He speaks Spanish, German, and French, and holds an MBA from the University of Chicago. He and his wife of 30 years have 6 adopted adult children.
Shelby Parchman is a seasoned serial entrepreneur who has parlayed his experience into a career focused on assisting start-up and existing businesses. Prior to becoming Managing Partner of InUrban Strategies LLC and Director of Business Incubation at Together Chicago, Shelby was the Managing Director of Sunshine Enterprises. After obtaining a Dual B.S. in Biology and Chemistry and then a Master’s in Analytical Chemistry, Shelby started his professional career as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry.
He started many successful small businesses including, BHK Laboratories, Inc. and the Functional Beverage Group, Inc.
Some of his current projects include assisting Rush University Medical Center with supply chain localization, working with the staff of the Good Food Accelerator to assist in the development of business growth strategies for early-stage CPG food businesses, and the development of GFA extension programming that will enable food entrepreneurs in underserved communities to have access to retail distribution and funding opportunities. Shelby is also developing a shared commercial kitchen and event space in the Bronzeville community.
Roy Patterson is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Trinity International University. He serves as host of three nationally syndicated programs, Celebration of Praise, Music for Sunday and UrbanPraiseRadio.org.
He is also a preacher, praise and worship leader, and vocalist. He has a passion to see the body of Christ united through worship, work, and sincere fellowship. Roy has served as a youth leader, senior pastor and a substance abuse counselor. In January 2011, Roy was appointed station manager for Moody Radio Chicago. In July 2015, Roy was appointed as Special Assistant to the President for Community Relations. He currently serves as the Community Relations Director of Moody Bible Institute.
Roy has been married to his wife, Lynette, for over 30 years and has three children.
Bishop Edward Peecher
Chicago native. One of 7 children. Revolutionary.
After years of leading Chicago Embassy Church, in 2017 Ed became a spiritual advisor to Chicago business and government leaders and is currently Chief Operations Officer at Together Chicago.
As a child of the 1960’s Civil Rights movement, Ed has been involved in community relations for nearly 50 years. As a young adult, he joined the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, to bring awareness to the national injustices debilitating the African-American community. In 1969, he was employed by AT&T and served the organization for many years. While at At&T, Ed started a bible study in its downtown headquarters after receiving the calling from Jesus Christ. In 1983 New Heritage Christian Center was formed and two years later Ed resigned from his Account Executive position to pastor full-time.
Ed holds a Certificate in Pastoral Studies from Moody Bible Institute (1975). He continues to guest-teach at several Bible Colleges and Seminaries. He has groomed many spiritual leaders, many of whom are serving as senior pastors locally and internationally.
Ed and his wife, Katie, have 3 children, two of which have proceeded them into eternity.
Nate Tubbs is a communications professional, organizer, and entrepreneur with a passion for his neighborhood and partnership in the city of Chicago. He has worked in the non-profit sector for many years in design, marketing, consulting, and community organizing.
Since 2014, Nate has worked alongside Dr. John Fuder and the leadership of both Pray Chicago and Chicagoland United in Prayer to administrate a growing coalition of individuals and churches working to develop habits of united prayer and collective action in Chicago.
You will find Nate at west side community meetings, his local school council, his block’s community garden, or playing with his kids. Nate and his wife, Jamie, and their three children live on Chicago’s west side.
Dr. Charlie Dates
In 2011, at age 30, Dr. Charlie Edward Dates became the youngest Senior Pastor in Progressive Baptist Church’s rich 98-year history.
Pastor Charlie earned a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication and Rhetoric at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and both a Master of Divinity Degree and Ph.D. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.
He successfully defended his dissertation for the Ph.D. in Historical Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. His original research focuses on the burden of black preaching in late 20th Century Chicago.
In addition to his pastoral duties, Pastor Charlie is an affiliate professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Moody Bible Institute. Dr. Dates also serves on the Community Advisory Board for the Chicago Fire Department. He is a contributor to the 2014 book Letters To A Birmingham Jail.
Rev. Jon Dennis
Jon is co-founder and the Senior Pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Chicago, a multi-ethnic church with congregations in Pilsen, Hyde Park, Downtown and the North Side. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Executive Team for City to City | North America, a church planting initiative launched by Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in New York that has helped plant more than 400 churches in global cities. Jon is also the Lead for Vision and Strategy for Neopolis which focuses on training leaders in preaching, pastoring and planting to influence the world for Christ. In the past he has served on the Local School Council for his children’s Chicago Public School and helped launch The Charles Simeon Trust as well as the Chicago Partnership for Church Planting.
