Community Advisory Committee Members


Juana Ballesteros, BSN, RN, MPH

Juana has lived her entire life in Little Village, the largest Mexican community in the Midwest. Juana received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master in Public Health both from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Juana has spent most of her career working in Chicago’s Latino communities addressing health disparities such as HIV/AIDS, prenatal and postnatal health, mental health, obesity, diabetes, and asthma. She currently works for Alivio Medical Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center, where she coordinates a multi-year project that includes a multi-disciplinary approach to improve

the health outcomes of diabetic patients. Prior to this, she was the Executive Director of the Greater Humboldt Park Community of Wellness. While she directed the Community of Wellness, the coalition helped to leverage over $7 million in funding for health initiatives. Furthermore, during her tenure, the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards recognized the Community of Wellness as the 2010 Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Initiative. Juana has a particular interest in Community-Based Participatory Research. She has presented to faculties at several Chicago universities on equitable, collaborative research partnerships with communities. Juana is the proud mother of 18 year old Priscilla, now a freshman attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  

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Carla Campbell

Carla is a 31 year-old female who has lived in North Lawndale her whole life. Her father grew up in North Lawndale also.  She has two children, Mia (age 12) and Christopher (age 6). She has worked at Lawndale Christian Health Center for 11 years. She started as a temporary worker doing data entry, served in registration, then as Assistant Site Manager, and now as Site Manager for the OB Clinic. She enjoys the work she does because she gets to work with different people each day with a different story.  She loves her community and the people in it and looks forward to working on this project.

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Pastor Gay Chisum, RN

Gay hails from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and has been a resident of Chicago since 1969. She currently resides on the south side of Chicago, in the Englewood community. Gay is a registered nurse with 43 years of experience in the nursing field. She founded Perinatal Addiction Consultants, served as a Parish Nurse with Sacred Heart Hospital, chaired the Health and Seniors Committee for the Englewood Unity Coalition and is currently the Field Supervisor for the Addressing Asthma in Englewood Project. Gay was ordained as Co-Pastor in 2001 by her husband, Pastor St. John Chisum, and they

minister together at the Gifts From God Ministry Church (GFGM), which was founded by Pastor Chisum in 1992. At GFGM, she is the Youth Pastor, Co-Chair of the church Board, founder of the Women for Christ bible study group and the Dorcas Ministry. She also promotes health/spiritual awareness at the church, working with the Pastors of Englewood and the Englewood community at large.

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Melissa Chrusfield

Melissa’s belief in the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) principles of relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution have been a driving force in her life, helping her think differently about the process of transforming underserved neighborhoods.  This drive led her to begin working for Lawndale Christian Health Center in 2010 where she is currently the Special Events Coordinator/ Assistant to the CEO.  She has a Bachelors of Science in Technical Management with a focus in Healthcare Management.  After she began her job at Lawndale Christian Health Center, a place dedicated to showing and

sharing the love of Jesus Christ by providing quality and affordable healthcare to the residents of Lawndale, she decided to move into the Lawndale neighborhood to better serve the community.  Melissa now resides in North Lawndale with her husband Jimmie and their three children David (15), Nina (8), and Trayce (4).  Melissa and her family are passionate about nutrition, exercise, and righting the disparities in access to quality food and programming in their neighborhood.  Outside of work Melissa enjoys coaching volleyball and bitty gymnastics classes for neighborhood children, gardening, cooking, reading, and spending time with her family.

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Elio Dearrudah

The rapid dwindling of middle-income families coupled with the vertiginous growth of poverty rates in most of our neighborhoods in the last decades have prompted Elio to start looking into possible solutions to this decaying urban picture fraught with disparities of all kinds. No particular organization, agency or institution (regardless of how large, resourceful, or able it might be) working alone will be able to put a dent onto such a colossal problem –now  much bigger than any of us — if we remain divided. For this reason alone, Elio is excited to participate in research efforts such as the 2014 Sinai

Community Health Survey. After dealing with poverty issues overseas, Elio never thought that he would be doing it in Chicago; this city exhibits a gnawing dichotomy between two extremes—the very rich and the very poor. Such a societal construct, which must be dismantled much sooner than later, ought to constitute an embarrassment to anyone with any sense of economic dignity and social responsibility. His academic training consists of an M.A. in intercultural studies, a M.Sc. in computer sciences, and an Ed. D. in educational policy studies. Prologue, Inc. and Universidad Popular are two of the local organizations with which he has been associated for many years.

