Leadership

The National Fund is governed by a Board of Directors and its advisory Partners Council with leaders from diverse perspectives across business, education, labor management, workforce organizations, and philanthropy.  

Board of Directors

Chairman Peter Strange

Messer, Inc.

Chairman Emeritus

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Peter S. Strange is Chairman Emeritus of Messer, Inc., the parent company for Messer Financial Services and Messer Construction Co., a regional general contractor and construction manager. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati in Civil Engineering, Mr. Strange began his career with Messer as a co-op student. In 1989, he led negotiations resulting in the purchase of all outstanding Messer stock by management and employees. He served as CEO of the Messer companies from 1990 through 2013. Mr. Strange has served on many community and industry boards, including serving as board chair for the Cincinnati Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, board chair of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and board chair of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Currently he serves as board chair of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and on the boards of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Museum, and the Employee-Owned S Corporations of America. Mr. Strange's test for leadership is simple: If you think you are a leader, look behind you. If there is no one there, you're just out for a stroll. Mr. Strange and his wife Ginger reside in Erlanger, Kentucky. Their greatest accomplishments are their children—Andrew, Carrie, and Matthew, and their eight grandchildren.

Ivye L. Allen

Foundation for the Mid South

President

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Ivye L. Allen, Ph.D. is President of the Foundation for the Mid South, a regional foundation serving Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The Foundation supports programs and initiatives that focus on community development, education, health and wellness, and wealth building. The organization’s successes include assisting new and incumbent workers secure and retain employment, improving school district performance, and supporting more than 75,000 families improve their financial knowledge and assets. Dr. Allen previously served as Chief Operating Officer for MDC Inc. and was Director of Fellowship Programs for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. She has held finance and marketing positions in Fortune 100 corporations. Her education includes a Ph.D. in social policy from Columbia University; an M.S. in urban affairs from Hunter College; an M.B.A. in marketing and international business from New York University; and a B. A. in economics from Howard University.

Larry Beck

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital of Maryland

Past President and Advisor

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At Good Samaritan Hospital since 1990, Lawrence "Larry" M. Beck has served as president of the institution since 1994 when Good Samaritan merged with Helix Health, now called MedStar Health. During his tenure as president, he led the tremendous growth of this large Baltimore medical institution. In addition to expanding its emergency services, efforts were undertaken to strengthen specialty services the hospital had been known for during its 30 year history—acute inpatient rehabilitation, joint replacement surgery, rheumatology, and renal dialysis. As a teaching facility, admissions grew more than 130 percent during the 1990s, mostly from the local communities of Northeast Baltimore. Good Samaritan Hospital has been one of Maryland’s fastest-growing hospitals. In addition to expanded services, the hospital gained national recognition for quality and service excellence propelled by a focus on the importance of the hospital's workforce in driving excellent patient outcomes. Professional advancement programs geared to the frontline employees were a cornerstone of the hospital's focus on its most valuable asset. His passion for continuous improvement helps Good Samaritan prosper financially while garnering national credit for patient, employee, and physician loyalty via the hospital's "Putting You First" program and gaining national accolades for inpatient, outpatient, and emergency services. Since 2010, after stepping down as president, Mr. Beck has continued to serve Good Samaritan Hospital as past president/advisor, assisting the new president in strategic areas, including inpatient rehabilitation, leadership development, philanthropy, and advocacy. Mr. Beck, in addition to his continued relationship with MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, chairs, at the national level, the Executive Committee of CareerSTAT, the health care division of Jobs For The Future, focusing on career advancement opportunities for frontline health care workers. Mr. Beck also enjoys speaking nationally on topics such as the Affordable Care Act (American College of HealthCare Executives), health care leadership tools ( American College of Healthcare Executives, George Washington University, and Stevenson University) and showcasing his own work to organizations interested in advancing the careers of frontline health workers. His more than 42 years of experience in hospital leadership include administrative training and subsequent leadership positions in several Maryland hospitals, including Bon Secours, Carroll County General, and as president of Garrett County Memorial. His career began at Hutzel Hospital in Detroit, MI, where he held housekeeping and supervisory positions that led to his hospital leadership track. Beck has a bachelors degree in business from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, and a master's in business administration and a master's in health care administration from George Washington University in Washington, DC. He is a member of several professional societies, including a fellow at the American College of Healthcare Executives, has served on the American Hospital Association Governing Board for Metropolitan Hospitals, numerous Maryland Hospital Association committees and task forces, and has served on the board of the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland.

