Board of Directors

Officers

Chair John Restrepo is the director of the Division of Housing and Community Development at Jersey-City-based Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation (GSECDC). He has been involved with the planning, development, and management of over 500 scattered site housing units and 35,000 square feet of commercial space to increase the affordable housing stock in high cost markets. In the early stages of his career, Mr. Restrepo was once a community scholar and in 2016, served as the co-chair of the inaugural year of the Housing Scholars program. He returns to the Board of Directors after previously serving as Board President in 2015.

Vice Chair Leslie Stivale  is the President/CEO of Triple C Housing, Inc. (Triple C), a non-profit community housing development organization (CHDO) and supportive services provider. As a vision driven, results oriented leader, she has expanded Triple C’s supportive housing program, leveraging multiple funding sources to develop high quality housing and grow opportunities to enhance supportive services for individuals, families and veterans who have been formerly homeless and disabled. Ms. Stivale possesses twenty eight years of experience in behavioral health, human services and the supportive housing industry having worked within the private and non-profit sectors in senior and executive management. In 2010, Ms. Stivale was appointed to the NJ Interagency Council for Preventing and Reducing Homelessness. In 2017, Triple C was awarded the Governor’s Excellence Award in Supportive Housing, and in the same year, Leslie was presented with the prestigious Mort Gati award by the NJ Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association. She has served on the Network’s Board of Directors since 2014.

Treasurer Dan Antonellis has served as President of Region Nine Housing Corporation (RNHC) since 2012, developing high-quality affordable housing and providing services to families, seniors and disabled individuals. Prior to becoming RNHC President, he served as a Staff Representative for the Communications Workers of America, Local 1038 and spent nearly 25 years at the New Jersey Department of Labor prior to that. He is a former Vice President and Board President of the ARC Mercer and a founding member of the Board of Orphan Sponsorship International (OSI). Mr. Antonellis joined the Network Board of Directors in 2018.

At Large Members

Edward Bethea serves as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Gateway Community Action Partnership. He oversees all financial, managerial and revenue-generating departments and activities within the agency. He is the chief negotiator of all contracts and leases and serves as chief developer on all construction projects. He is responsible for the Operations, Finance and Human Resources Departments as well as, Head Start, Health Services, Economic Development, Social Services, Information Technology, Weatherization, Property Management and Facility Maintenance. He brings years of experience in tax consulting, financial planning, cash flow projection and asset management to Gateway, and maintains approval authority on all agency spending. He is also directly responsible for the interactions between Gateway and financial institutions and governmental entities. Mr. Bethea current serves as President of the Bridgeton City Municipal Council.  

Robert F. Guarasci is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) in Paterson. Prior to starting NJCDC, he served for four years as Executive Assistant to New Jersey’s Commissioner of Human Services. Governor Chris Christie has appointed Mr. Guarasci to serve on the Board of Trustees of William Paterson University and the New Jersey Interagency Council on Homelessness. He has also been appointed by US Secretary of the Interior to serve on the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park’s Federal Advisory Commission, which he currently chairs and a Trustee of the Paterson Alliance, a consortium of non-profit agencies serving Paterson residents. Mr. Guarasci joined the Network's Board of Directors in 2015.

Michael G. Johnson serves as Regional Director of Community Life for New York/New Jersey for The Community Builders, Inc. in New York City, a position he has held since January 2020. He leads strategic priorities for Community Life in New York City, the Capital District, Westchester County and New Jersey, working closely with TCB’s real estate development, property management and fund development teams. Previously, he served as Vice President in Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase & Co., where he was responsible for the firm’s Affordable Housing and Community Development portfolio for the New York Tri-State area and a national portfolio involving affordable housing seed capital and data driven solutions for neighborhood revitalization through Partnership for Raising Opportunities (PRO) Neighborhoods.

SanDonna B. Jones is the Executive Director of Unified Vailsburg Service Organization (UVSO). Having joined the agency in 2019, she shepherds a committed team of leaders who are committed to fulfilling the long-standing mission to “create a stable and compassionate community” in the Vailsburg neighborhood of the City of Newark, New Jersey. Preparing to celebrate 50 years of community development in 2022, UVSO has developed 180+ units of affordable housing, has 55,000 square feet of commercial space, owns and manages 17 buildings on its service campus, and works with an active network of block associations that extends throughout Vailsburg called the Heart of Vailsburg (HOV) Block Club Coalition. SanDonna formerly served as the Executive Director of Administration and Development at the Newark Opportunity Youth Network (YouthBuild Newark),  where she began in 2004 as the Development Coordinator. She has also served as Principal of SBJ Consulting, and as an Entrepreneurial Training Institute (ETI) Facilitator with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) via the Seton Hall University Institute on Work.  She was the inaugural Coordinator of the Newark Community Development Network (NCDN) and was the primary author of the “Neighborhoods” section of the City of Newark’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) in previous years. 

B
ridget Phifer has served as Executive Director of Parkside Business and Community in Partnership (PBICP) since 1999. Since joining PBICP, she has grown the organization’s budget tenfold. Staff has increased from one (Ms. Phifer) to half a dozen as the housing effort has expanded, and homeownership education, marketing and neighborhood planning programs have been created. Strategic partnerships with foundations, other community development organizations, corporations and government agencies have been critical to this success.  


