Who We Are

Our Mission

Literature for All of Us uses books and writing to facilitate circles of connection, healing, and growth in the face of social inequity. By inviting participants to explore the transformative power of their own voices, we help build resilience.

We value:

  • Literature as a means to make connections, and discover strength and meaning in our lives
  • Writing as a way to access our voices, share our stories, and free our imaginations
  • Shared learning and dialogue in safe environments of mutual respect
  • The inherent strengths of individuals, families, and communities
  • Equity and social justice

 

Our vision:

We envision a world where everyone, regardless of race, class, culture, or gender identity, has opportunities to access their voices, embrace meaning in their lives, and imagine possibilities for the future.

Our Staff

Chuck Benya

Chuck Benya

Development Director

Erin Brown

Erin Brown

Senior Program Officer

Gabriela Garay

Gabriela Garay

Book Group Leader

Marty Kezon

Marty Kezon

Senior Book Group Leader

Joe Shansky

Joe Shansky

Program Operations Director (Interim)

haydée souffrant

haydée souffrant

Book Group Leader

Elise Mackevich Salchli

Elise Mackevich Salchli

Finance and Administration Manager

Sonia Velázquez

Sonia Velázquez

Executive Director

Freelance Book Group Leaders

Our Board

VANESSA ÁLVAREZ

Vanessa Álvarez joined the Board of Literature for All of Us in 2019, moved by the way the LFAOU model helps participants use their personal stories to find their voice. Vanessa’s own natural gift for storytelling forms the foundation of her professional life, in which she creates strategic digital marketing and communications plans for entrepreneurs, businesses and nonprofits, both in English and Spanish. A committed Chicago native, Vanessa’s love for her city and its people leads her to be a catalyst for its communities. She holds a B.A. in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago and an M.A. in Organizational & Multicultural Communication from DePaul University. And she is a fan of summertime in the CHI and salsa – the kind you eat.

EMILY ARGENTINE

Emily Argentine is a native of Ohio who joined the Board in 2018. She will be assisting the Finance Committee and Corporate Giving. She works with financial institutions to mitigate money laundering opportunities and enhance risk compliance methods. She is also a certified SCUBA diver and enjoys going to the theater as often as possible. She is a lifelong bookworm and chatterbox who loves to share the joy of reading and is excited to be working with LFAOU to share this passion for reading with Chicago and the surrounding communities.

Shanquinnell Bullock

Shanquinnell Bullock is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who transitioned into the corporate healthcare world 9 years ago, after spending 14 years working in a non-profit. She earned a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Human Services and Counseling, and a Master’s of Science Degree in Human Services Counseling, both from National-Louis University. Shanquinnell is a firm believer in the power of growth and learning through individual connection: one person to another. She is passionate about helping others by using her own life experiences to guide her teaching and training on the job, in her blended family, and now with the board of LFAOU. Shanquinnell was born and raised on the West side of Chicago. Seeing the opportunity of working with Literature for All of Us as part of her life journey, she joined the Board of Directors in 2020. Shanquinnell looks towards this experience to help mold her own passion for the arts.

JESSICA CHETHIK
Jessica Chethik is co-founder of All for All Consulting, a company that aims to connect community organizations and businesses to schools in order to open dialogue, create understanding, and break down barriers to social progress. Previously, Jessica ran educational programs for Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago (CRFC), a civic education non-profit that works with Chicago Public Schools (CPS),  Jessica began her career teaching middle school language arts and social studies at a CPS school. A lover of books, Jessica is passionate about LFAOU’s mission and believes that coming together over literature is a wonderful way to connect, listen, learn, share and grow. Jessica joined the LFAOU Board in 2018.
Marlene DeFrates

Marlene DeFrates is a career educator. Currently, she is the Director of Diverse Learning, providing guidance to Special Education teachers and students. Previously, Marlene served as a mentor and coach in university settings and recently served as a school administrator. Marlene spent the first 14 years of her career teaching Language Arts and Science in Chicago. Marlene’s love for research and how to improve teaching motivates her to continue learning. She is a Chicago native and joined the LFAOU board in 2020.

