The Friendship Center is grateful for the leadership, expertise, and dedication of its board members.

Michelle Cahoon, President
Independent Director, Russell Funds, and Retired Financial Services Executive

Michelle Cahoon has been a volunteer at The Friendship Center since July 2019 after spending 30-plus years in the financial services industry as the CFO of an investment management firm and a certified public accountant. Michelle has been a long-time financial supporter of the Greater Chicago Food Depository due to her strong belief that no one should go hungry and becoming a regular volunteer at the pantry was a top goal after her retirement. Michelle joined the board in 2021 and brings both her hands-on knowledge from volunteering as well as her financial skills to that role. Michelle enjoys food, wine and travel and has been an avid Blackhawks fan since before their recent Stanley Cup wins.

Patrick Bill Daniels, Vice President
Assistant Director of Health and Equity, Swedish Hospital

Patrick Bill Daniels serves as the assistant director of Health and Equity for Swedish Hospital. With more than 10 years of nonprofit management and community organizing, Patrick leads Swedish’s Healthy Chicago Equity Zone project. He is responsible for implementing the strategic plan that addresses the health disparity challenges in Chicago. Patrick joined The Friendship Center board in 2022. He is excited to bring his community organizing and project management skills to The Friendship Center. In addition to serving on The Friendship Center board, he is president of the University of Illinois at Chicago We Are Men (WAM) program and founder of the Bill & Margie Daniels Foundation. When he is not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, reading, cycling, and spinning records at social gatherings.

Mark Bookman, Treasurer
Retired Ernst & Young Partner

Mark Bookman has been a volunteer at The Friendship Center since November 2019. He retired in June 2019 after 32 years providing tax services to clients in the real estate and financial services industries. Mark joined the board in 2023 and looks forward to bringing his tax, finance and leadership experience to The Friendship Center to support and expand their mission. He enjoys travel, golf, attending sporting events, and spending time with his wife and two dogs. 

Melissa D. Sobota, Secretary
Partner, Franczek P.C.

Melissa Sobota has served on the board of The Friendship Center since 2016 and was a consistent volunteer with The Friendship Center Pet Food Pantry for two years prior to that. Melissa is a management-side labor and employment attorney and a partner in the law firm of Franczek P.C. where she focuses her practice primarily on traditional labor matters. Melissa continues to volunteer with the Pet Food Pantry and is an avid animal lover. Melissa is an alumni of the University of Oklahoma and Chicago-Kent College of Law and continues to be active in her alumni networks.

Lauren Biedron
Senior Vice President, Corporate Partnerships, Feeding America

Lauren Biedron is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships at Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization and the largest nonprofit in the U.S.  In her role, Lauren oversees revenue from cause marketing, corporate philanthropy and employee engagement.  Lauren has dedicated her
entire career to the mission of ending hunger.  Prior to joining Feeding America, Lauren held multiple fundraising positions at the Greater Chicago Food
Depository (GCFD), the Feeding America partner food bank responsible for providing food to people who face hunger in Cook County, Illinois. While at GCFD, she oversaw all giving by corporations, private foundations and community-based organizations. Biedron holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She resides in Chicago.

Susan Casey
Zero Waste Schools Program Manager, Seven Generations Ahead

Susan Casey joined The Friendship Center board in 2021 and helps with Saturday food deliveries to seniors. She has lived in the North Park community with her family for over 20 years, where she’s enjoyed volunteer leadership roles in the local community association and a local school. As a program manager for the environmental nonprofit Seven Generations Ahead, Susan helps K-12 schools reduce waste. She was a middle school science teacher prior to that. Susan looks forward to contributing her nonprofit, education and community-building experience to the work and mission of The Friendship Center.

Raquel daFonseca
Global Ethics & Compliance Officer and Deputy General Counsel Daniel J. Edelman Holdings, Inc.

Raquel joined the Board in 2022.  She is currently the Global Ethics & Compliance Officer and Deputy General Counsel for Daniel J. Edelman Holdings, Inc. (DJEH), one of the largest, worldwide, privately held public relations and strategic communications firm in the world.   Prior to joining DJEH, Raquel had a fifteen (15) year legal career serving in different legal and compliance roles with various companies within The General Electric Company.  In addition to serving on The Friendship Center Board, Raquel serves as Secretary for the Women’s Excellence Network (WEN), a not-for-profit, legal women’s diversity group.

Steve Paska
Donor Relations Supervisor, Mercy Home for Boys & Girls

Steve is currently Donor Relations Supervisor at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls in Chicago.  He has been with Mercy Home since 2015. As a member of North Park Covenant Church, Steve has heard many stories about the good work that The Friendship Center does helping those in need in our community and is looking forward to bringing his nonprofit experience to the board. He is a graduate of North Central College in Naperville. When not working, you might find him rooting for the Cubs, hiking, or playing board games with his wife and friends.

Kelly Weiss
Founder & CEO, Allize

Kelly Weiss joined the Board in 2022. Kelly has her master’s degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago and has spent her career focusing on fundraising, resource allocation, and IT equity. With 15+ years in project management and IT operations, she currently works on large-scale IT system rollouts. Kelly has also published two novels and will bring her combined passions for IT user experience and storytelling to The Friendship Center. 

Alex Zinicola
Director, Client Services, Slalom Consulting

Alex Zinicola joined The Friendship Center Board in 2023 in service of a multi-year effort to support food insecure neighbors at both a local and national level. Alex serves as a Director in Slalom Consulting’s Client Services practice where he is accountable for leading large-scale transformation efforts from strategy through execution. Originally from DC, Alex is a hopelessly optimistic Washington Nationals fan; proud James Madison University alumnus; and avid crossword puzzler.