Earl Buford

Employ Milwaukee, Inc.

President and CEO

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Earl Buford is president and CEO of Employ Milwaukee, Inc., the largest of 11 workforce boards in the State of Wisconsin. For 20 years, Mr. Buford has been bringing together workforce stakeholders locally, regionally, and nationally. Considered a thought leader in workforce development, Mr. Buford’s approach to aligning the workforce development system has been recognized on a national level. Under Mr. Buford’s leadership, Employ Milwaukee realigned to support an integrated and sector-based approach coordinating between both sides of the workforce system, supply and demand. In this sector-based approach, Employ Milwaukee provides direct employer engagement through industry advisory boards. Industry advisory boards drive the alignment of strategies and investments to respond to current workforce and labor market demands. The boards are employer-driven, led by chairpeople from the business community. Additionally, Mr. Buford and his team view the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act as an opportunity to ensure the public workforce system is operating effectively and efficiently to serve both businesses and jobseekers, and ultimately connecting people to employment for a lifetime. Previously, Mr. Buford served as the president/CEO of the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/BIG STEP. He developed strong partnerships with national and statewide businesses, labor unions, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations to develop high-road workforce and economic development efforts.

Denise Cherenfant

1199SEIU League Training and Upgrading Fund

Assistant Director for Nursing Programs

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Denise Cherenfant is the assistant director for nursing programs at 1199SEIU League Training and Upgrading Fund (TUF), a joint labor management health care training partnership. With more than 300 contributing employers, TUF is responsible for providing educational services to 150,000 health care workers in the greater New York City metropolitan area. Ms. Cherenfant directs the academic and support services for entry-level health care workers seeking to become nurses, serving more than 600 nursing students annually. She led the TUF’s efforts to increase enrollment in bachelor-level nursing programs and created an innovative series of transition-to-practice programs for newly licensed nurses. Ms. Cherenfant holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Lehman college and is a licensed registered nurse.

Paula Gilberto

United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut

President and CEO

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Paula Gilberto joined United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut (United Way) in Hartford, CT, in March of 1998 as vice president, community services, with oversight for annual funding of programs and initiatives and its nonprofit resource and volunteer centers. She provided leadership in developing United Way’s community priorities, associated multiyear goals, and an outcome-based orientation to program investments. In January 2007, Ms. Gilberto was named senior vice president with expanded responsibilities in strategic planning, resource development, community engagement, and initiatives with local, regional, and national partners. She became president and CEO in April 2016. Ms. Gilberto has led development of public/private partnerships addressing grade-level reading, student achievement, financial security and workforce development. She chairs the steering committees of Hartford Generation Work and Workforce Solutions of Metro Hartford and is on the board of directors of Capital Workforce Partners, the region’s workforce development board. On a national level, Ms. Gilberto has served on various United Way Worldwide task forces and project teams developing organizational standards and replication of successful education and financial security initiatives. Prior to joining United Way, Paula was with the American Red Cross in various managerial positions for the area chapter and Connecticut Regional Red Cross Blood Services.

Michael Gritton

KentuckianaWorks

Executive Director

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Since Michael B. Gritton's appointment as executive director of KentuckianaWorks in August of 2002, the agency has made several changes geared to creating a 21st-century workforce while improving services to its seven-county region. The result: 12,000 people found jobs, 46,000 received financial aid and career counseling, and more than 5,000 adults completed postsecondary training and found work in the past decade. Mr. Gritton was the co-founder and policy director of MassINC for five years, a non-partisan, nonprofit, state-level think tank in Massachusetts focused on expanding the size of the middle class in that state. While in New England, he also served as the communications director for a state political campaign. He is a member and past president of the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Workforce Development Council and serves on the boards of Greater Louisville, Inc. (the Louisville Chamber of Commerce) and the University of Louisville’s Community Partnership. He also chairs the Jefferson County Public School’s Adult and Continuing Education Committee. Mr. Gritton, has a law degree from Columbia University School of Law in New York City.

