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Staff Bios

Gaylord Gieseke
President (download high resolution photo)

Gaylord Gieseke believes that a firm understanding of child development is the basis of good public policy for children and families. Focusing on how children grow — and what they need at different ages — leads to proactive policy that lays the foundation to support healthy development.

During her 23-year tenure, Ms. Gieseke has led Voices for Illinois Children’s efforts for developing policy analysis and recommendations in the areas of tax policy, children’s mental health, child welfare, child abuse prevention, family support, welfare reform, early intervention for children with developmental disabilities, and education. Many of her efforts have involved building collaborative partnerships and engaging in administrative and legislative advocacy. She has served on and been in the leadership of many statewide and national advisory groups and task forces. She has also served in the roles of Voices chief operating and financial officer for many years.

Ms. Gieseke serves on the Illinois Early Learning Council and is a member of the executive committee. She serves as the co-chair of the Illinois Home Visiting Task Force which leads the new five-year federal initiative to further the state’s early childhood home visiting efforts. She served as the national co-chair of the State Leaders Advisory Committee of Prevent Child Abuse America. Ms. Gieseke is a member of the executive committee and the management team of the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership and serves as co-chair of the Birth to Five Committee. In addition, she is a member of the leadership team for the Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition. 

Ms. Gieseke’s many honors include the 1997 National Association of Child Advocates’ Professional Child Advocate Award and the 2001 Prevent Child Abuse Illinois’ Friend of Children Award. In 2003, she was named Public Citizen of the Year by National Association of Social Workers of Illinois.

 


     
  Yasmine Baharloo

Yasmine Baharloo (Yassi to us) joined Voices as a development intern, ensuring the success of the Voices’ Associates Board’s “Kids at Heart” fundraiser. She has since moved into her position as project assistant, to work on the public awareness campaign Foster Kids Are Our Kids, provide communications support for Illinois Kids Count, and continue in her development role. Recently she helped organize and implement the Wrigley Start Early Run, which brought nearly 2,300 people together in Chicago’s Grant Park in recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Originally from Houston, Texas, Ms. Baharloo came to Chicago to attend Columbia College Chicago, where she earned her degree in public relations. Outside of Voices, she can often be found at one of the Chicago’s many free events, her favorite of which is the Downtown Sound music series at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion.

     
    Lisa Christensen Gee

Lisa Christensen Gee is a policy analyst with the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children. Her work focuses on tax and budget issues that impact family economic security, child health, and education. Prior to joining Voices, Ms. Christensen Gee earned a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School and an M.A. in Public Policy Studies from the Harris School of Public Policy. Ms. Christensen Gee brings experience working on poverty and inequality policy with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, the Family Economic Security Team of the National Women’s Law Center, and with the Gendered Violence Law Clinic at LAF. Ms. Christensen Gee has previously worked in non-profit administration and as a middle school teacher. She holds a B.A. in English and Dance Education from Brigham Young University and is a licensed attorney in the State of Illinois.

 
     
  Pat Gonzalez

Pat Gonzalez was one of the first team members to join Voices for Illinois Children in 1987. She was instrumental in getting Voices started by helping to develop the organization’s bookkeeping and financial policies. Ms. Gonzalez has served as fiscal manager for the past 17 years, applying her strict attention to detail and strong management skills to keep Voices in sound fiscal shape. As a parent who was active in her children’s schooling, she believes strongly in Voices’ efforts to involve parents and concerned citizens in speaking out on behalf of children. Prior to joining Voices, Ms. Gonzalez was assistant bookkeeper at a financial company. She and her husband, Louis Garcia, have two children, Jaime and Kristen, and three grandchildren.

     

  Larry Joseph

Larry Joseph is director of research at Voices for Illinois Children. Mr. Joseph conducts research and analysis on how a range of issues impact children,  families, and communities. He serves on the Governor’s Budgeting for Results Commission and has provided technical support to the Illinois Human Services Commission and the Education Funding Advisory Board. Prior to joining Voices in 2007, he was senior research associate at the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, where he conducted policy analysis on Medicaid, welfare reform, and fiscal federalism. He previously served as associate director of the University’s Center for Urban Research and Policy Studies in the School of Social Service Administration (1987 to 1996) and in the Harris School of Public Policy (1996 to 2003). Mr. Joseph earned his doctorate in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also has a master’s degree in public policy studies from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. 

     

  Madelyn James

Madelyn James, director of Voices for Illinois Children’s “Great at Eight” initiative, is a passionate advocate for ensuring all children from birth to age 8 and their families have the necessary supports to achieve a strong foundation for future success. Ms. James’ responsibility at Voices is to build an approach that advocates for supports that benefit the “whole child.” Her first career was in business, where she honed negotiation, team building, management, budgeting, and strategic planning skills. Prior to joining Voices, Ms. James served in various capacities as a direct service provider, a Head Start and state preschool teacher, an Illinois STARNET trainer and project director, a supervisor of home visiting and center-based programs, director of the National Lekotek affiliates and early childhood training, a National Association for the Education of Young Children fellow, an adjunct faculty member with Chicago City Colleges, and as consultant and member of local, state, and national early childhood collaboratives. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bradley University and a master’s degree in early childhood education from Dominican University in River Forest, Ill. She has two adult children and recently became a grandmother for the first time to a beautiful baby named Illyana.