Laura Rodgers, LCSW is Chief Impact Officer for JFS in Atlantic & Cape May Counties, New Jersey. She has over 25 years of experience providing and developing programming in the areas of counseling, mental health outreach, homelessness, older adult services, justice involved services, and supportive housing. Laura is the co-founder of the Garden State Leaders; a leadership and advocacy training program for individuals with lived experiences of poverty. Additional areas of Laura’s professional focus include grief counseling and anti-poverty grass roots organizing. Laura has a BS in Public Health and a Master’s Degree in Social Work

Jaymie Santiago has been working for the progress of New Brunswick’s residents since 2004. He began his work with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension and was instrumental in creating a citywide network of Food Hubs consisting of farmers markets and community gardens. In 2009, he served on the initial planning committee that developed the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance. And in 2011, he was the Co-Director of Rutgers Against Hunger, a university-wide initiative offering temporary relief to families faced with hunger across New Jersey. Mr. Santiago joined New Brunswick Tomorrow as Director of Operations in 2012, becoming President in 2016. He managed the Healthier New Brunswick initiative; designed to improve the overall health of city residents.

Mark Valli is the CEO for Norwescap, a well-established community action agency, providing a wide variety of programs and services to over 30,000 low-income individuals and families in the 5 Northwest counties of the State. Previously, Mr. Valli served as CEO for the Community Charter School of Paterson (CCSP). Prior to his service with CCSP, Mr. Valli was the founding President & CEO of New Jersey After 3 (NJA3) which was the nation’s first statewide public/private partnership created to expand evidence-based afterschool opportunities. NJA3 served over 75,000 students in over 120 schools across the State. Previously Mr. Valli served as Vice President of New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) where he was responsible for corporate and foundation outreach, fundraising, program development, and external relations. Before joining NJCDC, Mark served six years as one of two founding staff people with the New Jersey Commission on National & Community Service and served for 2 years in the Governor’s Office under Governor Jim Florio. Mark spent 2 years working for a management consulting firm that specialized in facilities and energy management. Mr. Valli has served as Board Chair of the New Jersey Center for Nonprofit Corporations and Vice-Chair of Leadership New Jersey Graduate Organization.

Blair Schleicher Wilson is the Chief Executive Officer of Morris Habitat for Humanity located in Randolph, NJ. She is a founding member, past chair and current vice chair of the Housing Alliance for Morris County, a coalition of organizations committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing in Morris County. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Housing Partnership for Morris County and their Foreclosure Task Force. Ms. Schleicher Wilson is a former four-term councilwoman in Mountain Lakes, serving two terms both as Mayor and Deputy Mayor as well as liaison to all Borough Committees in her tenure. She has joined the Board of Directors in 2014.

Associate Members
Barbara George Johnson, vice president of external affairs and urban policy and research at Kean University, has been nominated by President Joe Biden as a member of the board of trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. With more than 30 years of experience as a public policy professional, Johnson has shaped economic, health and social policy in the Garden State. At the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy, she oversees the work and mission of the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association, a unique organization of 32 urban mayors engaged in collective policymaking. The Institute focuses on urban environmental policy, public health policy, early childhood policy, and instruction in leadership development and civic engagement. Johnson has an extensive background in health care, public health and public policy. Early in her career, she spearheaded the development of the Newark Kids Initiative for the Newark Health Department, which focused on healthcare and social services for children impacted by domestic violence. She also served on the CDC-funded Newark Prevention Marketing Initiative and other task forces on HIV/AIDS.  
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Alle Ries is the Regional Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Officer for M&T Bank. In this role, she serves as a liason between the bank and community-based organizations throughout NJ to develop and administer creative initiatives that meet the needs of low- to moderate-income individuals and their families. Prior to joining the bank, she served as the Director of Community & Economic Development and Director of Program and Fund Development at La Casa de Don Pedro. She joined the Network's Board of Directors in 2018.

Wanda Saez is the Senior Vice President, Social Impact and Sustainability – Public Affairs for Wells Fargo. She is a Community Relations Professional specializing in CRA, Philanthropy and Community Development.  Wanda joined Wells Fargo in 2000 as Vice President – Government and Community Relations.  In May of 2017 she was promoted to Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility and Community Relations. In the 24 years that Wanda has been with Wells Fargo she has worked closed with the non-profit community throughout New Jersey. 

Board Member Emeritus

Joseph Della Fave, is the former Executive Director of the Ironbound Community Corporation, retiring from the position in 2019. During his tenure the multi-service nonprofit agency was recognized by local, state and national organizations for the impactful and innovative work they were doing in the Ironbound community. The Network is very appreciative that although retired Mr. Della Fave continues to be an active and valued member of our Board.

 

Helen Steblecki is the Senior Vice President, State Director of Community Development for Citi in NJ; and Community Development Officer for Manhattan and Staten Island. As the State Director of Community Development, she is responsible for developing, implementing and funding innovative solutions to address urban community issues, including programs focused on financial inclusion, asset building, college access, affordable housing and small business development for low- to moderate-income individuals and communities. Ms. Steblecki moved to Emeritus status in January 2020.