Together Chicago is something Jon has been praying about for many years. His vision is to see the cities of the world – including Chicago – transformed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Beginning in November 2016, through friendship with David Dillon, he helped to assemble the initial core of twelve city leaders to explore establishing Together Chicago.
He is the author of Christ + City and for the last 19 years has lived in Hyde Park, Chicago with his wife, Amy, and their five children.
David Dillon is a Co-Founder of Together Chicago and has more than 30 years of experience in the application of advanced technology concepts and solutions for the financial services industry. As the CIO at CRT (a leading Chicago-based derivatives firm sold to Nations Bank), David led a global technology organization that built and supported real-time pricing, trade execution, and risk management capabilities that were instrumental in CRT’s success and ultimate sale. At Nations Bank and then Bank of America, David was a leader in the Global Corporate and Investment Bank in finding innovative technology solutions for complex corporate banking problems. David then ran the New Ventures Group for Citadel Investment Group in Chicago before forming the Dillon Kane Group in 2001.
For 25 years, David has served neighborhoods throughout Chicago in various nonprofit and governmental capacities, getting his start as a community organizer in Lawndale, evolving to a lead role at the City Department of Planning, then as CEO of Chicago Park District, only to return to the nonprofit field through his role at CNI. At CNI, David has closed $55 million in New Markets Tax Credits to support community facilities, coordinated the investment of nearly $200 million in public and private funds in Chicago’s low-income neighborhoods, raised more than $900,000 in microlending capital, and helped lead an organizing effort to have Pullman declared a National Monument. David has an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College and a Master’s in Social Science from the University of Chicago. David is also a member of Millennium Reserve Steering Committee.
Tom is a Partner at New Harbor Capital. He also remains a Partner at CHS Capital, where he leads the Business Services, Healthcare and Education team, and is a member of the Investment and Management Committees. Prior to joining CHS, he was with Heller Financial in the Leveraged Funding Group. Tom holds a B.B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and an M.B.A. from Northwestern University.
Brian Musso is a managing partner of Promus Capital and a manager of Promus Asset Management. He also co-manages the firm’s funds of hedge funds. Prior to co-founding Promus Holdings in 2006, Brian was president of Accelerated Athletics, a sports performance enhancement company dedicated to training elite high school, college and professional athletes.
He graduated from Northwestern University in 1998. He was an All-Big Ten football player and a member of the Wildcats’ Big Ten Championship teams in 1995 and 1996. He went on to play wide receiver for the New York Jets. Brian currently sits on the board of directors of Harvest Consumer Insulation, Inc.
He lives in Wheaton, Illinois with his wife Heather and their sons John David and Chase.
Felecia is a native of the south side of Chicago, a mother of two grown daughters, and has been married for 41 years to Steve. Felecia received her bachelor of arts in sociology/psychology from DePaul University, a master of science in human services administration from Spertus College, and is currently pursuing a doctor of ministry degree at Bakke Graduate University in Seattle.
Felecia has also gone through senior management training with ServiceMaster Corporation and the John Templeton Institute’s program for non-profit board leadership and fundraising. Felecia’s teaching gifts have given her instructional roles at Moody Bible Institute, Trinity Christian College, and numerous conferences. Her administrative and leadership gifts have been utilized in executive roles with the DeVos Family Foundation’s Urban Leadership Initiative and the Family Care Network. For most of the past 20 years, Felecia has directed community partnership programs for Trinity Christian College and then for World Vision, where she served as Executive Director of its Chicagoland operation for nearly three years. Felecia exhibits extraordinary intelligence, experience, and personal grace. She currently serves as the Executive Director for Community Development (The Roosevelt Road Initiative) at Christ Church of Oak Brook.
Bishop Horace Smith
Bishop Horace E. Smith M.D. was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Illinois. He was raised alongside two sisters and three brothers by his parents Shirley and Albert Smith. After the passing of Bishop Smith’s mother, his grandmother, Alberta Pryor, moved into the home and not only helped meet the needs of the children naturally but also trained them spiritually. Bishop Smith graduated as an honor student from Lindblom High School and went on to obtain the following academic accomplishments:
- Bachelor of Science Degree (with honors) Chicago State University (1971)
- M.D., University of Illinois Medical Center (1975)
- Completion of Pediatric Residency, University of Illinois Hospital (1978)
- Completion of Clinical Fellowship in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Children’s Memorial Hospital/Northwestern University (1980)
On March 28, 1980, following the death of the former pastor, Bishop John S. Holly, Bishop Smith was named pastor of Apostolic Faith Church. Under his leadership, the congregation has grown from 200 members to 3,000 people who call Apostolic Faith Church their home.
