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Meet Our Team

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Rev. Veronica M. Johnson

Outreach Director | she/her

Rev. Veronica M. Johnson was born in Chicago, IL and raised in Maywood, IL. She attended the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign where she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering, with honors. She worked in the fields of engineering and project management for several Fortune 500 companies for 20 years prior to answering her call to ministry in 2006.

Rev. Johnson earned a Master of Divinity Degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in 2012, graduating with academic commendation. Rev. Johnson currently serves as CoPastor of Hyde Park Union Church. She has served previously in the Baptist, AME, and UCC churches, and is the former president of the council for the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago.

Rev. Johnson has been instrumental in mentoring and guiding persons of many nationalities, ages, religious backgrounds, etc., to pursue theological education, as she served for seven years as the Sr. Director of Admissions and Enrollment of McCormick Theological Seminary.

She has also served as a motivational speaker, mentor, workshop facilitator and consultant for corporations, K-12 and higher educational institutions, churches and faith-based organizations.

Rev. Johnson is the mother of two children: Curtis Johnson II,  a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Vanessa Johnson, a student at Howard University in Washington D.C.

 
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Rev. Cindy Shepherd

Green Team Director | she/her

Rev. Shepherd directs all of Faith in Place’s Central Illinois outreach programs.

 

Her enjoyment of working with the many people and communities of the region inspire her every day in her desire to live out faith with compassion for Earth and her inhabitants. Cindy grew up in Kansas and has lived in Illinois for 24 years. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy from the University of Kansas and Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.

She served in parish ministry for the Presbyterian Church (USA) and joined Faith in Place in 2012 as a discussion leader for the Just Eating Sustainable Food Curriculum. Cindy became the Director of Outreach for the Central Illinois office in June 2014. 

 
 
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Dan Huntsha

North & West Chicago Suburbs Outreach Director | he/him

Dan first joined Faith in Place in 2014 as a volunteer working to gather grassroots support for the EPA Carbon Rules, and later the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill. In 2015 he joined our outreach staff to help with our smart energy programs in the western and northwestern Chicago suburbs.

 

He grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, currently resides in Rolling Meadows, and is a member of Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist. His B.A. in Communications is from DePauw University, and he previously volunteered with environmental education and advocacy organizations including The John G. Shedd Aquarium, Sierra Club, and The Climate Reality Project.

 

By living his philosophy, “Try to learn something from everyone,” while spending time with many climate organizations, he’s been able to develop a creative climate communication style that produces action. He strives to be a catalyst for positive healthy change by connecting people’s existing passions with Faith in Place’s action-focused programs.

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Rev. Wade Halva

Southern Illinois Outreach Coordinator | he/him

Wade grew up in Raleigh, NC at the end of a half-mile long dead end dirt road. The back property line was a creek, and Wade’s early playground was the woods. His roots in the forest continue to ground his care for creation. 

Wade received his Bachelor of Arts in history and religious studies from the College of Wooster, a Master’s in Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary, and a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Union Presbyterian Seminary. He has served in parish ministry in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Illinois and Utah. 

For rest and relaxation, Wade enjoys the mountains and the beach, the forests and the bluff. Malawi, Tanzania, and  Zambia hold a special place in his heart. 

 
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Isioma Odum

Chicago Outreach Senior Coordinator | she/her

Isioma grew up in Vancouver, Washington surrounded by evergreen trees. Her father is the Director of the Department of Ecology for Washington state, which is where her passion for all things environmental stems from.

She received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Science concentrating in Sociology and Psychology from Washington State University, and an Master of Arts in Social Justice from Loyola University Chicago’s Institute of Pastoral Studies. During her graduate program, she was an Intern Facilitator at the Brother David Darst Center. Prior to that, she worked for the Health Justice Project and was involved in the Initiative to Amend Lead-Based Paint Poisoning in Federal Homes.

Isioma joined Faith in Place as the Bronzeville Outreach Coordinator in May 2018. Now she serves the organization as the Chicago Outreach Senior Coordinator. 

