Our Staff

Brian Sauder Bio

Rev. Brian Sauder , Executive Director

Brian grew up in IL in rural Tazewell County, received his B.S. from the University of Illinois in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, M.A. in Religion from Urbana Theological Seminary, and M.B.A. from the University of Illinois. Brian is licensed towards ordination by the Mennonite Church U.S.A. He started the central Illinois office for Faith in Place in January 2010, where he served as the statewide Policy Director for Faith in Place. Brian became the new Executive Director of Faith in Place in June of 2014. He also serves on the Board of the Illinois Environmental Council and his work has been recognized as a 2012 award recipient of the University of Illinois's Business School's Community Scholar and as a 2013 Central IL Business 40 Under 40 winner.

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Veronica Kyle , Chicago Congregational Outreach Director

Veronica joined the Faith in Place staff in August 2008 to engage in the much needed work of linking/involving African American churches to the work of Faith in Place. In addition Veronica works with other Faith in Place partners in the movement to share, coordinate and support congregations that are new to the idea of living out their faith while serving as good stewards of the environment. Veronica lived and worked for the past twelve years in the Caribbean and Southern Africa for a faith-based organization in the areas of social justice and development. She received her B.A. in Religion and Women Studies from Vermont College of Norwich University and her Masters degree in Gender Studies from University of the West Indies, 1999.

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Rev. Cindy Shepherd , Central Illinois Congregational Outreach Director

Cindy grew up in Kansas and has lived in Illinois for 24 years. Her interest in sustainable agriculture was stoked by visits to small growers in Nicaragua and Palestine. Her interest in yummy vegetables is fed by a share of Faith in Place's partner: Sola Gratia Farm in Urbana. She recently left parish ministry to become the Director of Congregational Outreach for Faith in Place's Central Illinois office. She looks forward to working with the many people and communities of the region who strive to live out their faith with compassion for Earth and her inhabitants.

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Susana Figueroa , Lake County Congregational Outreach Director

A graduate of Lake Forest College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Susana has worked serving the needs of the Waukegan community, specifically the needs of the Latino Community, for the last 28 years. She is continuing that trend by joining the Faith in Place team as our Waukegan Community Outreach Organizer. From 1995 to 2013, Susanna worked for the Mayor’s Office as the City’s Community Liaison Administrator. In April 2013, Susana decided to take the next step in serving her community by choosing to run for the office of Mayor of Waukegan. During her 18 years of service in the city, Susana has been awarded and recognized for her outstanding service by the government of Mexico, The Illinois Park and Recreation Association and Illinois Association of Park Districts, Vision Newspaper, The Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Waukegan, and The Coalition of United Latinos of Lake County. Born and raised in Mexico, Susana moved to Waukegan in 1986, and now is now married with two beautiful children.

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Lorena Lopez , Congregtional Outreach Coordinator

Lorena Joined Faith in place September of 2013 as the Latino congregational outreach organizer. One of her first projects was to connect the Latino population to their own migration stories and the natural migrations of butterflies, birds and nature. Lorena grew a passion for nature as a young girl. She started her first community garden at the age of 10. A longtime resident of the Little Village neighborhood, Lorena was a community organizer for LVEJO, a community environmental organization. Through her work with this group she was involved with community mapping to demand a new, clean, safe park in Little Village. Along with a core group of volunteers, Lorena’s team was able to win major victories including the clean-up of 171 homes from cancer causing toxic chemicals as well as working for the installation of new drainage, new fencing, paved roads and street lights around a park site. Lorena’s passionate for community advocacy has led her to return to school to develop her professional skills, where she is currently pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies.

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Rev. Booker Steven Vance , Policy Director

Rev. Booker Steven Vance joined Faith in Place in February 2015 as the Policy Director working to promote renewable energy sources and energy efficiency in Illinois’ implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Originally from Houston, Texas, he attend Bethany Lutheran College in Lindsborg, Kansas and graduated in 1980 with a BA in Business Economics. He received his Masters of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago in 1986 and served as Pastor of St. Stephen’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Southside of Chicago for over 27 years. He has extensive experience in faithful advocacy and ecumenical community organizing, including work with Healthy Communities, Urban Gardening, Walmart Good Jobs Campaign, Fight for 15, SOUL (South Side Organized for Unity and Liberation) and HIV/AIDS Awareness Initiatives. He is the proud father of two young men and the grandfather of three.

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Ginnie Judd , Manager of Operations

Ginnie joined the Faith in Place team in January 2013. She has a Bachelor of Science in Food Science from Iowa State University in Ames and spent the majority of her career in food industry management before taking a nine year career break for family reasons. Faced with starting a new chapter of her life, she decided to move in the direction of environmental issues, something that has been close to her heart for many years. Ginnie has been a CSA (community supported agriculture) subscriber since 2007, and her home in the western suburbs was a host location for Genesis Growers of St. Anne, IL, for 4 years. She is glad to support Faith in Place’s mission in whatever ways she can. She divides her work time between Faith in Place and St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, where she takes on a short list of admin responsibilities in addition to her volunteer work there.