Pr. Shando Valdez
Rosendo “Shando” Valdez is a Chicago native born to immigrant parents from Monterrey, Mexico. Shando excepted the call from the lord in the late 1980s and has served his community every since.
Shando is currently the Senior pastor at New Jerusalem Evangelical Baptist Church and has served his congregation for over 22 years. He continues to be devoted to his church family and is an advocate for connecting and supporting pastors in the Chicagoland area.
He passionately leads his church and community towards having a heart for the misguided. Shando is determined to build up the kingdom of God and serves as an advisor on many boards both locally and nationally.
Pastor Shando is married to Lilliana, of whom he met while doing ministry work in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and have three adult children together. He is also a grandfather of four.
Jonathan Banks is motivated to see people thrive by challenging them to grow and inspiring them to rise. He actively serves his church and community and strives to help others reach their God-given potential in every area of life. Jonathan earned an undergraduate degree in engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from Northwestern University.
Jonathan is the author of a best selling book called ‘Raise Your GPA’, which outlines a faith-based approach to academic and life excellence for students. His own academic and tutoring experiences helped him form an effective approach to success that he willingly shares with the next generation.
Jonathan is a passionate leader and educator who serves his church and community in Illinois where he resides with his wife, Jacinta, and their teenage sons.
Debbie Birkey is an entrepreneur advocating for under-resourced entrepreneurs and a mom passionate to see parents able to provide for their own children. Currently Senior Regional Representative for HOPE International she is raising funds and awareness for families in 15 countries, Mother of four and grandmother of nine, Debbie built her own landscape design business – Grow by Design – while raising her children, homeschooling at points along the way and teaching a women’s Bible Study at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park. She has been active on the West Side and, along with her children, volunteered at Breakthrough Urban Ministries, Circle Urban Ministries and is currently on the prayer team of The Field School. The vision statement of HOPE captures Debbie’s heart for her community – “men and women finding their soul’s satisfaction in Christ and becoming dignified, hope-filled providers in their homes and communities.”
Pastor. Educator. Coach.
After years of teaching and coaching Nashville, Tennessee , Ray accepted the calling from the Lord to attend Dallas Theological Seminary. Ray received a Master of Theology degree from the institution and moved to the Chicagoland area to serve as the pastoral intern at Willow Creek Community Church (1990).
In 1991, Ray became the senior pastor at Park Community Church were he served for 10 years. During his time at Park Community Church, Ray started meeting with a small group of businessmen downtown Chicago for weekly prayer, accountability workshops, and overall support. This quickly grew from 3 to nearly 100 men every week. In 2005, Chicago Fellowship formed as a 501c(3) nonprofit organization and continues to encourage men to be wise, and generous stewards of their lives through participation in strategic acts of justice and compassion in the broken places of this world.
Ray holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Memphis and a Master of Arts in Education from Tennessee State University.
Brian’s passion is to train urban leaders to make disciples in the neighborhoods and the nations. From this, Brian founded the urban discipleship conference—The Legacy—as well as Legacy Christian Fellowship—a network of house churches preaching Christ throughout Chicago. Living his passion for over the last 17 years Brian and his wife Heidi have had over 150 young men live in their home to be discipled.
Brian joined GRIP’s staff in September 2011 to train and encourage GRIP’s mentors to effectively foster and develop Life-on-Life relationships with youth. Brian received his Bachelors in Elementary Education from Cedarville University.
Chicago native, Richard Grimm joined Trinity International University in June 2014 after being invited to serve by President David Dockery. As Senior Vice President for University Services and Strategic Initiatives, Rich gives oversight to several areas at Trinity, and provides support to a number of strategic initiatives designed to help connect the University to the broader community. Rich is currently an advisor for Together Chicago, and is dedicated to resurrecting ailing Chicago communities through the “collective impact” methodology.
Grimm earned his bachelor’s degree at Palm Beach Atlantic University and his Master of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, followed by post-graduate coursework in educational leadership at Florida Atlantic University, Nova Southeastern University, and Regent University. Following his education and a brief stint as a pastor in Florida, Grimm began his career in Christian higher education, which included positions at Palm Beach Atlantic University and Criswell College. Following a nearly four-year tenure as the president of Jupiter Christian School in Florida, he joined Dr. Dockery’s staff at Union in Jackson, Tenn.