 
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Carla Aldana

Northern Illinois Bilingual Outreach Coordinator | she/her

Carla is from Waukegan, IL where she later went to college as a first-generation student.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies with a minor in Communication Arts from Allegheny College in Meadville, PA in May 2020. Carla has always loved camping, hiking, and going out into nature when she was a child.

 

In college, Carla served as the multicultural intern for the admissions office where she assisted and created programming for student visits. Diversity and inclusion, which includes religious, ethnic, socioeconomic, gender & sexuality, etc. is a key factor when having various conversations, especially when talking about environmental justice. She has ethnographic research experience that helped her understand telling people’s stories is a powerful tool when advocating and learning about various communities.

 

Carla is the Lake County Outreach Coordinator at Faith in Place. She is excited to be back in her community to help bring various groups of people together to protect the environment.

 
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Jalisa Mauldin

Indiana Outreach Coordinator | she/her

Jalisa Mauldin lives in Gary, IN and serves as Faith in Place’s Gary Indiana Outreach Coordinator. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science from Fisk University. Jalisa is passionate about environmental justice, community building, and resource management. 

 

Jalisa’s passion for community building continued during her years as a student at Fisk University. As a member of the Fisk Regional Club, Jalisa was given the opportunity to connect with community members in the North Nashville, TN area. With a continued partnership with the local Boys and Girls Club, Jalisa unearthed her interest in teaching. Jalisa’s opportunity to teach, coupled with her experience as a Media Management Intern, gave her a true appreciation for providing communities with information for change! Jalisa also acted as Class Senator for two consecutive terms which ingrained in her a greater desire to champion community involvement, especially regarding the evolution of legislation. 

 

Jalisa’s skills in outreach, education, and community advocacy will propel her mission to continue bringing environmental health and community building to the forefront of Gary, Indiana.

 
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Aiden Meyer

Central Illinois Outreach Coordinator | he/him

Aiden Meyer is the Central IL Outreach Coordinator.

 

Originally from Vandalia, IL, Aiden became interested in social justice issues when he would travel to St. Louis with his high school youth group to support low-income communities with public service projects.

 

His passion for social justice deepened when Professor Becky Croteau taught him about environmental injustice at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield. Professor Croteau is a member of the Green Team at Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Her mentorship, and especially her Prairie Restoration course, inspired Aiden to change his major from Criminal Justice to Biology. After earning his Associate degree at Lincoln Land, Aiden continued his studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies with a Minor in Criminal Justice.  

He currently resides in Springfield, and is very active in the local community. During college, he served as president of the Gay-Straight Alliance club and the secretary for the Environmental club. He loves being outdoors hiking, kayaking, camping, rock climbing, bouldering, you name it! He also regularly volunteers for Friends of the Sangamon Valley—a Springfield-based nonprofit that focuses on restoring natural habitats such as prairies, wetlands, and savannas.  

Aiden has also served five years in the Air Force National Guard as an Engineer Apprentice.

 
 
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Ramont "Ray" Bell

Director of Programs | he/him

Ramont is the Director of Programs at Faith in Place. In his current role, he carries the overall responsibility for achieving measurable impacts for environmental justice across all 5 program areas by supervising program staff, budgets, tracking of KPIs, creation of programs, and implementation. Ray also coaches 3-5 Green Teams.

Previously, he served as Outreach Coordinator for the Water Preservation program at Faith in Place.  He was responsible for overseeing and facilitating the improvement of storm water management systems at houses of worship in the Calumet region. The Water Preservation program includes storm water audits, green infrastructure planning, water audits and retrofits, and utilizing Faith in Place’s Interfaith Water Curriculum.

Ramont joined the Faith in Place staff in February 2016. He has a passion for economic/social justice and environmental issues, especially water preservation.

Previously, he worked for AT&T in various engineering positions. His last position was the Area Manager of Engineering and Planning for Illinois and Wisconsin. He received his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology and Education from Chicago State University, his Master of Science degree in Information Systems and Telecommunications from DePaul University, and his Professional Certificate in Watershed Management from Purdue University.