Whitney Smith

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Executive Director, Global Philanthropy

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Whitney S. Smith, Executive Director, JPMorgan Chase & Co., leads the Global Philanthropy team for the Central region (13 states from Minnesota to Texas), which includes $30M in grant-making aimed at improving economic opportunity for people in the region. Specific priorities include workforce readiness, consumer financial health, small business development, and affordable housing. Prior to joining JPMorgan Chase, Whitney was with the Joyce Foundation for ten years where she was a Senior Program Director managing both the Employment Program portfolio supporting workforce and skill development initiatives, as well as the Joint Fund for Education and Employment. Prior to joining the Joyce Foundation, Whitney was associate director of the Chicago Jobs Council and worked with homeless families in New York. Leveraging her extensive experience and insights on workforce, Whitney also manages and supports select New Skills at Work efforts across the country. She is a member of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions Board of Directors, and is the co-founder of Workforce Matters and of the Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance. She sits on several national advisory boards and panels, including the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Whitney holds a Bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and a Master’s degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago.

Partners Council

Gina Breukelman

The Boeing Company

Community Investor, health and human services

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Gina Breukelman is the northwest region community investor for health and human Services at the Boeing Company. In her role with Global Corporate Citizenship, Ms. Breukelman leads Boeing’s relationships with United Ways and health and human services agencies in the Puget Sound region. She manages corporate charitable contributions of grants, sponsorships, and in-kind donations to health and human services agencies that promote the economic well-being and health of the Puget Sound’s most vulnerable residents. She also engages employees to support partner nonprofits through volunteerism and executive board service. Ms. Breukelman serves on the Community Building Committee of the United Way of King County, Washington Families Fund Leadership Committee, SkillUp Funders Group, Asset Building Roundtable, and other groups in Puget Sound focused on workforce development and poverty issues. Gina also leads Boeing’s community engagement work around military and veterans initiatives. Prior to joining the team at Boeing in June 2009, Ms. Breukelman worked in the nonprofit sector, managing fundraising and programmatic activities for organizations addressing hunger and poverty issues. She served as the deputy director at the Emergency Food Network in Pierce County, WA, from 2005 to 2009. Ms. Breukelman earned her master's in social work degree from the University of Washington Tacoma in 2006 and served as an adjunct professor at UWT in 2007 and 2008, teaching master's-level courses in social policy and community organizing. Ms. Breukelman has a bachelor of arts degree in English and women’s studies from Washington University in St. Louis.

Laura Chandler

Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council

Executive Director

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In April 2010, Laura Chandler became the executive director for Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council (SAWDC), a nonprofit organization formed in May 2008 with a mission to develop strategic partnerships which attract, educate and train students and workers to better meet employer needs and foster economic growth in a global marketplace. Prior to joining SAWDC, Ms. Chandler held the position of president and CEO of the Gulf Coast Renaissance Corporation, a private, nonprofit corporation that was formed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and in response to the critical need for workforce housing along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Shortly following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and prior to her position as CEO, Ms. Chandler was asked to join Fannie Mae’s Disaster Relief team as senior deputy director. Over a 15-month period, Ms. Chandler worked with local jurisdictions along the Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast in support of their rebuilding efforts. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Chandler held the position of development manager for the Apartment Division at The Mitchell Company, Inc., responsible for multifamily development in the Southeast. Prior to her position at The Mitchell Company, Inc., Ms. Chandler was a development manager with Gables Residential (formerly Trammell Crow), a national premier multifamily real estate firm. During her 10-year tenure, Ms. Chandler was involved in the development of over 2,000 market-rate apartment homes in the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area. Ms. Chandler holds a master's in city and regional planning with a concentration in land development from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)and a bachelor's of science in business administration from Auburn University. Ms. Chandler serves on the Partners Council of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, the Alabama 65-County Workforce Development Area board of directors, the Central Gulf Industrial Alliance board of directors, the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute advisory board, the Mobile County Public Health advisory board, and the Education Commission.