Rich and his wife, Linda, have three adult children (Daniel, Nathan and Rachel) and one granddaughter together. Rich and Linda are members of Harvest Bible Fellowship, Rolling Meadows. Rich is a lifelong Cubs fan and was finally rewarded for his loyalty in 2016.
Joel is the executive director of both Sunshine Gospel Ministries and Sunshine Enterprises. His imagination and big dreams have contributed to the development of almost all of our current programming since he joined Sunshine in 1999. In addition to his religious service, Joel has completed several entrepreneurial ventures, leading to his involvement in the establishing of Greenline Coffee with his wife, Paula. Joel frequently speaks at events across the country and writes a blog. You can find him riding his motorcycle around the neighborhood, usually with one of his seven kids in the backseat.
Peter brings deep expertise across a wide range of professional disciplines with over 29 years of commercial real estate investment, finance and risk management experience. In the four years prior to joining Promus Asset Management, LLC, Peter provided executive-in-residence expertise to various entrepreneurial pursuits and provided consulting services to investors seeking to maximize the value of their real estate holdings.
He has also held senior-executive level roles with Capmark Financial Group and its affiliates overseeing all origination, underwriting and administration activities for its $12.5 billion Construction Lending Division.Peter co-managed the Affordable Housing Division of Capmark Capital, and served on the board of trustees of Newman Capital, an affiliated tax-exempt bond fund.
Charles W. Lyons has been the pastor of Armitage Baptist Church since 1974. Today, Armitage is a dynamic, multicultural congregation with 35 ethnicities & nationalities represented, a constituency of 2,000, and property worth $10 million.
Charles and Georgia, his wife of 42 years, raised 5 children in what the Chicago Tribune called “the deadliest police beat in the country.”
Efforts to address a variety of urban and moral issues have been chronicled in secular and religious media. The Chicago Tribune front page featured a story on Lyons and the Armitage ministry with the headline, “God’s Soldier Works the Gang Battlefield.” Crain’s Chicago Business named Lyons under the banner, “Preachers to Seek Out in Chicago.”
A frequent speaker and lecturer at conferences, colleges, and seminaries on urbanology and urban ministry, he also mentors urban pastors and church planters.
Rev. James Meeks
Pastor James T. Meeks is the founder and senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, which has been recognized as one of the fastest growing megachurches in the United States. Salem is the largest African American church in Illinois with over 15,000 members.
In 2002, Pastor Meeks successfully ran for Illinois state senator. His win made him the first Independent legislator ever elected to the Illinois Senate. He served three terms, where his major focus was on educational equity. He has also served in positions of leadership including chair of the Education committee as well as joint chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. Pastor Meeks currently serves as Chairman, Illinois State Board of Education.
In 2005, Pastor Meeks led Salem in the building of the House of Hope, a $50 million, 10,000 seat community and worship center which is the largest facility built from the ground up for the purpose as a worship venue in the United States.
Throughout his life, Pastor Meeks has served the needs of the people whether it was through legislation on the Senate floor, community organizing events in the streets of Chicago or from the pulpit every Sunday morning.
In 1998, he led a rally to “dry up” the Roseland community, which resulted in the closing of 26 liquor stores. He distributed 30,000 Bibles to residents in the church’s zip code. He provided every prisoner in the state with the Bible on cassette.
The list goes on and in his 38 years of ministry, Pastor Meeks has taken his message of hope and reform around the world including Israel, Africa, China, Jamaica, Argentina, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Australia.
He is the author of two books, “How to Get out of Debt and Into Praise,” and “Life-Changing Relationships,” which have been received with critical acclaim.
Pastor Meeks and his wife Jamell are the proud parents of four children and four grandchildren.
Steve Nelson has over 20 years experience leading and managing teams focused on business solutions to societal issues. Most recently he was Director for Member Development and Relations at the Center for Higher Ambition Leadership where he helped companies forge strategic identities rooted in a meaningful purpose. Previously he served as VP of Strategic Initiatives for Opportunity International, a non-profit organization which invests tiny sums of capital in microenterprises located in the developing world where he was responsible for corporate partnerships and philanthropic strategies. Steve is an entrepreneurial, innovative and passionate national and global nonprofit leader. He has traveled extensively across the globe through his work and has an enriched perspective on global issues and partnership solutions that address meeting the needs of the underprivileged. Steve joined Opportunity after five years in operations management positions at Van Kampen Merritt, an investment banking firm.