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Jonathan "Cosmic" Jackson

Wisconsin Outreach Coordinator | he/him

Jonathan Jackson, who also goes by Cosmic Shaman, is the Wisconsin Outreach Coordinator for Faith in Place. He was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

  

Jonathan holds an Associate Degree from DeVry University in Applied Science in Networking Systems Administration and has a diverse career background. Previously, he worked as an independent contractor installing IT systems. He also trained youth at Union League Boys & Girls Club in computer literacy. Jonathan has even interned at The Chicago Community Trust, The Chicago Defender, LUV Institute, and Lebanon Baptist Church where he learned to manage social media marketing/analytics.

 

Jonathan is also a Shaman, Holistic Health Practitioner, and Community Activist and Advocate. He holds certificates in Community Building & Restorative Practices and Conflict Resolution & Trauma Resiliency. A 2018-19 participant of the NAACP NextGen Leadership program, Jonathan developed additional leadership skills to implement change in his community. 

 

A long-time environmentalist, he was drawn to Faith in Place’s intersectional and multi-faith approach to environmental work. He is enthusiastic about growing Faith in Place’s impact in Wisconsin and is eager to connect.  

 
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Princess Harris

Sustainable Food & Land Use Senior Coordinator | she/her

Princess joined Faith in Place in March 2018. She is the Sustainable Food & Land Use Senior Coordinator, managing the Migration & Me Story Circles, nature outings, and other related programs. Previously, she served as Outreach Coordinator for the Migration & Me program and managed our former Winter Farmers Market program.

Princess’ interest in the environment started as a child when she would go into the Van Vlissingen Prairie & Wetland (now known as the Marian R. Byrnes Natural Area) with nothing but two dogs and the curiosity of a “cat” looking for some plant or creature to bring home. Having access to that area fueled her passion for all things green (watch her hike there!) and it is that experience that she wants to bring to all through the Migration & Me program.

Princess has worked on and managed an inner city farm, farmers market and understands the importance of having access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Princess hopes to use that knowledge to support Faith in Place’s mission to care for the Earth. Princess has a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Northeastern Illinois University and is working on her Master of Public Policy at Northwestern. She is honored to be part of Faith in Place and lives by the quote “There is no planet B.”

 
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Samantha Miller

Energy & Climate Change Outreach Coordinator | she/her

Samantha educates and engages people of faith with Faith in Place’s Smart Energy programs that help individuals and faith communities save money and reduce their environmental impact.

Before joining the Faith in Place team in July 2014, 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 holds a B.A. in Business Management with a concentration in Accounting.

"I work at FIP because I want to do my part in helping people to care for our planet.  I know a little about global warming and why we are getting these severe weather patterns.  But working at FIP has inspired me to learn more about how I can make a significant difference by becoming a good steward of our beautiful Earth.  People need to know that we only have this one planet and one chance to get it right!"

 
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Cesar Almeida

Youth Empowerment Coordinator | he/him

“The preservation of ancestral form is meaningless without a genuine development program.” As an artist, educator, and global meaning maker, Cesar designs artistic and educational programs for youth and young adults to conserve and uphold ancestral forms, which include environments, cultures, and languages. This work challenges Western Colonial approaches to education by centering the learner’s identity, embodying youth led approaches, and validating new media as literacy.

 

Ultimately, Cesar recognizes that the environment is not only about the birds, bees, and trees but is about the places we live, learn, eat, and sleep.

 
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Rev. Scott Onqué

Policy Director | he/him

Pastor Onqué currently serves as Pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, a 100-year-old historic church on the south side of Chicago. He has served in this capacity for 14 years. Under his leadership the church has grown tremendously both spiritual and numerically. Pastor Onqué has a passion for teaching and preaching the Word of God. Pastor Onqué is very civically and socially conscious.

 

He serves on several community boards and commissions and realizes that volunteering his time in community efforts is an integral part of his ministry. He is currently the President of the Congress of Christian Education Department of the Salem Baptist District Association of Chicago and Vicinity. He currently serves as the Treasurer of Baptist General State Convention of Illinois. Pastor Onqué also serves as a commissioner for African American Families Commission for the State of Illinois.

 
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Christina Krost

Policy Senior Coordinator | she/her

Christina Krost (long o, rhymes with "most") grew up in suburban Detroit and holds a Bachelor of Arts from Albion College and an MAT from Marygrove College.

