Thomas Applegate • Executive Director
Thomas is excited to work with our amazing 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 social justice, equitable access to resources, trauma-informed practice, and inclusive community and economic growth through the application of community intelligence.

As the Executive Director, Thomas has the principal responsibility to deliver our mission to improve the quality of life for all constituents in our community by creating affordable housing, quality education, community resilience and safety, health equity, arts & cultural endeavors, open spaces, and thriving neighborhood businesses. Thomas is proud of the tremendous 615% growth since 2015 in annual investment by NRC in the our communities and the 240% growth in staff delivering positive change with community.

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.

thomasapplegate <at>


Dalia Aragon • Housing, Health and Safety Director

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.

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Marisabel Pozo • Economic Development Specialist

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.


Madeleine Polovick, Education Director

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 Specialist

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 Specialist

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. Hablo español.


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 • Youth Program Specialist and Von Steuben FORGE 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. Hablo español.
Nacido y criado en el lado norte de Chicago, Marc conoce casi todos los rincones de Albany Park. Marc está emocionado por volver a conectarse con su comunidad y por  trabajar con FORGE y el North River Youth Council. Tener padres ecuatorianos siempre ha sido una fuente de orgullo e inspiración, esto ha motivado a Marc a abrazar y empoderar la diversidad que reside en el lado noroeste de Chicago. Marc se graduó de la DePauw University y recibió una licenciatura en Historia. En su tiempo libre, puedes ver a Marc viendo a los Chicago Bears, jugando fútbol o paseando a su perro.

Kaanan Raja • Health and Safety Specialist

Kaanan is enthusiastic to work with North River Commission and support the organization's efforts towards building solutions to redress health inequities and enhance public safety within the community. She received her Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from Northwestern University with a concentration in Community Health and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Kaanan is passionate about the intersection between eliminating local health disparities and social policy. She was born in a first-generation Indian American family and strives to be an advocate for underserved populations. In her spare time, you can find her in line at her local movie theater, scavenging through her favorite thrift stores, or taking daily walks by the lake.

kaanan <at>

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Josebell Rivadeneira • Economic Development Specialist

Born and raised in Quito-Ecuador, Josebell finds joy in helping people and small communities to grow. She believes that change can also be made on a small scale with dedication, solidarity, love, and hard work. She is excited to work with the North River Commission to make a great impact on small businesses and the communities of Albany Park, Irvin Part, and North Park. She recently finished her undergraduate in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Latin American and LatinX studies at Furman University. So, she is especially enthusiastic to use her research, project management, communications, and marketing skills to deliver programs and other services.

Nacida y criada en Quito-Ecuador, Josebell le apasiona ayudar a las personas y pequeñas comunidades a crecer. Ella cree que el cambio también se puede hacer a pequeña escala con dedicación, solidaridad, amor y trabajo duro. Está emocionada de trabajar con la Comisión North River porque quiere crear un gran impacto en los pequenos negocios y comunidades de Albany Park, Irvin Part y North Park. Recientemente terminó su licenciatura en Antropología Social y Cultural, Estudios de Sexualidad y Género de la Mujer, y estudios latinoamericanos y LatinX en la Universidad de Furman. Por lo tanto, está especialmente entusiasmada por utilizar sus habilidades de investigación, gestión de proyectos, comunicaciones y marketing para ofrecer programas y otros servicios.

jrivadeneira <at>


Abraham Espino • Housing Health and Safety Specialist

Abraham Espino is an Albany Park native and first-generation college graduate. He has always been passionate about giving back to his communities, so he is excited to join the North River Commission and its efforts to make the Northwest neighborhoods of Chicago a better place to live. Growing up, Abraham learned the importance of connecting with people and engaging in dialogue about the issues that matter most. He is a graduate of Earlham College in Sociology & Anthropology and a Bonner Scholar with over 1,300 hours of community service. Abraham enjoys speaking with people from all walks of life and learning about their perspectives. In his free time, Abraham enjoys listening to music, writing, and hanging out with his dogs. Hablo español.

Abraham Espino es nativo de Albany Park y es el primer miembro de su familia que se gradúa de la universidad. Siempre ha sido una persona apasionada por devolver a sus comunidades, y está emocionado de unirse a North River Commission y sus esfuerzos para hacer los vecindarios del Noroeste de Chicago un lugar mejor para vivir. Al crecer, Abraham aprendió la importancia de conectarse con las personas y entablar un diálogo sobre los temas que más importan. Es graduado de Earlham College en Sociología y Antropología y becario Bonner con más de 1,300 horas de servicio comunitario. Abraham disfruta de hablar con personas de todas las clases y aprender acerca de sus perspectivas. En su tiempo libre, a Abraham le gusta escuchar música, escribir y pasar el rato con sus perros.

abraham <at>

Bianca Munguia • Youth and Family Specialist

Bianca is excited to work at North River Commission because she believes in the importance of building strong communities. Growing up first-generation, she has always been passionate about advancing immigrant and minoritized rights, health, and education. By learning with and from others, she hopes to improve the community she lives and works in. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in Sociology and Gender and Sexaulity Studies. Bianca enjoys exploring local food spots, going for walks in the city’s nature trails, and crocheting. 

Bianca está emocionada de trabajar en North River Commission porque cree en la importancia de tener comunidades fuertes. Como ella fue criada en familia inmigrante, siempre le ha apasionado promover los derechos, la salud, y la educación de los inmigrantes y las comunidades minoritarias. Al aprender con y de los demás, espera mejorar la comunidad en la que vive y trabaja. Se graduó en la Universidad de Chicago con una licenciatura en Sociología y Estudios de Género y Sexualidad. En su tiempo libre, a Bianca le gusta explorar comida local, caminar por los caminos naturales de la ciudad, y tejer.

bianca <at>

FORGE School Site Coordinators

Parent Mentor Program School Site Coordinators

  • Haugen Elementary • Katherine Henriquez Johar
  • Hibbard Elementary • Luisa Burciaga