     
  Samantha Hedges

As youth development associate, Samantha Hedges uses her coalition building and teaching experience to support Voices’ efforts to improve out-of-school time and youth development opportunities for children and youth in Illinois. Prior to joining Voices, Ms. Hedges strengthened her policy advocacy and coalition building skills while working with suburban Cook County schools and communities through a federal obesity prevention grant awarded to the Cook County Department of Public Health. Her skills in education and out-of-school time derive from her time as an elementary school teacher. Ms. Hedges has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Indiana University and a master’s degree in social work from the Jane Addams College of Social Work at University of Illinois at Chicago.

     

 

  Anne Klassman

In her role as project manager, Anne Klassman works on a variety of efforts that strive to improve the quality of life for kids and families in Illinois. Ms. Klassman manages the Foster Kids Are Our Kids campaign, an award-winning public awareness campaign designed to influence public opinion about foster care. The campaign utilizes multiple communications platforms, including broadcast, Internet, and social media, as well as partner engagement strategies, to increase awareness of the many ways we can work together to make foster care better. Ms. Klassman also serves as director of the Illinois Kids Count project and as editor of the highly regarded annual Illinois Kids Count report, which serves to guide sound state policies that have a positive impact on the lives of children and  families. Prior to joining Voices, Ms. Klassman worked in the for-profit sector as an event planner, and she was also the project manager on the development of a flagship customer service department for a large retailer. As a life-long volunteer with exposure to a variety of social service agencies, Ms. Klassman is dedicated to community empowerment and serves on several local community service boards of directors.

     

  David Lloyd

As director of the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children, David Lloyd oversees the Fiscal Policy Center’s efforts to influence state tax and budget policies to support critical investments in our children, families, and communities. Prior to joining the Fiscal Policy Center, he was a senior advisor to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, advising the Senator on civil rights, immigration, manufacturing, and international trade policy. Through his work on international trade issues, Mr. Lloyd came to see that our state and national economic competitiveness depends on nurturing and developing our human capital — which starts with our children. Mr. Lloyd has a bachelor’s degree in history from Cornell University and a Masters in Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

     
    Debra Marillo

As development director, Debra Marillo is responsible for all of Voices’ fundraising planning and coordination, including securing grants from public and private sectors, major and planned gift programs, individual campaigns, special events, and board development. She has a longtime passion for providing services to children in need, and her past experience includes a long tenure for a specialty hospital for disadvantaged children with disabilities, chronic conditions, and those who suffered abuse and neglect. Ms. Marillo also gained valuable experience and perspective working at a domestic violence shelter. She holds a master of science with honors in Corrections (Psychology Division) from Chicago State University. An avid believer in the healing and nurturing aspects of food, Ms. Marillo also received a degree in Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts from the Culinary Hospitality Institute of Chicago (C.H.I.C.).

     
    Emily Miller

As director of policy advocacy, Emily Miller brings years of experience in Illinois public policy and legislative advocacy. Ms. Miller directs Voices’ legislative advocacy and shapes public policy priorities to improve life for children and families. Prior to joining Voices, Ms. Miller ran policy and government affairs for the Better Government Association, a non-profit government watchdog organization. Previous roles as a member of the Service Employees International Union Health Care Illinois & Indiana Government Affairs team and as the Health Care Advocate with Illinois PIRG gave Ms. Miller years of experience in standing up for children and families, and securing funding for vital programs, like the Child Care Assistance Program.  A member of the Illinois Bar, Ms. Miller earned her bachelor’s degree in government from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA and her Juris Doctorate from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

     

  Kelley Talbot

Wearing two hats as director of youth development and assistant director of policy advocacy at Voices for Illinois Children, Kelley Talbot works hard to improve families’ everyday quality of life by strengthening public policy. She has collaborated on efforts to boost families’ economic security, give more children the chance to benefit from quality afterschool programs, and strengthen programs that help our youngest kids thrive. She has also worked extensively on efforts to address Illinois’ budget challenges. Prior to joining Voices, Ms. Talbot was the assistant director of external relations at the Illinois Board of Higher Education, handling legislative and media affairs. She gained four years of legislative experience while on the Illinois House Democrats’ staff and helped run successful state representative campaigns in the north suburbs. Ms. Talbot has a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Occidental College in Los Angeles.

     

  Joan Vitale

As director of special initiatives at Voices for Illinois Children, Joan Vitale oversees the creation and support of Voices Leadership Committees — groups of civic leaders, community and business leaders, and concerned citizens who are passionate about improving children’s lives. Ms. Vitale previously directed the parent-education component of Voices’ nationally known Start Early: Learning Begins at Birth campaign, which provided young, at-risk parents with information about nurturing and stimulating the crucial brain development that occurs in a baby’s first years. The Start Early campaign used an award-winning original video and parenting magazine. Her work included providing training to more than 400 service organizations around the state in using the Start Early materials. Prior to joining Voices in 1997, Ms. Vitale was director of the Child & Parent Center at the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, where she managed support programs for more than 300 families. She also participates on a variety of statewide and local boards. She and her husband, Phil, have three children — Andrew, Amy and Melissa — and three grandchildren.

   Special thanks to John and Christine Randall at Randall Studio for all staff photos.