Sameer Gadkaree

Joyce Foundation

Senior Program Officer

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Sameer Gadkaree joins the Joyce Foundation as Senior Program Officer working with the Employment Program and the Joint Fund for Education and Employment, which looks for areas of joint interest between K-12, adult education and workforce development programs. He will also put his analytic and consulting skills to work assisting senior Joyce leadership with strategic planning. Sameer had been working as a consultant to both Joyce and the Civic Consulting Alliance, specializing in workforce development, education issues and philanthropic strategy. Before going into consulting, he served as Associate Vice Chancellor for Adult Education with the City Colleges of Chicago. He also worked previously as a business analyst for Discovery Communications and McKinsey and Company. Sameer earned his B.S. in Economics and Mathematics at Washington University in St. Louis.

Marci Hunn

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation

Program Director, workforce development

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Marci Hunn focuses on the workforce development portfolio at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. Ms. Hunn manages a grants portfolio of more than $12 million annually for organizations locally and internationally that support job readiness, adult entrepreneurship, and financial literacy projects. In this capacity, she serves as co-chair of the Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative and serves on the Executive Committee of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. In 2016, Ms. Hunn was appointed by Governor Hogan to serve as a Commissioner for the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism. She was also appointed in 2016 by Baltimore City Mayor Rawlings-Blake to serve on the Baltimore Workforce Development Board. Ms. Hunn was honored as one of the Leading Women under 40 years old in 2011 and one of the Top 100 Women in Maryland in 2016, both honors from the Maryland Daily Record. Ms. Hunn is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in human development and family studies with a focus on adult development. Ms. Hunn is married with two young children.

Sarah Keh

The Prudential Foundation

Director of Corporate giving

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Sarah S. Keh is a director of corporate giving and of The Prudential Foundation within the Office of Corporate Social Responsibility at Prudential Financial, Inc.  In her current role, she is responsible for managing a global portfolio focused on creating, connecting and preparing people for quality jobs.  Previously, she was the associate director of teaching & learning at The Center for Arts Education, funding arts education programs in New York City public schools.  She was also a program associate and operations manager at Associated Grant Makers, Inc, a regional association of grantmakers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Sarah currently serves as co-chair of the Education Subcommittee of the Newark Funders Group, on Mayor Baraka’s National Community Schools Advisory Board and the Governance Committee of the Funders Collaborative for High Quality School Options in Newark.  She was also selected as a Presidential Leadership Scholar in the 2015 inaugural class.  She holds a bachelors degree in psychology from Wellesley College and a masters degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Sandra Koblas

Austal USA

Director of Human Resources

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Sandra Koblas is a senior professional in human resources with 25 years’ experience ranging from plant level to corporate leadership in rapidly growing organizations.  She has been with Austal USA in Mobile, AL for 10 years and is currently serving as the Director of Human Resources.  She has grown the organization from 800 employees in 2009 to over 4,000 today.  Parallel to her private sector experience Sandra has served on several workforce development boards and is currently a member of the AL Workforce Council and the State of AL Workforce Board. Sandra holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources.

Alejandro Mendoza

Optimax Systems

Human Resources Manager

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Ale’s foundation of experience and desire to work collaboratively with others was obtained while serving in the United States Air Force from 1998 – 2006.  As the Human Resources Manager at Optimax, Ale’ has an integrated role serving as a cross functional bridge within the organization’s strategy while supporting Business unit functions in their strategic roles.  Externally, Ale’ works to collaborate and build relationships and alliances with institutions, agencies, colleagues, and potential employees.  Ale’ holds an associate degree from Monroe Community College, a bachelor’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology, a master’s degree from St. John Fisher College.

Ross Meyer

United Way of Greater Cincinnati

Vice President of Community Impact

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Ross Meyer is vice president of community impact for United Way of Greater Cincinnati, and is responsible for the management of nearly $40 million in community impact funding, the development of strategic initiatives to promote systemic change, and the oversight of United Way's 211 system. Mr. Meyer previously served as executive director of Partners for a Competitive Workforce—a nationally recognized partnership working to help people develop skills for in-demand jobs. A graduate of Leadership Cincinnati Class 37 and C-Change Class 5, Mr. Meyer holds a master's degree from New York University, where he was a Catherine B. Reynolds Fellow in social entrepreneurship, and a bachelor's degree from Miami University, where he was a Harry S. Truman Scholar. A native Cincinnatian, he lives in Hyde Park with his wife, Emilie, and their three sons.

