The Friendship Center’s dedicated staff work daily with volunteers to kindly and empathetically support our neighbors facing hunger.

Alex Early, Manager of Operations & Logistics

Contact Alex about:
Daily Operations | Delivery Maintenance | Donation Drop-offs

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.

Catherine Norcott, Operations Manager

Contact Catherine about:
Home Delivery | Hot Meal Program | Pet Food Pantry

Catherine Norcott (she/her) promotes food access for humans and animals as Operations Manager for Programs at The Friendship Center. A resident of West Town and printmaker with over a decade of experience working in visual art and disability organizations in Chicago, Catherine enjoys exploring natural spaces, reading, and supporting the city’s vibrant visual arts community.

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:
Volunteering | Group Volunteers | Food Rescue | Food Drives

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.

Lauren Diaz, Development Manager

Contact Lauren about:
Fundraising | Corporate Partnerships | Media

Lauren Diaz was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. She earned her bachelor’s in international studies with an emphasis in global health and human rights from the University of Iowa. After living and working in Uruguay for a year, she earned her master’s in nonprofit management from Adler University. Lauren has ten years of nonprofit experience in various roles, but her passion has always been “fun”draising. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with her family, serving on the Board at Filling the Gap NFP, grabbing coffee in a cozy coffee shop, adding stamps to her passport, and practicing her Spanish skills. Lauren is excited to join the team as the development manager and looks forward to using her skills to help feed our neighbors.

Lena Stein, Public Benefits Coordinator

Contact Lena about:
Public Benefits Application Assistance | Area Resource Referrals | Community Partnerships

Lena (she/her) joined The Friendship Center in 2022. She supports clients with benefits assistance and conducts outreach with neighboring institutions and partner organizations. Lena, originally from North Carolina, has previously worked in immigration legal services, health equity-based legal aid, and campus food recovery.

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.