NEWS & EVENTS » Press Center
Meet Our Experts
United Way of Northern New Jersey staff members are available to provide expert opinion, comment, and analysis on one of the top issues facing the country today – the growing ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population. United Way of Northern New Jersey experts can speak about the work they’ve done to improve life for ALICE and all residents in New Jersey and across the nation. To arrange an interview with a United Way expert, contact Public Relations at 973.993.1160, x126 or email. Here is an index of our United Way experts:
Chief Executive Officer, John Franklin
Senior Vice Presidents
• Community Impact and Community Relations, Kiran Handa Gaudioso
• Resource Development, Theresa Leamy
• Education Impact Area Director, Michelle D. Roers
• Income Impact Area Director, Lynn Weckworth
• Health Impact Area Director, Carol DeGraw
ALICE Project Leaders
• Director, Stephanie Hoopes
• Associate Director, Molly Rennie
|Chief Executive Officer
Areas of Expertise:
- Nonprofit leadership and strategic organizational design
- ALICE in northern New Jersey
- Nonprofit mergers
- Community organizing
- How mentoring changes lives
John Franklin is an innovative leader who was a driving force behind the creation of United Way of Northern New Jersey. He was named chief executive officer of United Way of Northern New Jersey in March 2011. Franklin has been with United Way for more than 13 years, nine of which he served as chief executive officer of the former United Way of Morris County. Due to Franklin’s creativity, United Way has expanded beyond its traditional fundraising activities to previously untapped markets, broadening its base of support. Franklin’s passion to affect real, lasting, positive change for the citizens of northern New Jersey has positioned United Way as a leader in improving and strengthening the region.
Franklin, a resident of Morris County since 1985, has devoted much of his life to the work of mentoring and advising teenagers. For many years, he volunteered more than 700 hours a year working with his church youth group, Habitat for Humanity, the community soup kitchen, and other human service organizations.
|Senior Vice Presidents
Community Impact and Community Relations
Kiran Handa Gaudioso
Areas of Expertise:
- Size and scope of the ALICE and poverty-level population in northern New Jersey
- Community barriers preventing ALICE and poverty-level households from achieving financial stability
- Building community coalitions to address inequities for ALICE and poverty-level households
- Solutions for improving access to quality early childhood education
- Solutions for expanding resources and information for unpaid family caregivers
- Solutions for increased access to free tax preparation and financial education
Kiran Handa Gaudioso leads United Way of Northern New Jersey’s regional Community Impact team. She oversees strategic planning around how to remove the barriers that keep ALICE and poverty-level households from becoming financially stable. Gaudioso, who joined United Way in 2013, has worked to assess community needs, build partnerships, and identify and implement short-, medium-, and long-term strategies to improve the lives of ALICE and all residents. Under Gaudioso’s leadership, United Way has expanded its outreach plan in each core area of its work. The results are:
- Improved access to quality early childhood education
- Expanded resources and information for unpaid family caregivers
- Increased access to free tax preparation and financial education
Gaudioso brings to United Way a wealth of experience in nonprofit and volunteer management, as well as a lifelong passion for expanding educational and career opportunities for at-risk youth. Prior to joining United Way, Gaudioso spent nine years at New Jersey After 3, which worked to provide quality after-school programs for 15,000 public school students in New Jersey. In her work at other nonprofits and government entities, Gaudioso developed a mentoring program for teens, implemented fundraising strategies, and helped establish AmeriCorps in New Jersey.
Gaudioso represents United Way in her role as vice chair of the North Jersey Health Collaborative, a nonprofit that brings together the expertise of community organizations to address local health issues.
Areas of Expertise:
- Nonprofit fundraising
- Corporate and nonprofit partnerships
- Nonprofit leadership
Theresa Leamy oversees United Way of Northern New Jersey’s $14 million annual campaign. She is responsible for all aspects of fundraising including corporate campaigns, grants, events, and major giving. Leamy served as director of resource development for seven years with the former United Way of Morris County. She has served as chair of the United Way New Jersey Collaboration of Campaign Directors. And in partnership with United Way Worldwide, Leamy was instrumental in developing National Standards of Excellence, which are still implemented by the system today.
Education Impact Area Director
Michelle D. Roers
Areas of Expertise:
- Barriers ALICE and poverty-level households face in accessing quality early childhood education
- The importance of quality early childhood education
- The need for a standard quality ratings system for early childhood education centers
- The value of quality early childhood education staff
- The importance of social, emotional, and intellectual development from birth through high school
- United Way’s work to improve the culture and climate in K-12 school districts across the region
Michelle Roers leads United Way of Northern New Jersey’s Education initiatives, which promote access to quality early childhood education and a positive school culture and climate in K-12. Roers oversees strategic partnerships with child care centers, K-12 school districts, institutions of higher education, and the state of New Jersey. Through her leadership, United Way is improving access to quality childhood education for those struggling to afford it – ALICE and poverty-level families.
Roers joined the former United Way of Morris County in 2007 where she served as director of Community Impact. In this role she oversaw broad-based coalitions established to draw attention to and create long-term solutions addressing the shortages of affordable housing, the inequities for accessing affordable high quality child care, the social emotional learning in school age youth, and the growing need to support unpaid family caregivers.