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Ruben Escobar

Ruben is an Elder and the youth pastor at La Capilla del Barrio/The Neighborhood Chapel, located on the border of the neighborhoods of Humboldt Park, Logan Square and Hermosa. He has been mostly serving the community through the church where they do a lot of outreach work, to deal with the issues of gang violence and killings. Ruben has been involved in the community by leading marches, vigils, and protests against violence. He believes in fighting for social justice, working to improve the lives of those around us dealing with violence and poverty, lack of housing and education, and immigration reform.

He used to be an organizer and is still currently a community activist. He believes in empowering young people to be agents of change, to live in confidence and not to allow fear to dictate or control who God has ordained them to be. He also believes in working to create new leaders, helping young people to reach their highest potentials.

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Maria Eugenia Flores

Maria Eugenia is an immigrant from Mexico. She is married and a mother of three children. She became a Parent Mentor at Talman Elementary School in 2009. The Leadership Development Workshops provided by the Southwest Organizing Project exposed Maria Eugenia to the public life. After that, she became very active in going door-to-door during the 2010 Census Campaign. Maria Eugenia was very energized by speaking face to face with individuals, especially after seeing many were impacted by living in the shadows for being undocumented. She was very motivated to connect with the issue of

immigration work that Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) was doing. She became active with the New American Initiative Campaign, which helps legal permanent residents become US Citizens, and remains very active to date. She also was active in the presidential election in 2012. She has been very instrumental in the Drivers License Campaign from the beginning stages and has been trained to give Drivers License Workshops. Her most recent work in the community is supporting the Parent Mentor Program in a new school as a Parent Mentor Trainer. She has been very successful in scouting out new parent leaders that have interest in public life because she was once in their shoes, and is now able to share her story publicly.

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Raul Garcia

Raul joined Sinai Health System in November 2012, after almost 10 years of serving the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago as the Health Programs Coordinator. In this capacity, he created the first community health program for that office of the Mexican government and developed a network of partners with agencies, public health departments, hospitals, schools and churches in Illinois, Wisconsin, and northern Indiana, as well as a health task force with 12 Latin American Consulates in the region.In 2005, Raul was recognized by Gift of Hope with the Lifesaving Partner Award, and by the National

Kidney Foundation of Illinois, with the Community Leadership Award. In 2012, the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois acknowledged his work for a second time with the Gift of Life Award. He serves on boards and advisory councils for organizations such as the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition, the American Heart Association, the Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium, and Latino Alzheimer’s Alliance, among others. Raul holds a Bachelors degree in Journalism and Collective Communication from the National Autonomous University of Mexico where he worked for national and local newspapers, news agencies and the Board of Elections of the state of Guerrero.

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Yolanda Gray

Yolanda is a resident of Chicago Lawn.









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Cornelia Hailey-Gamble (Nita)

Nita is an active community resident in West Humboldt Park where she has spent most of her life. Nita attended Reyerson Elementary and Rezin Orr High School in West Humboldt Park. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services which she recently completed in 2012. Nita also has a valid Sanitation license with the City of Chicago, started the Ujima Community Garden in 2009, and is the West Humboldt Park Farmers Market manager. Under her supervision, the market was extended from Saturdays only in the summer months to all year long. She is also currently the president of the Kell’s Park

Advisory Council. Under her leadership the Council proposed a grant for the installation of a track field in the park. Nita also works at Neighborhood Housing Service and in this capacity assists NHS in reaching out to the community to help them save their homes from foreclosure. She assists senior citizens in filling out their tax exempt forms, works closely with the Alderman, and helps neighborhoods establish their block clubs. She is also a committee member of the Healthy Community Initiative and manager of the WHP farmers market and Ujima Community Garden, which is part of community health programs under the WHP Healthy Community Initiative Collaborative. In her spare time, Nita volunteers with several local community organizations to give assistance with their various meetings and events. Her enjoyment is church, reading books, quilting, and cooking. Her belief is that nobody is a stranger. Speak to everyone.

