Thomas Applegate • Executive Director
Thomas is excited to be working with our team of staff, volunteers and community stakeholders for the betterment of life on the northwest side, where he is also a resident. He is committed to strong community and economic development through active engagement that fosters equal access to opportunities for all residents.

Prior to NRC, he was the Executive Director of Hostelling International-Chicago where he oversaw the $3.5m hostel facility operation with 36 full time employees. Thomas started his professional life as a litigation attorney in Chicago and also owned a fine Asian antique store with his spouse Athene.


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Dalia Aragon • Housing and Economic Development Organizer

Dalia is deeply involved in the communities served by North River Commission as both an Albany Park resident and activist. She founded Israel’s Gifts of Hope Foundation in 2018 that partners with Moms Demand Action, Never Forget Chicago, and other community partners to raise awareness on important community issues. A native Spanish speaker, Dalia spent her 5 month internship prior to starting on staff full time working in the business districts bringing essential resources for growth to our many family-owned businesses. She is a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University in Justice Studies and Psychology with a passion for creating opportunities that will help create a stronger and more equitable community. In her spare time, she enjoys going for runs, entertaining her toddler, tuning out to music, and reading.  Hablo español.


Carson Poole • Community Organizer for Parks, Recreation, Open Space, Arts and North Park Village

Carson works with the North River Commission and community stakeholders to support equitable, responsive, and resilient community development. He applies his Masters in Urban Planning and Policy (MUPP) from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he focused on community development, and his experience as a planner and community practice professional in Chicago. Carson brings a passion for ethical urban practice, resilient urban ecosystems, and dynamic arts and cultural opportunities as ways to improve quality of life. He has previously worked with Place Lab (at the University of Chicago Arts and Public Life Initiative), the Chicago Botanic Garden, Openlands, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Carson grew up on a third-generation family farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York State and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University. In his spare time, you can find him biking, working in his community garden, playing 16" softball, baking bread, or talking about the finer points of maple syrup production to anyone who will listen.

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Marisabel Pozo • Economic Development Organizer

Marisa is thrilled to work with North River Commission and help small business owners and entrepreneurs achieve their goals through the Regional Business Center program. She is looking forward to applying all of the knowledge she gained in her Masters in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

After working in the private sector for a couple of years, she is happy to get back into economic development and use the experience she has working in nonprofits and government agencies in Chicago and abroad. Born and raised in Ecuador, she moved to Chicago for college and lived almost 15 years in Albany Park, where her parents still reside. This background gives her a sense of belonging and understanding of the identities in these neighborhoods and their potential. She is excited to continue to build strong relationships with businesses in order to achieve a thriving, inclusive and equitable community. Hablo español.


Benjamin Corpuz • Economic Development Organizer

Growing up in Riverside, IL, Benjamin soon discovered the subtle and remarkable differences the built environment can have on one’s day-to-day experiences. Following this path, he has pursued a career in helping communities achieve their goals through collaboration, engagement, and empowerment. Benjamin looks forward to putting plans into practice by supporting local businesses through the Special Service Area program at NRC. Benjamin has heard stories of his grandparents emigrating from Mexico and the Philippines to start their own small businesses in Chicago. Their triumphs and struggles are a source of inspiration for Benjamin to help ensure the NRC service area is healthy, prosperous, and locally owned.

Benjamin previously worked as an architectural designer, an intern at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, a graduate research assistant at the Great Cities Institute at University of Illinois - Chicago, and as a planning consultant across the U.S. In his free time, Benjamin enjoys walking his dog, cooking a pot of gumbo, rock climbing, or a combination of the three.


Madeleine Polovick, Education Community Organizer

Madeleine (Maddie) is thrilled to bring her passion for the intersection of social justice and education to NRC where she will oversee efforts to enrich and expand education initiatives in the community, including the FORGE program and a partnership with Illinois State University’s Teacher Pipeline. A Michigan native and Albany Park resident, Madeleine studied sociology and education at the College of Wooster. She began her career in Chicago by intentionally committing two years to AmeriCorps service with City Year and College Possible, catalyzing her dedication to social impact work that uplifts systematically disadvantaged communities by connecting resources to areas of greatest need. Madeleine has worked closely with English Learner and immigrant students and communities across the state during her time with the Illinois State Board of Education, where she also oversaw Illinois’s Seal of Biliteracy program, and she looks forward to bringing that experience into her new role with NRC.

Outside of work, Madeleine spends lots of time in the kitchen baking all sorts of delicious treats! She is a lifelong musician and enjoys spending quality time in nature with her husband, often going on long bike rides, adventurous hikes, or having beach days at the lake.

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Catherine George • Economic Development Organizer

Catherine George is excited to join North River Commission and work with a team to support small businesses and create sustainable change in the community. Catherine will apply the knowledge that she gained as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic where she served in community economic development. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado in Economics and Biology and her passion lies in finding the balance between a healthy ecosystem and a healthy economy. In her spare time, she enjoys kayaking, scuba diving, quilting, and watching Netflix. Hablo español.


Erika Geraldino • Housing, Health and Safety Organizer

Erika Geraldino is excited to join the North River Commission and support the organization's efforts to improve the quality of life of the Northwest neighborhood's residents. Erika graduated from Northeastern Illinois University and received a bachelor's in Latinx and Latin American Studies. Originally from Colombia, Erika grew up surrounded by educators and non-profit workers who inspired her to serve her community. She loves going on walks, making candles, and traveling in her free time.


Stef Coleman • FORGE Palmer Elementary Site Coordinator
Stef Coleman has lived on three continents, has two pets, raises one reader, and lives surrounded by books in Albany Park. She brings a decade of non-profit experience to her role as the Palmer Site Coordinator for FORGE and is excited to see how the community center will have a transformative impact on countless lives. She and her husband are deeply involved in the Palmer Elementary community, serving on its Local School Council, Parent Advisory Council, and Friends of Palmer groups.
Stef has a Masters of Divinity and knows way too much about all forms of speculative fiction. In past lives she's been a university adjunct instructor, a blogging editor, a minister, a staff member for 2nd Story, freelance editor, and a content editor for a global non-profit organization. (Some of which she continues to do). She speaks German, English, and books. She is a writer of nonfiction essays and is at work on her novel (in her spare time). Hit her up if you need recommendations on books or just want to talk about writing.
Marc Lopez • FORGE Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center School Site Coordinator 
Born and raised on the Northside of Chicago, Marc knows just about every nook and cranny of Albany Park. Marc is eager to reconnect with his community by working with FORGE and the North River Youth Council. Having Ecuadorian parents and family has always been a source of pride and inspiration, this background fuels Marc to embrace and empower the diversity that resides on the Northwest side. Marc graduated from DePauw University and received a bachelor's in History. In his free time, you can catch Marc watching the Chicago Bears, playing soccer, or walking his dog.

FORGE School Site Coordinators