He currently serves as Principal of Nelson Fundraising Services where he advises non-profit organizations how to raise funds for their missions. Steve serves on two non-profit boards, Oasis International and UTR Media.
Chris earned his undergraduate degree from The University of Michigan in 1991 and began his career working for Kellogg Company in foodservice sales. In 1993, he returned to the University of Michigan, where he completed a Master of Business Administration with a focus on marketing and international business.
Following graduate school, Chris and his wife moved to Singapore, where he ran the Asia-Pacific operation for a supplier of pumping equipment used in petro-chemical production.
In 2008, Chris and his family relocated to London to lead the European and African consumer products division of Motorola. Chris left Motorola in 2011. He and his family moved to Rwanda to join Hope International, a Christian microfinance institution dedicated to “providing a hand up and not a hand out” through small business loans to people who typically live on less than $1 a day. Now back in Chicago, Chris works with a group of Christian investors who build sustainable businesses, where profits are redeployed back into missions and development work around the world.
Jim Perry is a Managing Director on the MDP Telecom, Media & Technology Services team. Prior to co-founding MDP, Mr. Perry was with First Chicago Venture Capital for eight years. Previously, he was with The First National Bank of Chicago. Mr. Perry concentrates on investments in the telecom, media and technology services sector and currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Asurion Corporation, Centennial Towers, Intermedia.net, Inc., Liquid Web, The Topps Company, Univision Communications, and Chicago Public Media. He is on the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences and serves as Chairman of the School Board of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Steven C. Preston, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 08-09’, has served in numerous operational and financial leadership positions in both the private and public sectors. He has led successful turnarounds as the CEO of two private equity companies, headed two major federal agencies during times of national crisis, and served as the CFO of two Fortune 500 companies during times of significant change and restructuring.
As the U.S. Secretary of HUD, Preston expanded FHA capacity to meet mushrooming demand, broke ground on major public housing developments in New Orleans (which had been stalled), expanded HUD’s ability to assist victims of natural disasters, and advanced sensible regulations requiring clearer disclosure of mortgage terms to borrowers.
Preston also served as the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
He currently serves as the Vice Chairman of Liberty Advisor Group, a firm that supports companies with large transformational initiatives often driven by technology, cybersecurity including ongoing business threat intelligence, and analytical insights.
Preston graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern University and received an MBA from the University of Chicago. He has served on numerous boards or in other capacities for organizations supporting the needs of disadvantaged children and urban communities. Preston and his wife, Molly, have five children, ages 15-23 and reside in the Chicago area.
Marilyn Anderson Rhames is the Founder/CEO of the nonprofit organization Teachers Who Pray. She taught in Chicago Public Schools for 14 years and is authoring a book entitled, The Master Teacher: 12 Spiritual Lesson That Can Transform Schools and Revolutionize Public Education.
Once a New York City reporter for PEOPLE, TIME, Newsday, and The Journal News, Marilyn now weds her education and journalism skills by blogging for the likes of Huffington Post, Education Week, Education Post, The New York Times and others. Marilyn speaks widely on issues relating to education, race, writing and faith.
Born and raised in Chicago, Marilyn is a wife and mother of three.
Dr. Phil Ryken
A Wheaton native and the son of longtime professor Dr. Leland Ryken and Mary Graham Ryken, President Ryken attended Wheaton as an undergraduate, majoring in English literature and philosophy. He met his wife, Lisa, during their first few days at the College, and they were married before their senior year. The Rykens have five children: Josh, Kirsten, Jack, Kathryn, and Karoline.
Dr. Ryken earned a master of divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and a doctorate in historical theology from the University of Oxford. Dr. Ryken returned from England to join the pastoral staff at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1995, preaching there until his appointment at Wheaton.
Dr. John J. Schlichtman
Schlichtman is an urban sociologist who is motivated by the potential of equitable, just, and productive community development. As an associate professor at DePaul University, he has focused on the dynamics of large-scale processes such as globalization and gentrification and how they play out in communities and households in the most intimate ways. In the book GENTRIFIER (2017), with Jason Patch and Marc Lamont Hill, Schlichtman works to develop a fuller understanding of the causes and outcomes of gentrification that can more productively inform action and policy.