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Blanche Suggs-Killingsworth

Blanche Suggs-Killingsworth is board chair of the North Lawndale Historical and Cultural Society and Customer Service Specialist at Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. Mrs. Killingsworth is a life-long North Lawndale resident and community activist. She has served on many advisory committees, including Chicago Art Advisory Committee, Better Boys Foundation, City of Chicago CDBG Community Group. She has received certifications from Neighborworks of America Training Institute in community and economic development and housing counseling. Her Historical and

Cultural interest awarded her the position of Diversity Scholar under The National Trust for Historical Preservation. She is a member of the North Lawndale Greening Committee, which services over 20 community gardens in North Lawndale, including the African Heritage Garden that won the 2006 Garden in the City award.

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Joline Lozano

Joline is 22 years old and graduated from Lane Tech High School in Chicago. She is a longtime resident of the Pilsen community and is currently a pre-med student at Chicago State University.   Lozano is Co-Chair of the joint Health Committee of Lincoln United Methodist Church located in the Pilsen community and Adalberto United Methodist Church in the Humboldt Park community and has organized workshops on Breast Cancer, HIV, High Blood Pressure, Asthma, and Diabetes.  She is a current member of the Board of Directors of Centro Sin Fronteras, a 25 year old organization that is

key in the struggle for the rights of immigrants and other social justice issues both national and international.  Lozano organized the Youth Health Service pilot program at Clemente High School that has now been launched at Benito Juarez, Marine Math and Science, and Pedro Albizu Campos High Schools in Chicago. Joline currently is working on a curriculum project with Rush Medical Students to modify and create a new curriculum for the youth health services core to bridge the 20 year life expectancy gap in the Latino and uninsured immigrant communities.  Lozano has organized groups of Dreamers and US Children of Immigrant Parents in a lobbying effort to stop deportations in Washington, D.C. on several occasions.  Currently Joline Lozano is involved in a campaign to stop the disparity in health care in the Latino communities of Chicago.  She works closely with La Fuerza Juventud, a youth organization that is currently organizing the Dreamers to apply for Deferred Action.  They have called for and organized national actions from 2012 to date calling on the Congress to extend the Deferred Action Policy to the entire immigrant family.  Joline is the daughter of a two-time breast cancer survivor and continues to educate, reach out, and organize to provide women in general, and Latina women in particular, with screening services regardless of insurance status. 

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Lynne Owens Mock, Ph.D.

Lynne earned a Ph.D. in clinical, community, and social psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She documented the work of community organizers with the Developing Communities Project, Inc. in Chicago, Illinois from 1990 to 2010. She co-authored many presentations, published articles and book chapters, and produced several videos about the experience. She also presented at several international conferences on community leadership. Lynne was a co-investigator of a study on the psychiatric issues of low-income women; the results were published in the Archives of General

Psychiatry. Currently, Lynne is an Adjunct Lecturer in the African American Studies Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the owner and senior consultant of Nsoroma Consulting, LLC. Her consulting has focused on youth development programs and HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and treatment programs in the community, in clinics, and in universities. She has taught several African American Studies and Psychology courses, but currently teaches African American Psychology, African American Behavioral Patterns, and Introduction to African American Studies. She has been a resident and homeowner in the Chicago Lawn community for over 24 years.