CLAUDIA ESPINEL
Claudia Espinel works with people and organizations committed to fostering a culture in which individuals from different races, nationalities, gender, abilities, religions, and sexual orientation feel that they belong. Currently, she applies her passion for intercultural development and global social justice at a Unitarian Universalist theological school in Chicago, where she is the Director of International Formation. She also brings to her community and professional engagements her strategic and program manager skills developed during 12 years working with organizations navigating cultural changes in Colombia and the United States. Claudia is drawn to LFAOU out of her love of reading, which she experiences as an opportunity to become immersed in a new world, to dream of more fulfilling futures, and to expand our connection with ourselves and others.
 
Tiffany Gore

Tiffany Gore is a career educator. For the last 18 years, Tiffany has worked in a variety of capacities within and for Chicago Public Schools including teacher, professional development specialist and workshop facilitator.  Currently, Tiffany serves as a high school assistant principal.  She is an active member in other nonprofit organizations where she works with developing youth leadership and preparing youth for post-secondary education. She has her own educational consulting firm, founded her own scholarship foundation, and co-partners with other affiliates to provide training and development to educators and those of other professions. She joined the Board of Directors of Literature for All of Us in 2020.

PAUL N. KELLER
Paul Keller joined the LFAOU board in 2017. He is a retired partner from Ancel Glink Diamond Bush DiCianni & Krafthefer where he advised and represented a wide range of governmental entities. Currently, Paul serves as Assistant Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, is director and general counsel of the Kuling American School Association, and is on the board of The Lady Elgin Foundation. Paul values helping people connect to their inner life and to their community through reading and writing. A certified scuba instructor who enjoys playing multiple musical instruments and reading his favorite poetry. Paul lives in Lincoln Park.
Jimmy Lee Lard

Jimmy Lee Lard is an Urban Filmmaker and Screenwriter who works to bring the often untold stories of marginalized populations to light. Additionally, Jimmy has worked in Corporate Learning and Development for over two decades where he designs curricula and oversees adult education programs. A native of Chicago, he has a strong background in community service lending support to community and youth organizations and facilitating community development workshops. Having majored in English at DePaul University, he believes people can use literature to help to shape, change, and reflect on their own lives. Jimmy joined the board of Literature for All of Us in 2020.

LIZ LASSNER
Liz Lassner joined the LFAOU Board in 2019. She is a Chicago-based real estate broker with @properties. Liz’s interest in social justice spans back to her days as a student at the University of Michigan where she began her volunteer work at shelters serving women and children seeking safety from abusive environments. She has served on several volunteer boards and was a founding strategic advisor for the human rights education nonprofit, Unsilence. Prior to her career in real estate, Liz worked in the nonprofit sector in fundraising, as well as strategic planning and budgeting positions. A native of Michigan, Chicago has been Liz’s home for 25 years. She lives in Bucktown with her wife and dog, Chloe, and loves to travel and enjoy the outdoors.
Danielle Leber

Danielle Leber joined the LFAOU board in 2020. Since her start at a nonprofit literary journal to her current role in publishing for nonprofit associations, she has long been dedicated to creating excellent content and education that brings new concepts and ideas to people from every walk of life. Danielle holds degrees in fiction writing, journalism, and publishing. A resident of Chicago for 15 years, Danielle is an avid bookworm and enjoys exploring the city’s amazing parks and restaurants with her husband, Adam, and basset hound/golden retriever mix, Chet.