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Brooks Darrah , Congregational Outreach

Prior to pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at McCormick Seminary, Brooks had been an actor in the Chicago area for 25 years, working with a myriad of groups in stage, on-camera, and voice-over venues. Having received his classical training at Carnegie-Mellon University, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. A Wisconsin native, he has a love for nature that traces back to the days of his youth spent in scouting, boundary water canoe trips, and summers spent playing and working on his grandparents’ dairy farms. Since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on the gulf coast in 2005, Brooks has heeded the call to serve in rebuilding efforts with his home church, Lake View Presbyterian of Chicago, through the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance program. Brooks is looking forward to bringing together his unique mix in order to serve and grow in his ministry while working with Faith in Place.

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Rev. Debra Williams , Congregational Outreach Program Assistant

Rev. Williams, born, raised and current resident on the west side of Chicago, joined Faith in Place in January 2015 to serve as the outreach coordinator for the Migration, Monarchs, Birds, and Me program. This program is designed for those unique communities that share a rich legacy around migration to Chicago, with a special emphasis on African Americans and Latino Americans, and it creatively brings focus to environmental stewardship. Her B.A. (Elmhurst College) and her M.S. (Rush University-Chicago) are in Speech and Language Pathology. Her educational experiences include teaching ethics at Northwestern College as well as substitute teaching in Maywood and Berwyn, IL. After her call to ministry she attended and received her Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. Rev. Williams’ service in the 4th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church has been varied and has included pastoring churches in the Chicago area and in Indiana. Presently she is the pastor at Thomas A.M.E. church on the south side of Chicago. Impassioned by her faith and her love for people she welcomes and is excited about this opportunity to experience a new facet of ministry and service.

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Samantha Miller , Congregational Outreach

Samantha joined the Faith In Place staff in July 2014 to recruit and engage members of religious congregations to implement strategies for education and engaging individuals on saving energy and money.
Samantha worked for a nonprofit social service agency for over 20 years in Administrative Management. She is a member of the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church located in the West Garfield Park neighborhood and is a longtime resident of the North Lawndale community.
Samantha received her B.A. in business Management with a concentration in Accounting in 1992.

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Meghan Strell , Database Consultant

Chicago native, Meghan Strell, consults with Faith in Place on 1s and 0s. She uses the SalsaLabs contact database, Access, Excel, Social Media and a website to support FIP staff as they build relationships in the real world. She does the same for Protestants for the Common Good and the Community Renewal Society. When she's not online, she performs with Mucca Pazza.

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Callie Mabry , Congregational Outreach and Support

Callie joined Faith in Place in August 2014 as the yearlong Lutheran Volunteer Corps member. At Faith in Place she coordinates the Winter Farmers Markets and supports various other programs. Callie graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in May 2014 with a double major in Environmental Studies and History and a minor in Spanish. She is originally from Fort Collins, Colorado, where she developed a passion for environmental issues from a young age while enjoying time spent outdoors.

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Sarah Bennett , Congregational Outreach and Support

Sarah joined Faith in Place in August 2014 as the 2014-2015 McCormick Theological Seminary student intern. Sarah hails from the great state of Texas & graduated from Trinity University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration concentrating in both Accounting and Marketing. She spent a year serving as a Young Adult Volunteer with the PC(USA) in Chicago, IL before starting her Master of Arts in Ministry studies at McCormick.

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Susan Whiteman , Winter Farmers Market Assistant

Susan recently moved from Minneapolis, which was home for over half her life. She pursued careers in chaplaincy and retail yet she always loved nature, especially trees. Three years ago, she decided to follow that passion by becoming a volunteer at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, tending and learning about trees and shrubs. In conjunction with events on her own spiritual path, it was a transformative experience. Since then, Susan has intentionally sought the sustenance and harmony found in nature and treasures even more the Midwestern woods and prairies. She feels newly called to serving God's creation in a wider capacity and is excited about this opportunity to share her love for the earth through Faith in Place and the Winter Farmers Market program.

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Jim Cavallo , The Energy Doctor

Jim Cavallo, director of Midwest Energy Performance Analytics, Inc., is a RESNET certified home energy rater, BPI credentialed building analyst and shell specialist. His accomplishments are many – associate editor of Home Energy Magazine, board member of the Illinois Association of Energy Raters and Home Performance Professionals. He is a BPI proctor, teaches energy auditing and weatherization at St. Augustine College in Chicago, and teaches weatherization to contractors through the Illinois weatherization certification program. Prior to starting his own firm in 2000, Jim was on the research staff of Argonne National Laboratory where he directed a program on energy efficiency in existing buildings. He holds a Ph.D. from New York University in economics.

While volunteering with us, Jim (or The Energy Doctor, as we like to call him) will work with congregations participating in Faith in Place’s new Milestone program on energy management. With years of experience and a wealth of knowledge and resources at his fingertips, he will be an invaluable asset to those Milestone congregations looking to save energy and money.