Schlichtman’s perspectives have been discussed in such media outlets as Next City, CityLab, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the New Republic, and the Economist. He has been a recipient of the PSA Praxis Award (2012) for impact on organizational institutions, community betterment, and human suffering, and was also named a Next City Vanguard (2016).
Dr. Noah Toly
Noah Toly is Director of the Center for Urban Engagement and Professor of Urban Studies and Politics & International Relations at Wheaton College. He also serves as Non-Resident Senior Fellow for Global Cities at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and teaches on cities and urbanism in the Free University of Berlin’s Center for Global Politics. He has written multiple books and articles on urban and environmental politics, and he edits the Routledge Series, Cities & Global Governance. In 2011, he was named an Emerging Leader by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. In 2012-2013, he served as Senior Fellow at the University of Chicago’s Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion. And in 2015, he was the first recipient of the Emerging Public Intellectual award given by a coalition of North American think tanks in collaboration with the Centre for Christian Scholarship at Redeemer University College. He currently serves on the Steering Committee of the Thriving Cities Project.
Along with consultations for municipal governments, committees of national legislatures, and investment groups, Noah has given invited lectures at Christ College Taipei, Gordon College, Hope College, Judson University, Ming Chuan University, Redeemer University College, University of Chicago, and University of Virginia. His work has appeared in Books & Culture, Capital Commentary, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Comment, Next City, The Hedgehog Review, Quartz, and Sightings among other publications. He has appeared on Moody Radio and NPR, and has been interviewed for articles in the New York Times and The Atlantic. In addition to his academic work, Dr. Toly has published Cities of Tomorrow and the City to Come: A Theology of Urban Life (Zondervan) and What is Mercy Ministry? (Presbyterian & Reformed, co-authored with Philip Ryken).
After earning an undergraduate degree at Wheaton College, Noah earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Urban Affairs & Public Policy from the University of Delaware. He later earned an M.A. in Theology at Wheaton. Noah and his wife, Becky, met at Wheaton College, where they both now teach. They have three children: Joe, Ben, and Rose.
Richard Townsell is a Chicago native and thought leader in community development. In Richard’s 20+ years, he has developed hundreds of residential and commercial properties, created countless public service programs, and designed comprehensive community plans for affordable housing, education and more.
Richard is currently the Executive Director at the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation and a consultant to FEED (Fellowship Educational & Economic Development Corp.). Richard has taught community development courses at Northwestern University’s Asset-Based Community Development Institute and been an adjunct professor at Wheaton College’s Wheaton in Chicago program. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University in Mathematics Education and a Masters of Science from Spertus College in Nonprofit Management.
Richard has been married to his college sweetheart Stephanie for 27 years. They have two adult children, Lena and Gabriel. Richard also coaches youth wrestling in his spare time.
C. Jeffrey Wright
Jeff Wright is CEO of UMI (Urban Ministries, Inc.) joining the company in 1994 after a 15-year career in the consumer products and healthcare industries with two Fortune 50 companies, Johnson & Johnson and Bristol Myers Squibb. UMI has been serving African American churches and consumers since 1970 with Christian education resources including curriculum, books, magazines, media, and digital products and is the largest company of its kind.
Active in ministry for over 25 years, Jeff has served several congregations as associate pastor, director of Christian Education, adult bible study teacher, and in various teaching and administrative roles. He has also provided consulting to several national ministries.
He is the author of the book and media literacy bible study guide, God’s Vision or Television: How Television Influences What We Believe and is also a contributing author to the book Non Profit Leadership in a For Profit World. Jeff serves on the boards of Circle Y Ranch (a Christian Camp and Conference Center), Fuller Theological Seminary, Evangelical Christian Publishing Association, Baker Publishing Group and Oasis International.
Jeff is a graduate of Fisk University, Georgetown University Law School and earned his MBA in Finance from Columbia University. He also did additional post-graduate study at the Wharton School and at the Harvard Law School.
Rev. John Zayas
Rev. John Zayas, Senior Pastor, is ordained in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and has a passion to save the lost and work with the community towards holistic restoration. He has been instrumental in the development of community organizations that extend from GAPC, such as the Community Center and Safe Harbor, a domestic violence intervention ministry. Prior to his becoming senior pastor, John worked for 6 years with Northwest Chicago Young Life reaching out to high school students with the gospel. He attended North Park, Christian Leaders Institute and Leadership Development Network (LDN). John resides on the northwest side of Chicago with his wife of thirty years, Angelina, and has two adult children.