 

She taught in both public and private schools in Illinois and Michigan for 10 years before starting her ministry in creation justice. She joined Faith in Place in March 2015 to organize Houses of Worship around smart energy programs in Central and Southern Illinois. In addition to her work at Faith in Place, she is Vice President of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference United Methodist Women and Chair of her conference's Church & Society board.

 

She is married to Todd, an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, and has 3 daughters. The family lives in Mattoon, IL. 

 
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Alexander Malchow

Wisconsin Policy Coordinator | he/him

Alexander Malchow lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and is the Wisconsin Policy Coordinator for Faith in Place.

 

He received his Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies and is working toward completing his Master in Public Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

 

Alexander is passionate about environmental and social justice, advocacy, and politics. Before joining the Faith in Place team in June 2022, Alexander's interest in justice led him to co-found Housing Navigation Services of Dane County. A program assisting individuals, families, and young adults, to get housed quickly and systematically.

 

In his free time, Alexander enjoys bicycling, coaching basketball, reading, and volunteering in his community. 

 
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Christine Glaser

Indiana Policy Coordinator | she/her

Christine joined Faith in Place in July 2022. She grew up in Germany and has lived in Indiana for more than three decades.

In 1981 she received her M.A. in economics from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, and a PhD in Public Affairs from Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, in 1984.

She was rudely awakened by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster that resulted in radioactivity raining down over much of Europe, contaminating playgrounds and pastures, forests and fields. Radioactivity was soon detected in food, in the dust that collects in vacuum cleaner bags and in sewage treatment plants.  This disaster, and a major chemical spill that made its way down the river Rhine, turned her attention to the fact that pollution doesn’t just happen “out there,” but that we are intimately affected by it as we eat, drink and breathe.

Since then, she has worked to further environmental protections in various capacities. She taught, until recently, courses on the environment at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington, IN, was co-founder and organizer of a local, volunteer driven non-profit called the Center for Sustainable Living, and at one point inspected small farms in Indiana for organic certification. For several years she worked as a consultant supporting environmental groups, some seeking to protect national and state forests, others fighting coal mining, biomass-burning power plants and highway construction.

Christine grew up in a Lutheran church in Germany. After moving to the US, she explored other faiths and spiritual traditions, and is now a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Bloomington, Indiana. She is active in an interfaith group in Bloomington Indiana, called Noah’s Ark, and loves exploring the infinite realm of Spirit.

 
 
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Katie Maxwell

Communications Senior Coordinator | she/her

Katie joined Faith in Place in August 2017. In her current role as Communications Senior Coordinator, she manages Faith in Place's social media and website, supports database management with a focus on communicating to supporters and optimizing their user experience, and is an active member of planning the organization's largest annual events, such as the Green Team Summit, Annual Advocacy Day, and Annual Celebration & Fundraisers. Katie and Lauren also co-host Faith in Place's podcast: Voices of the Earth!

Prior to her work on the Communications team, Katie came to Faith in Place through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps—a service year program that emphasizes simple, sustainable living, intentional community, and spirituality—to manage the Winter Farmers Market program during its 2017-2018 season. 

Katie lives out those values passionately and eagerly incorporates them into her work. She believes we cannot achieve a healthy environment without racial justice, and is thrilled to work toward environmental justice with Faith in Place. She is proud to be on a team that readily names how racism intersects with health disparities and food insecurities and also seeks to address these inequities across Illinois.

In 2017, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies and German with a concentration in Management Studies from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. During college, she interned at The Field Museum's Keller Science Action Center, researching policy related to monarch butterfly rehabilitation in Chicagoland’s 284 municipalities. Katie enjoys using the knowledge she gained from that research to support Faith in Place’s Migration & Me program as well as its other programs.

 
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Lauren Paris

Media Relations Coordinator | she/her

Lauren serves as a Media Relations Coordinator at Faith in Place. She recently graduated from DePaul University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in both Journalism and Environmental Studies with a focus in sustainability. Her passion for environmental justice and environmental communications grew from her experience working as a freelance environmental journalist and writer—covering climate change and environmental justice issues in Chicago.

