Highland Park Neighbors Magazine Articles


Leading With Purpose

Since 2018, the Associated Leadership Council (ALC), has served Highland Park Community Foundation as a collection of highly motivated young community members who are dedicated to furthering HPCF’s mission of addressing unmet community needs. With the goals of raising awareness about the HPCF’s mission, fundraising, actively engaging residents in community service events, and bridging the gap between the Foundation, community, and grantees, the ALC has assumed a critically important role. With tremendous gratitude, HPCF’s Board recognizes the current members of the ALC: Ali Barnett, Joey Bleiman, Erik Gimbel, Ashley Kelly, Taryn Kessel, Lisie Kuchar, Simon Leibovich, Emily Nasatir, Heather Sher, Jeff Weil, and Eric Zoberman.

Taryn Kessel, HPCF Board member, ALC founder and current Co-Chair, believes the ALC is a vital part of ensuring the next generation becomes invested in HPCF’s work. “I grew up in Highland Park and came back here to raise my family,” she stated. “As the youngest member of HPCF’s Board, I was interested in finding a way to get the demographic of younger adults and families involved in the Foundation. I thought maybe there could be a subgroup focused on bringing awareness to the HPCF and giving back to our community in a way that involved them,” Taryn added.

The ALC was formed in 2018 and hosted its first community service project, which was followed by a very successful fundraising event. Then came COVID. Unable to host events and with the strain of the pandemic on their own families, the ALC members’ work nearly came to a halt. Fortunately, the strain has eased and with the ability to host events once again, they are looking forward to a bright 2024.

“Our first year we coordinated a wonderful community service project at the Nuestro Center, where we assisted in moving their library. It was an excellent event where families got together to give back to the community. One of our goals is to sponsor more community service events that families can participate in, which will benefit HPCF’s grantees. We have since put together packages for mothers at Zacharias Center, and we’ve donated food to Blessings in a Backpack, but we are looking for more opportunities to pitch in and give where we live,” Taryn explained.

Nuestro Center Event

Craig Leva, HPCF Board member and liaison to the ALC, reflected on the ALC’s importance to the Foundation. “The ALC is about next generation leadership, so it consists of young leaders that are driven to create awareness about the Foundation, raise funds, and lead in order to help others and our community,” Craig said. He, too, is looking forward to all that is to come. “I am excited about their plans to host community service projects, fundraising events like the terrific Bocce event they held pre-COVID, and social events to move the needle forward for the HPCF.”

Laurie Levin, HPCF Chair, added her thoughts. “Like their peers, the ALC’s families have been dealing with a lot of very tough issues over the past few years. I am happy they feel ready to re-establish themselves and move forward with their goals.” Turning to the relationship between the ALC and Board, she stated “As a Board, we want to engage the ALC in some of the activities we do with our grantees, so they get to know the organizations that help our community in so many ways. The ALC is a springboard for younger people who may eventually want to serve on our Board or become involved in other ways. It’s a good way to learn about the needs in our community and the organizations that address them, and to work alongside a group of people who are 100% dedicated to addressing community needs.”

Bocce Event

Ashley Kelly, the second of three ALC Co-Chairs, says she hopes to focus on microfundraising events. “Through cards, pickle ball, or other micro-fundraisers we can engage community members in fun and impactful ways. We are also looking to do a larger hospitality event—I feel like that’s a good connection point, whether it’s hosting interactive grantee events or just bringing people together in a social event.” Like Taryn, Ashley also commented about the need to engage younger families. “What the Foundation has been doing over the years is so wonderful and impactful. But there is this gap of younger families who have never heard of it, let alone know how much the Foundation helps our community. The ALC can change that. Our main goal has always been to raise awareness among our peers, so younger families see the really great work of the HPCF. We want to inspire them get involved and also to support the HPCF financially.”

ALC member Emily Nasatir joined the Council in 2018 after working for one of the Foundation’s grantees. She was inspired by the important work the HPCF does for both Highland Park and Highwood. “For me, what really resonated was HPCF’s vision of an inclusive and vibrant community where everyone feels welcome and comfortable regardless of socioeconomic status, race, creed, etc. All of the ALC members are professionals who care about the community; we’re the next generation that is deeply committed to our community and to everyone who lives here; and we want to make sure that there is equitable access within the community.” To Emily, that vision can be achieved by supporting the organizations that address community needs. “We want younger people in the community to learn about HPCF’s grantees and volunteer with their families, so the next generation gets to see the importance of giving back to the community. We are also focused on integrating the Council with the Board, so we understand their processes, and fundraise to support the wonderful work of HPCF’s grant recipients who address the educational, creative and cultural, and human service needs of children, teens, families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities who live in our community.”

With the busy year ahead, the ALC is looking for additional members. If you are interested, please contact the Foundation at info@hpcfil.org and put ALC in the email subject line.