YWCA Board & Staff
Board of Directors
Veonia Gross, President
Champaign-Urbana born and raised, Veonia served for several years with the ACCESS Initiative of Champaign County as a Peer Mentor, to teenage women. She began her journey with the Peer Ambassadors of the Champaign County Mental Health Center due to her own life experiences and took what she learned to heart, and has been an unofficial peer mentor ever since. Her interest in the YWCA follows easily from these experiences. While on the board her personal goal is to “help spread the word and open more people's eyes to what's affecting our community and how can we fix it. Starting with ourselves.”
Isak Griffiths, Vice President
CEO & Leadership Coach, AXIOI Inc.
Bringing great leadership experience to the YW board from being an Air Force veteran, to having her own leadership coaching business. As a past Director of Courage Connections, Isak sees the impact of violence on people’s lives every day. Isak considers reconnecting/re-engaging the YWCA with the community to be an important board goal. She says: “The YW is one of our community's best kept secrets. Yet, it is uniquely placed to bring together agencies, the University and the community to make UC more compassionate, more responsive, more collaborative, and more of a ‘So *this* is how you make things work!’ kind of community. And I very much want to be a part of making it happen.” Isak and her partner are raising three wonderful children, but they aren’t allowed to ride her motorcycle.
Mary Wakefield, Secretary
Research Project Manager, Illinois Kids Development Study, University of Illinois
Mary hails from the suburbs of Seattle, Washington and has worked and lived overseas in Italy, Turkey, and Mexico. She made her way to the midwest to attend graduate school at St. Louis University, earning a Masters of Public Health in their School of Public Health and Social Justice. She currently manages a research lab that studies environmental exposures and health outcomes for pregnant women and their children. In addition, she is very active in the Champaign-Urbana community, serving as: Vice President of the board for The Family Room; Assistant Chair for Placement Advisers (2019-2020) for the Junior League of Champaign Urbana; member of “Emerging Community Leaders Class” of 2019; and helping out parents of new babies as a volunteer with Sistering CU.
MSW, School of Social Work, University of Illinois
Originally from Springfield, IL and the surrounding area, Lisa moved to Champaign-Urbana in 2011. After a few years working in a runaway and homeless youth shelter - Roundhouse, which has since closed it's doors, Lisa was moved to return to U of I in 2016 for her Master’s in Social Work, which she received in 2019. Concurrently, Lisa has been an online book seller since 2015, operating AikiFox Books, which works in conjunction with Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners, helping to bring in revenue for the non-profit which provides free books to incarcerated people throughout Illinois.
Director of Operations and Human Resources, Pixo, Inc.
Erika’s employer, Pixo, describes her as “motivational leader”, and she brings that leadership to the YWCA. Erika’s enthusiasm for the YWCA is clear to anyone who takes the time to talk to her, and she wants to generate “more awareness in our communities for the great work the YWCA does.” The YW’s most important work is to “reach and empower young women in our community, especially the unrepresented ones.” Erika holds an MBA from the University of Illinois. She loves to travel and immerse herself in different cultures. She is originally from Hungary and helps to bring a diverse perspective to everything she does.
Humanities Professor, Parkland College
A long-time supporter of the YWCA, Patti is excited about joining the Board of Directors. Patti loves the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, and is eager to spread the word about it. She especially wants to support the YW’s efforts to reach more deeply into the wider community, and make women’s leadership development available to all women.
Andrea Rundell, Executive Director
Andrea is unabashedly in love with the mission of “eliminating racism and empowering women.” Residing in Champaign-Urbana since 1992, and working as a professional in the nonprofit sector since 1998, she originally came to Urbana to work on a PhD in Philosophy, but was inexorably drawn to the high-stakes, lucrative world of local nonprofits. Andrea has worked on statewide healthcare advocacy, facilitated teen parenting groups, and been Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of Champaign County. Most recently she served as the Director of Programs for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, and she continues to be passionate about hunger in the US. She proudly served as Chair of the local Human Services Council and was a founding member of the Latino Partnership of Champaign County.
Kate Ross, Campus Programs Coordinator
Kate is a University of Illinois alum, with a Bachelor's Degree in English and Master's of Social Work. She is passionate about empowering women, destigmatizing mental illness, and dismantling systemic racism. Her local volunteering includes: coordinating volunteers and serving on the board for Sistering CU and serving on the IDEA Women's Mental Health Advisory Board.
Denise Taylor, Community Programs Coordinator
Denise has over 35 years of experience working in non-profit agencies focused on community health, child development, and public education, in Chicago and in South America. She holds Master's degrees in cultural anthropology and in public health/epidemiology and has a certificate in infant mental health. Both personally and professionally, her work has been driven by a commitment to social justice from a feminist perspective. She is happy to be back in her hometown of Urbana to help disrupt racism and promote the empowerment of women.
Rebekah Rauschenberger, Bookkeeper