A licensed clinical social worker, Roers has lived in Morris County since 1998 and actively volunteers her time in the community as a member of the Morris County Human Services Advisory Committee and treasurer of the Parents Group at the Richard Blake Children’s Center, a child care center in Morristown.
Income Impact Area Director
Areas of Expertise:
- United Way’s regional free tax preparation program for ALICE and poverty-level households
- How key tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit support ALICE and poverty-level households
- Free financial education resources provided by United Way and community partners
Lynn Weckworth leads United Way of Northern New Jersey’s Income initiatives, overseeing community-based projects that seek to help ALICE and poverty-level households achieve financial stability. Under her direction, United Way is working to provide ALICE and poverty-level households with access to free tax preparation, financial education, and other career supports.
Weckworth joined the former United Way of Somerset County in 1988 and served in a variety of roles, starting out as a manager and rising to lead community building and resource investment prior to the merger of five United Ways in northern New Jersey.
A long-time Somerset County resident, Weckworth is integrally involved in the community, serving on the Somerset County Mental Health Board and the Somerville Senior Housing Board of Directors. As a representative of United Way, she also serves on the board of directors for Leadership Somerset, a program that develops the team building and leadership skills of participants.
Health Impact Area Director
Areas of Expertise:
- The emotional and financial strains experienced by unpaid family caregivers across the lifespan of the care recipient
- The extra burden caregiving places on ALICE and poverty-level households
- United Way resources for unpaid family caregivers including the Pathways guide
- The evolution of the United Way Caregivers Coalition across the region
- Workplace supports for unpaid family caregivers
- Community resources for unpaid family caregivers
Carol DeGraw oversees United Way of Northern New Jersey’s Health initiative, which is focused on improving access to resources, supports, and education for unpaid family caregivers including ALICE and poverty-level households. She oversees the strategic planning for the five United Way Caregivers Coalitions across the region. The Coalition has been recognized at the state and national level as an effective model for supporting caregiving populations. Under DeGraw’s guidance, the Coalition has been an instrumental voice for advocacy and has created new and unique resources for caregivers. She is also a member of the United Way Worldwide Advisory Council on Aging.
Prior to joining United Way in 2001, DeGraw was executive director of the Coalition on AIDS in Passaic County for seven years. A licensed clinical social worker with more than 25 years experience, her direct service work has included case management, crisis intervention, HIV/AIDS, gerontology, and psychotherapy. DeGraw has been an instructor since 1997 for Rutgers University School of Social Work’s Institute for Families, Office of Continuing Education. She has also served as an adjunct professor at Rutgers and William Paterson universities. DeGraw is the author of the book chapter “Case Management Challenges and Strategies,” which was published in “Invisible Caregivers: Older Adults Raising Children in the Wake of HIV/AIDS.”
|ALICE Project Leaders
Areas of Expertise:
- Size and scope of the ALICE and poverty-level population across the United States
- Economic barriers that prevent ALICE and poverty-level households from achieving financial stability
- The impact of the Great Recession on the ALICE and poverty-level population
- How the ALICE measurements differ from the federal poverty level
- The impact of natural disasters on ALICE and poverty-level households
- Current issues in political economy
Stephanie Hoopes is helping to lead the United Way ALICE Project, a grassroots movement aimed at improving the lives of ALICE, those individuals and families who are working but unable to afford the basic necessities. Hoopes is the lead researcher and author of several United Way ALICE Reports that identify, examine, and communicate the financial hardships and needs of ALICE households. She has been involved since the inception of the Project, serving as a task force chair on the first Report examining Morris County. The Project has since expanded to publish reports examining the ALICE population in New Jersey and five other states, which together represent one-quarter of the U.S. population.
Hoopes, who joined United Way in 2015, is also on the faculty at Rutgers University-Newark’s School of Public Affairs and Administration. She is the former director of the university’s New Jersey DataBank, which provides information on current issues in 20 policy areas. She has taught at Columbia University in New York and at Sussex and Birmingham universities in the United Kingdom. She has a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College. Her research has garnered state and national media attention.
Hoopes serves on the board of the McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union. She has served as commissioner and treasurer of New Jersey’s Public Broadcast Authority.
Areas of Expertise:
- Size and scope of ALICE and poverty-level population in New Jersey and across the country
- United Way grassroots movement across the country to improve conditions for ALICE and poverty-level households
- History of United Way ALICE Project
- United Way partnerships with corporations to elevate ALICE’s voice to a national level
Molly Rennie serves as associate director of the United Way ALICE Project, a grassroots movement aimed at improving the lives of ALICE, those individuals and families who are working but unable to afford the basic necessities. In her role, Rennie leads the ALICE Learning Community, a forum that allows participants – local United Ways in states involved in the Project, their Research Advisory Committees, and invited community members – to learn from each other, share best practices, and build broader impact and fundraising strategies. By forming strategic partnerships with United Way leaders and corporate partners, Rennie has been instrumental in expanding the Project beyond New Jersey to a national collaborative within the United Way network.
Rennie joined United Way in 2003 and served for 10 years as director of corporate campaigns, the chief fundraising vehicle for the organization. Prior to joining United Way, Rennie worked as a resource development associate at the Summit Speech School, a nonprofit that prepares young, hearing-impaired children for mainstream education.
Rennie is a member of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, a member organization that seeks to prevent, reduce, and end poverty in the state.