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Militza M. Pagán

Militza currently works as the Deputy Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) in Chicago. She is also a first year law student at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Prior to working at the PRCC, Militza worked as a Uniting America Americorps Fellow at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and in the Chicago Public Schools administering after school tutoring programs. Militza graduated from Yale College in 2010 with a Bachelor’s Degree in History. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Division Street Business Development Association and the Yale Latino Alumni

Association. She is also on the Institutional Review Board of Mount Sinai Hospital. At Chicago-Kent College of Law, Militza is involved in the Hispanic Latino Law Student Association, the Women in Law Society, and the National Lawyers Guild.

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Maria M. Perales (Maggie)

Maggie is the daughter of a Mexican immigrant father and second generation Mexican immigrant mother and was born and raised in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Maggie was ten when she moved to Little Village when her parents bought their first home and later to the Marquette Park neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side. She worked for the phone company from 1977 to 1995, while raising her four sons. It was in 1996 that she stepped forward at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish to work as a leader with the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP). A year later she took a position at SWOP as the Office

Manager. While working as Office Manager she had the opportunity to build her relational and organizational skills as a leader at St. Nick’s parish. In the summer of 2003, Ms. Perales was invited by SWOP’s organizing staff to attend the Industrial Area Foundation’s 10-day training. She returned from training to her new position as a SWOP community organizer. She began her work in her new role organizing SWOP’s increasingly large immigrant community by coordinating with Instituto del Progreso Latino and playing a key staff role in SWOP’s New Americans Vote Campaign. She has worked to develop leaders at Queen of the Universe, St. Clare of Montefalco and St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parishes. Other campaigns Ms. Perales has been involved in include leading the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform in Vicariate V which is working together for a humane national immigration reform; developing a Raid Ministry which organizes local parishes to come to the aid of families affected by immigration raids, detentions and deportation; leading an anti-foreclosure campaign that has involved over 4000 families on the southwest side; leading SWOP’s Parent Mentors Program; and with the statewide expansion of the Parent Mentors Program. Ms. Perales remains involved in her parish and parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago as a Coordinator and Guide in Talleres de Oración y Vida (Prayer and Life Workshops), where she conducts workshops and participates in ongoing formation. Ms. Perales is also part of the Pastoral Team that visits McHenry County where the undocumented are being detained.

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Jose Luis Rodriguez

Jose Luis is currently the Director of the Greater Humboldt Park Community of Wellness (CoW), a position he has held since January, 2012. Before joining CoW, he was a member of its Steering Committee while serving as Program Director for CO-OP HP (Community Organizing for Obesity Prevention in Humboldt Park). He is a community activist and has been involved with the community building work of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center –Juan Antonio Corretjer since 1978. Rodriguez is a member of the Board of Directors of both the Division Street Business Development Association

(DSBDA) and of West Town Bikes/Ciclo Urbano. Jose Luis is a Community Advisory Board Member of Youth Empowering Strategies, Nutrition/Fitness Program (YES/Nu-Fit), a Teen Peer Health Education Program, which originally started at Roberto Clemente High School. He serves on numerous boards in an advisory capacity and teaches business planning and writing as a certified FastTrac New Venture Instructor from the Kauffman Institute.   Jose Luis has co-authored chapters in two books: Urban Health: Combating Disparities with Local Data (Oxford Press, 2011) and Community Organizing and Community Building for Health and Welfare (Rutgers University Press, 2012). Jose Luis Rodriguez is very much interested in community building work that empowers community residents and businesses to address the myriad socio-economic problems that affect his community and to take ownership in finding solutions to

resolve them.

