The Friendship Center is grateful for the expertise and dedication of its board members.
Ted Helwig, Chair
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Ted Helwig has practiced law in Chicago for 40 years, the last three-plus decades at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and the first nine in the federal government as law clerk to a federal judge and then a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Ted served on the board of Legal Aid Chicago from 2004-2019, and has been on the board of the Friendship Center since 1998. He and his wife, Dawn, are long-time members of North Park Covenant Church, which founded the Friendship Center food pantry in 1969.
Rob Vosters, Treasurer
Manager of Records and Information Compliance, Vedder Price, P.C.
Rob Vosters began volunteering at the Friendship Center in 2013 before joining the board in 2015. He has served as the organization’s treasurer since 2016 and helps support the organization’s technology and data initiatives. Rob is the manager of records and information compliance at Vedder Price, P.C., an international law firm headquartered in Chicago.
Managing Director, Digital Platform Technology – Feeding America
Justin Block is the managing director, digital platform technology, at Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief and food rescue organization. Among the tools his team manages are MealConnect, the country’s only nationally available food rescue app, which to date has connected more than 2 billion donated meals with people who need them, and OrderAhead, an online click and collect model for charitable food assistance access that reduces stigma and provides information about additional available resources. Justin and his wife live in the Albany Park neighborhood on Chicago’s northwest side.
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.
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.
Elizabeth M. Johnson
Associate General Counsel, Citadel LLC
Elizabeth Johnson has served on the board of the Friendship Center since 2016. Elizabeth is a lawyer in the financial services sector, working as associate general counsel for Citadel. She is a member of North Park Covenant Church and serves on its board of community concern. She also volunteers with several alumni affinity groups of the University of Chicago.
Partner, Tiny Lounge
Mark William Johnson is the managing partner of Tiny Industries, a bar/restaurant group that includes Tiny Tapp Chicago Riverwalk, Tiny Tavern Navy Pier and Tiny Cafe, and which began with Tiny Lounge in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. In the summer of 2016, Tiny Tapp & Cafe began a mentoring program for students attending Roosevelt High School’s culinary program that provides an opportunity to gain real-world experience in a commercial kitchen under the tutelage of veteran industry professionals and develop critical work skills beyond the classroom. Additionally, his business has a long history of involvement in civic and community causes including: AIDS ride, Heartland Alliance, the Friendship Center, Neighborhood Boys and Girls Club, Perspectives Charter School and Young Chicago Authors. Mark has lived in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood for over 20 years.
Retired Chicago Public School Counselor
Linda Miranda has served on the Friendship Center board since 2013. Prior to her retirement in 2007, she worked as a school counselor for the Chicago Public Schools. Since her retirement, she has enjoyed traveling, reading, and promoting peace and justice. In addition to serving on the Friendship Center board, she is president of the Metropolitan Chicago Synodical Women’s Organization of the Women of the ELCA.
Melissa D. Sobota
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.
Director of Mission Advancement, Evangelical Covenant Church
Catherine Werner serves as director of mission advancement for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Previously, Catherine managed international community development and disaster relief partnerships and financials for Covenant World Relief. Catherine has been a fundraising professional for more than 10 years, working with nonprofits to end poverty, violence and inequality both nationally and globally. She and her husband, Matt, live in Chicago and are members of North Park Covenant Church where they actively participate in music ministry.
Senior Associate Director, Annual Giving, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
Sarah Zimmerman works as the senior associate director, annual giving at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. With more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising and management, she is responsible for driving strategy for the Law School’s annual fund and legal clinic. As a member of the board, Sarah supports the Friendship Center’s fundraising strategies, communications and strategic planning efforts.