Our core staff members work closely with many volunteers to ensure the Friendship Center is meeting the needs of the community with kindness and empathy.

Photo of Alex in front of the Friendship Center's welcome wall

Alex, Manager of Operations & Logistics

Contact Alex about:
Daily Operations | Delivery Maintenance | Food Rescue

Alex was born and raised in our fair city, and is the rare Chicagoan who roots for both the Cubs and White Sox. He enjoys managing an interesting and diverse group of volunteers and helping people who are struggling to get the food they need. He has earned the nickname “Tetris Grand Master” for his skill in squeezing as much food as possible into every square inch of storage space.

Justin Block, Executive Director

Contact Justin about:
Fundraising | Community Partnerships | Organization Information

Justin is the Friendship Center’s Executive Director, bringing with him over 15 years of experience developing and managing teams and collaborating effectively at mission-driven organizations to increase impact for the communities they serve. Most recently, he led teams in Supply Chain and IT at Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization, and prior to that, at Shorebank, a pioneering Chicago-based Community Development Financial Institution created to combat redlining, the practice of arbitrarily denying or limiting financial services to specific neighborhoods. Justin and his wife live in the Albany Park neighborhood on Chicago’s northwest side, and when he’s not working to improve the lives of his food-insecure neighbors, he is probably somewhere drinking coffee, nerding out about pizza or watching old movies.

Karen Nevotti, Director of Operations

Contact Karen about:
Senior Deliveries | Hot Meal Program | Pet Food Pantry | Volunteering

Karen came to The Friendship Center as a volunteer and is grateful for the opportunity to turn her passion for helping others into a full-time job. She previously worked as a Project Manager for a toy company and has managed fundraisers, strategic programs, and volunteers for local elementary schools and the Circle of Help. Karen lives in Albany Park with her husband, two kids, and their famous dog, JoJo.

Lena Stein, Public Benefits Coordinator

Contact Lena about:
Benefits Program Application Assistance | Area Resource Referrals

Lena (she/her) joined the Friendship Center in 2022 and helps support clients with benefits assistance as well as conducting outreach in the Friendship Center’s service area with neighboring institutions. Lena, originally from North Carolina, graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and has previously worked in immigration legal services, health equity-based legal aid, and sustainable food access.

Seth Kaplan, Van Driver

Contact Seth about:
Food Rescue Pick-ups | Donation Pick-ups

Seth was born and raised in the near west suburbs of Chicago. He joined the Friendship Center as the van driver in August of 2022. In a past life, he was an avid dumpster diver, and it bothers him to see things go to waste.

Abbie Malkin, Development Manager

Contact Abbie about:
Donations | Fundraising Opportunities | Communications

Abbie grew up in the Northwest Chicago suburbs, and earned her BS in Public Health and International Development from Tulane University. She most recently worked in development and marketing at a local Synagogue. Abbie lives in Lakeview with her cat, and can usually be found jamming out to Taylor Swift or cheering on the Cubs.