Paul Neumann

Universal Woods

CEO

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CEO of Universal Woods a specialty manufacturing business with 220 employees headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky for last 23 years.   Brands include ChromaLuxe, Unisub and Resindek with sales in 65 countries.   Prior to working with Universal Woods worked with Vermont American Corporation, a leading manufacturer of power tool accessories, for 15 years.   Managed plants in Michigan, Alabama and Oregon and was VP- Industrial Group with responsibility for six plants and 1000 employees before leaving for Universal Woods. Has served on boards for Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio, Buckhorn Children's Home, Olney Friends School, Louisville Industrial Bond Authority, 5 Star Schools-Louisville Public Schools and was co-founder of Louisville Peace Education Program 35 years ago.    Coached all three of his children (now 29, 27 and 25 years of age) and many others on youth soccer teams over 10-year time frame.  Married for 31 years to Arloa Eckels, a retired pediatrician.   BA in Economics with honors- Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.  MS Industrial Administration with distinction- Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Kelly Ryan

Incourage Community Foundation

CEO

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Kelly Ryan has worked for nearly two decades to advance leadership and economic reinvention in south Wood County, WI. As CEO  of Incourage Community Foundation, Ms. Ryan has championed an adaptive framework for both the role and culture of her organization, so it can continue to assist residents in shaping their futures and the future of the community. Incourage is expanding information access through a multiyear Knight Community Information Challenge grant, and has partnered with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, creating new economic opportunities for local workers and employers. In 2012, Ms. Ryan was named the Citizen of the Year for Wisconsin Rapids. A year earlier, The Nonprofit Times called her one of the 50 most influential leaders in the nonprofit sector for her role in improving the local workforce and economy. Ms. Ryan serves on the Hitachi Foundation Board, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions Partners Council, and a number of committees and task forces focused on workforce, community philanthropy, and civic engagement.

Jennie Sparandara

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Vice President, Global Philanthropy

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As a Vice President of Global Philanthropy, Jennie works to implement the firm’s commitment to expanding economic inclusion in the Northeast US through innovative programs, research and by leveraging the firm’s vast resources and talented employees. Jennie’s investment portfolio focuses on workforce development, career connected education and career pathways. Signature grants include the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline, a nationally recognized model for mobilizing employers to address talent gaps, and Career Network: Healthcare, a partnership between Phipps Neighborhoods, Montefiore Medical Center and Hostos Community College to support healthcare career pathways for Bronx residents. Jennie joined the firm in 2016; she was most recently the Director of the Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN), a partnership between philanthropy, government, community organizations and employers in Greater Philadelphia that creates a collaborative space for developing and testing industry-led job training models. Prior to leading JOIN, Jennie served as the first Director of Human Capital Investments in the City of Philadelphia where she was responsible for the coordination of Philadelphia's anti-poverty programs and workforce development initiatives, including the strategic realignment of the city’s workforce agencies. Previously, Jennie worked in the federal government and local and national policy organizations. Jennie holds a Bachelors degree from Barnard College, Columbia University and a Masters degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University. She has served on numerous local and national boards including as a trustee of Community College of Philadelphia, and on the Partner’s Council of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. Outside of work you can find Jennie and her husband in New York City, chasing after their two young sons.

Kristen Wilkinson

Walmart U.S. Central Operations

Senior Director of Academy Operations

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Kristen Wilkinson is currently Senior Director of Walmart Academies.  Kristen leads a team responsible for standing up and managing 200 dedicated facilities and 3,000+ associates whom deliver hands-on, functional training to Walmart’s retail stores. Academies combine classroom and sales floor training for department managers, hourly supervisors and assistant managers to gain both core retail skills and the skills and knowledge to run their specific areas of the store. Upon full rollout, 200 Academies will provide full coverage of 4,600 Walmart stores across the country. Prior to her role in Operations, Kristen spent over four years supporting Walmart’s International business in a variety of roles. Her responsibilities included cross-functional and cross-country implementation of transformational change initiatives and process improvement and capability building in merchandising and supply chain areas. Kristen has over 10 years of experience in retail, with positions in international, operations, merchandising, supply chain, real estate, and accounting.  Kristen is an active advocate for the development and empowerment of women and has recently joined the National Fund for Workforce Solutions as a member of the Partners Council. Kristen holds her M.B.A from the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business, and a B.A. in Business Administration from the College of Idaho.