Tamara McKnight
Tamara McKnight joined the LFAOU board in 2017 and is serving as Treasurer. A lifelong community volunteer, Tamara was taken with the mission of LFAOU after learning about the organization at a fundraising event. With degrees and certificates in Computer and Information Science and accounting, Tamara is SVP of a Life Sciences consulting firm, The Evanston Group. Tamara is an avid reader who loves to travel. Empty nesters, she and her husband live in Lakeview in Chicago.
Liz McCabe
A longtime volunteer, Liz McCabe joined the board in 2018 after several years on the Junior Board and 9 years as the LFAOU coordinator of Chicagoland’s Poetry Out Loud contest (a program of the Illinois Arts Council, the Poetry Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts). Liz holds a Ph.D. in English from Northwestern, where she now leads the faculty cohort of the Chicago Field Studies program and works closely with the Center for Civic Engagement. Her teaching and research interests range from Victorian literature, to representations of labor and office culture, to political theory, Chicago history, and social justice frameworks. She shoehorns poetry into all of her courses and endlessly celebrates the communal power of people coming together around poems and books.
WALTER TAYLOR
Walter Taylor, NBCT (National Board Certified Teacher) is responsible for the strategic planning, development and implementation of Chicago Teachers Union Foundation (CTUF) Quest Center’s Professional Development Division. He has taught in Chicago Public Schools, facilitated professional development (PD) for public education teachers and provided training on a range of topics including: Restorative Practices, Differentiated Instruction, Questioning and Discussion Techniques, Cultural Competency, Classroom Management, Critical Race Theory and more. Walter loves to read essays and novels and to read and write poetry. He also enjoys playing tennis, fine dining and traveling. Walter is beyond thrilled to join the Board of LFAOU, as literacy has always been a passion of his.
JULIE VICTOR
A career social worker, now in private practice, Julie Victor joined the LFAOU board in 2013 and currently serves as President. Passionate about personal growth and community development, Julie worked in Chicago Public Schools where she experienced the profound impact that school based opportunities can offer children and teens. Julie and her family live in Chicago where they love taking advantage of the many unique and diverse experiences living in the city of Chicago has to offer.
NEWLIN O. WOLLASTON
Newlin O. Wollaston has been in the financial services industry for over 20 years and is currently a Private Client Advisor for JP Morgan Chase. He also serves as the Assistant Pastor of his local church located in Chicago’s southside inner city.
NAJOLIE WRIGHT
Najolie Wright joined the board of directors in 2018. She came to Literature for All of Us as a book group participant in 2004. Her book group experience fueled her passion for reading and writing leading her to become a teacher. Najolie enjoys offering her skills and passion while learning alongside her students and their families. Najolie lives in Evanston, IL with her two children. She plans on returning to college. In her spare time, Najolie loves to read and write and being a stage performer.
CHERYL WOOTEN
Cheryl Wooten is a native Chicagoan who has a background in the insurance and financial services industry as well as counseling psychology. She provides compliance education/oversight, risk management and securities supervision for State Farm Insurance Companies. Cheryl is also passionate about helping others discover and realize their full potential by providing counseling, coaching and consulting as a licensed professional, nationally board certified counselor. An avid reader at heart, Cheryl was drawn to LFAOU’s mission and work due to the positive impact literature has made in her life and those around her.

Leadership Council

Kathy Bresler
Sue Brodarick
Marilynn J. Cason
Patty Coghlan
Carol Lynn Connell
Barbara Disko
Susan Doctors
Howard S. Dubin
Noreen Edwards
Mary Erickson
Tom Figel
Rozellyn Gibson
Carol Gifford
Jennifer Grau
Mildred Harris
Keri Holleb Hotaling
Susan K. Kaden
Lissa Karron
Judy Keller
Ann Lagory
Lisa E. Lewis
Nancy Liebman
Chic Marasa
Iris Marreck
Casandra Melton
Leslie J. Millenson
Helen Moshak
Bonnie Oberman
Ann Ohlrogge Johnson
Michele Pockross
Elizabeth Posner
Roberta Rubin
Sandra Shane-DuBow
Eileen L. Share
Rob Simmons
Debbie Smith
Susan Sneider
Linda Stevenson
Eliseo Thorrens
Rekha Tobaccowala
Angela Valavanis
Jan Valukas
Bernice Weissbourd
Denise Philip Winter

Writers Council

Sandra Cisneros
Aaron Coleman
Abby Geni
Jane Hamilton
Joy Harjo
Cristina Henriquez
Parneshia Jones
Nami Mun
Sara Paretsky
Kathleen Rooney
Erika L. Sánchez
Diane Seuss
Barbara A. Shapiro
Anna Solomon
Gail Tsukiyama
Dawn Turner

Junior Board

Nathalie Lagerfeld
Liz McCabe
Katie Shatto
Karen Shimmin

“BOOK GROUP MADE ME FEEL LIKE SOMEBODY. MADE ME WANT TO BE SOMEBODY.”

— Nicole Williams, Book Group Alum

CONNECT WITH US

Contact

Address

5940 N. SHERIDAN RD.
CHICAGO, IL 60660