Lauren also served as the President and Director of Communications for DePaul’s chapter of the Climate Reality Project—a student-led organization focused on increasing the Catholic University’s sustainability initiatives. More recently, Lauren worked to conduct research and co-author a chapter for the Routledge Handbook of International Trends in Environmental Communications on youth-led environmental movements and climate change communication in the digital era of activism.

Growing up on the southwest side of Chicago and surrounding suburbs, Lauren became passionate about writing and communicating issues of injustice that she witnessed in her own community and across the world. She is passionate about utilizing her strong writing, storytelling, and communications skills to advocate for just climate solutions and healthy communities, while working to empower and educate diverse communities of faith through her work at Faith in Place. Check out Voices of the Earth—a podcast she co-hosts with Katie—to learn more!

 
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Kira Dault

Communications Director | she/her

Kira serves as the Director of Communications for Faith in Place. Her personal mission statement is “To wield empathy, creativity, and collaboration to advance positive change and justice in the world.” She has a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Allegheny College and a Master of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt University. 

 

Kira spent her early career as a hospital chaplain for a pediatric trauma center. That early work in chaplaincy continues to inform her work in nonprofit communications. Kira brings more than a decade of eclectic experience to her role at Faith in Place including communications strategy, digital communications, and advocacy strategy. 

 

Kira’s passion for environmental justice stems from her passion for democracy, abolition, and racial justice. She lives the Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago with her family, including her husband and two children. 

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Rev. Brian Sauder

President & Executive Director | he/him

Rev. Sauder serves as the President and Executive Director of Faith in Place, a nonprofit empowering people of diverse faiths and spiritualities to be leaders in advancing environmental and racial justice by providing resources to educate, connect, and advocate for healthier communities.

 

Ordained by the Mennonite Church, U.S.A.—Rev. Sauder also serves as an Adjunct Professor at both McCormick Theological Seminary and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary—teaching public ministry courses for future clergy and faith leaders on organizing for environmental justice. 

 

He is an award recipient of the University of Illinois Business School's Community Scholar, a Central IL Business 40 Under 40 winner, and a 2019 Midwest Energy News' 40 Under 40 winner

Rev. Sauder grew up in rural Tazewell County, IL and received his B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences from the University of Illinois, his M.A. in Religion from Urbana Theological Seminary, and his M.B.A. from the University of Illinois.

Notable Media Work and Features:

 
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Elena Canler

Deputy Director | they/them

Elena serves as the Deputy Director for Faith in Place. Their passion for environmental justice grew from time working in community health in the US, Latin American, and the Middle East, and from their own experience as a queer Latine. They are passionate about honoring the intersectional nature of environmental health and supporting Faith in Place as they address the social, racial, and economic roots of the climate crisis.

They also grew up in a multifaith home with a Buddhist father and Christian mother and today, they follow Buddhist practices. Elena uses this background to communicate across faith traditions and are passionate about utilizing their skills in messaging, digital media strategy, and graphic design to advocate for community health and just climate solutions.  

After growing up in Tennessee, Elena got their Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Tennessee, a Master of Arts from North Park Theological Seminary, and a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Environmental and Occupational Health from the George Washington University. Their MPH thesis research focused on how to build climate resilience among Latinx youth through climate communications. They also serve on American Public Health Association's Center for Climate, Health and Equity Advisory Board as well as the Environmental Health and the Health and Climate Change Committees.

 
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Ginnie Judd

Operations & Finance Director | she/her

Ginnie grew up in the Chicago suburbs and received her Bachelor of Science in Food Science from Iowa State University in Ames. She 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. She joined the Faith in Place team in January 2013 as the bookkeeper and now serves as our Operations & Finance Director, overseeing financial matters and grant reporting so that we are able to support programs that inspire faith communities to better Earth care.

Ginnie also coordinates our product ordering to make our business practices more sustainable. In her community, she is a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, and she serves as Board Treasurer for Pizza and Social Justice, a 501c3 community organization dedicated to building a society free from racism and discrimination by fostering lasting relationships across all racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds; by recognizing bias in ourselves and our communities; and by working together to promote a more just society.