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Isaiah Ross

Isaiah was welcomed as Community Development Planner at the West Humboldt Park Development Council in May, 2012. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Landscape Architecture and a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A native of the Englewood Community, he has an outstanding passion for serving the needs of low-income, underserved, marginalized communities. He has witnessed disparities within lower-income communities, which motivates him to incorporate his skills and service to such areas.Ross utilizes his education, skills, and

professional experience as community planner to collaborate with West Humboldt Park community members, stakeholders and community based organizations on projects as part of the WHP Healthy Community Initiative (HCI) Collaborative. This initiative focuses on making WHP a community with access to resources for wellness, employment, education and affordable housing in order to help residents achieve a better quality of life in a safe environment. Ross works closely with over 45 block clubs in the WHP community and assists residents to form new block clubs. His recent projects include landscape redesigns of Kells Park and community gardens. He has also organized and managed four Summer PlayStreets 2013 events to engage families and youth in physical activities and fun games in a safe outdoor setting. He submitted grant applications to the Chicago Plays! Playground Replacement Program, which will replace unsafe community park playground equipment in 3 parks in WHP. Ross is a committee member of the Neighborhood Housing Services Advisory Committee, Youth & Safety Committee, WHP Safe Schools Network, Kells Park Advisory Council, and the WHP Block Club Network. He hopes to use his international planning grassroots experience abroad to address food insecurity, crime, and safety related issues in Chicago’s marginalized communities.

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Rev. Bobby D. Smith

Rev. Smith grew up on the west side of Chicago and went to Collins High School. After that, he went to Livingstone College in Salisbury N.C. After college, he came home to teach at Collins, the high school he loves so much, and worked there for 17 years. Then he was called to preach. He is a member of New Progressive St. James M. B. C. where he works with the health and wellness program to help his community build a concern about health care.



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Jana Stringfellow-Estell

Jana was the coordinator for the Healthy Chicago Lawn coalition which is located on the southwest side of Chicago in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. In this role she worked on initiatives directed by Asset Based Mapping of the neighborhood where key areas of concern were identified. The coalition’s Access and Awareness and Healthy Lifestyles and Wellness committees worked to eliminate the “Food Desert” classification. Her proudest achievements were her contribution to the starting of the Marquette Park Community Garden, coordination of the 15th Ward Bike Rides and educational

lunch and learn sessions at Holy Cross Hospital. She attended Northern Illinois University and has a B.S. in Family and Individual Development and completed graduate coursework toward a Master of Arts in community psychology at Argosy University in Schaumburg, Illinois.

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Mireya Vera

Mireya is currently Director of Community Health Strategy and Language Access for Presence Health. In this role she has developed language assistance policies and implemented best practices on language assistance and medical interpreter services for Presence Health. In addition, she has worked with community leaders on Community Health Needs Assessments for areas such as Norwood, a primary service area of Presence Resurrection Medical Center.

Mireya holds a B.A. degree from the University of Illinois in Bilingual Education as well as a Master’s degree in Health Services

Administration from National Louis University. Her healthcare career began in 1987 as a community advocate at Mount Sinai Hospital, where her primary focus was on health issues that impacted immigrant and refugee populations. Having served on several community boards and organizations throughout her career such as American Cancer Society, Mujeres Latinas in Accion, MALDEF Leadership program, Immigrant and Refugee Health Task Force, Catholic Charities Latino Advisory Committee, and Community Alliance in Proviso Township to name a few, she has gained insight into the many issues facing the vulnerable and underserved communities throughout Cook County. She continues her advocacy efforts to address health access issues for these communities through the development of community partnerships.

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MariBeth Welch, Ph.D.

MariBeth holds her M.A. and Doctorate from the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at University of California, Los Angeles. She is currently employed at The Miracle Center (TMC), a performing arts-based children and youth development non-profit serving the near-northwest community areas of Hermosa, Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale and Belmont Cragin. At TMC, she serves as the Community Outreach & Sustainability Coordinator for TMC’s “Partnership for Success” grant focused on reducing underage drinking, in partnership with the Healthy Hermosa Coalition. Prior to

coming to The Miracle Center in spring 2013, she served as the Chief Strategic Officer for ASPIRA Inc. of Illinois. As part of her volunteer community service activities, she serves as a co-secretary on the Humboldt-Park Community Action Council and as a representative from the Primera Iglesia U.C.C. Church in Humboldt Park. Dr. Welch is also currently a Master of Divinity student at the Chicago Theological Seminary, preparing for ministry in the United Church of Christ (U.C.C.).

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