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

Chairwoman Whitney Smith

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Head of Regional Philanthropy for North America

Whitney S. Smith leads the Global Philanthropy team for the Central Region (13 states in the U.S. and Canada), which includes $40MM 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. Whitney is Chair 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.  Whitney holds a Bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and a Master’s degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago.  She, her husband, and middle school twins live in Oak Park with their many pets.

Ivye L. Allen

Foundation for the Mid South


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.

Earl Buford



Earl Buford is CEO of Partner4Work, leader of the public workforce system for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. As CEO, Mr. Buford manages public and private funds to ensure that current and future needs of businesses and job seekers are met. Prior to June 2018, Mr. Buford served as President and CEO of Employ Milwaukee, where he was nationally recognized for the implementation and integration of a sector-based approach to workforce development. Mr. Buford also championed efforts to develop Midwest Urban Strategies, an unprecedented consortium of urban workforce boards united to build a supply-demand model to cultivate talent development and employer engagement. Prior to Employ Milwaukee, Mr. Buford was the longtime leader of Milwaukee-based WRTP/Big-Step, one of the first intermediaries in the country, which aimed at recruiting and building a diverse workforce in construction, manufacturing, and emerging sectors. Mr. Buford is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where he received a BA in History.

Denise Cherenfant

1199SEIU League Training and Upgrading Fund

Director, Nursing Education

Denise Cherenfant is the 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

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


Executive Director

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.

Alejandro Mendoza

Optimax Systems

Human Resources Manager

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.

Joanne Pokaski

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Senior Director of Workforce Development and Community Relations

Joanne Pokaski is the Senior Director of Workforce Development and Community Relations at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  Under Joanne’s leadership, BIDMC has launched programs that sponsor employees’ training and promotion to 13 hard-to-fill occupations, including medical coders and central processing technicians.  BIDMC also provides career and academic counseling and free on-site pre-college courses and college-level science courses for all employees. She founded and for seven years chaired the Boston Healthcare Careers Consortium, which convenes Boston’s employers, academic institutions and workforce system to improve training pathways that lead to healthcare jobs. Prior to BIDMC, Joanne worked as director of a one-stop career center and worked at Goodwill Boston and the Clinton White House.  Joanne earned a Bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard College and a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from Princeton University. Joanne is a member of Boston’s and Massachusetts’ workforce investment boards.

Peter Strange

Messer, Inc.

Chairman Emeritus

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 on the board 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.

Partners Council

Gina Breukelman

The Boeing Company

Community Investor, health and human services

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.

Matthew Bruce

Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance

Executive Director

Matthew Bruce became the first Executive Director of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance in October 2012. The Funder Alliance is a workforce development funder collaborative working with employers and other workforce stakeholders to increase employment, earnings and racial equity for underprepared workers in the Chicago region. In five years the Alliance has raised over $7 million, grew from five to twenty-seven funders and initiated a set of strategic initiatives focused on industry workforce partnerships, systems change and workforce innovation. The Funder Alliance’s most recent achievements include the creation of a new fund to support the region’s career pathway system, and a new commitment to fight wage theft and discrimination in low-wage occupations. In 2015 the Funder Alliance was recognized by its peer group, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, with the Chair’s Award for Exemplary Collaborative. Prior to moving back to Chicago, Matt was Manager of Regional Sector Initiatives for the Boston Office of Jobs and Community Services, where he started sector workforce initiatives such as Green Jobs Boston and the Skilled Careers In Life Sciences initiative. Matt has a Masters in Public Policy from the Harris School at the University of Chicago.

Andrea Glispie

Pathways to Work


Andrea Glispie serves as Director of Pathways to Work, a cross-sector collaboration of funders, employers and training providers working to create innovative solutions for moving entry-level workers into good middle-skill jobs and ensure employers have a pipeline of skilled and ready-to-work employees. Before joining UWMD, Andrea served as Senior Field Organizer for National Skills Coalition. In this role, she implemented outreach and advocacy strategies to bolster policymaker support of workforce development policies on state and federal levels. She also managed state-based policy and communication campaigns to improve education attainment outcomes for adult workers through public will building and policy change. One of the most successful campaigns motivated lawmakers in Iowa to increase funding for adult education and related programs by $10 million. Prior to National Skills Coalition, Andrea worked in Illinois to improve the coordination of publicly funded youth programs and services. Her efforts helped to facilitate the passage of state legislation that created the Illinois Commission on Children and Youth. Andrea holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Master of Social Work Degree from Washington University –St. Louis.

Marci Hunn

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation

Program Director, workforce development

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

Vice President, Inclusive Solutions


Sarah S. Keh is a vice president of corporate social responsibility at Prudential Financial. In her current role, she oversees Prudential’s efforts to expand economic opportunity and create inclusive communities through financial resources and skills-based volunteering. This includes leading early talent and workforce initiatives, inclusive economic growth strategies, global emergency response and recovery efforts in disasters and humanitarian crises, nonprofit capacity building, pro bono and board service programs.

Sarah currently serves on the Partners Council of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, the Inclusion & Diversity Committee of the Society of Actuaries, the board of JerseyCAN, and is co-chair of the Newark Education Funders Group. She was also selected as a Presidential Leadership Scholar in the 2015 inaugural class.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wellesley College and a master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Kristen Wilkinson

Walmart U.S. Central Operations

Senior Director of Academy Operations

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.