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GAGDC Staff Leadership

The Greater Auburn Gresham team is comprised of a talented and committed group of community development professionals with strong backgrounds in housing, real estate, workforce development, community organizing and office management.

Carlos Nelson
( Carlos Nelson is the Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) having joined the upstart organization in 2003. He is a mechanical engineer and certified project manager focusing on construction and real estate development. Carlos has been a long-time stakeholder in the Auburn Gresham community; a community he has been a part of all his life, a place where his grandparents have resided since 1963. While working in Chicago's Loop as an engineer and living near 79th & Racine during the 1980's and 90's, Carlos had a strong desire to help people in need.  He tutored in the Cabrini Green Tutoring Program, then in April 2002 became more involved in his own community.  He began volunteering for the newly formed not-for-profit organization whose executive director left in December 2002 to relocate to Michigan, Carlos accepted the position of Executive Director in January 2003, leaving corporate America behind. Carlos often says that he 'has not worked a day since 2003 as working to rebuild his people and community is not working at all.'  And joyfully proclaims,"not many people are blessed to do what God put them on earth to do."

Cheryl Johnson is principal of CJohnson & Associates and serves as a staff consultant for GAGDC. Cheryl has an extensive background in providing consulting services to businesses seeking government financial support. She has more than 15 years experience as professional manager of real estate tax incentives for the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and more than 25 years experience promoting economic development and improvement programs in communities. Along with her Masters Degree in Urban Planning and Policy, Cheryl's strengths include a real interest in serving the community and its residents most graciously and humbly.

Linda Johnson, ( is the Director of Housing & Senior Services. Linda is an accomplished real estate investor, with a history of community involvement. Linda is an organization guru for the GAGDC and leads a department that manages the renowned Small Accessible Repairs for Seniors (SARFS) program; the Micro Market Recovery Program (MMRP), as well as the burgeoning housing acquisition and renovation work. She brings to her position the patience of a teacher, and the no-nonsense approach to budget matters of a CFO.  


Hubert Newkirk ( joined GAGDC in August 2007 as the Litter Free Zone Initiative Coordinator. He has since grown this service and assisted in rebranding the team, as the Urban Green Team (UGT). The Litter Free Zone is a targeted area within Auburn Gresham community and initially spanned from 75th to 83rd streets to Halsted and Racine. In 2009, it was extended to West Chatham. Its goal is to improve our neighborhoods physical appearance and participate in environmental friendly habits. Since 2008 the Litter Free Zone has grown from 2,693 bags of recyclables to over 9,000 bags in 2010. Hubert has spent 37 years working in the community as a store manager for both Jewel Food Stores and Dominick's Finer Foods. The prior ten years he worked for the City of Chicago before he retired in June of 2006 as Streets & Sanitation Superintendent of the 17th Ward.

Norma Sanders ( serves as the Director of Special Initiatives and has dedicated nine years to working on technology planning, program management and integration in non-profit organizations. From 2009-2013, she worked as the Smart Communities Program Manager for the Southwest Smart Communities Partners (SSCP). She directly managed the Auburn Gresham and Chicago Lawn, two of the five digitally underserved neighborhoods in Chicago that are participating in the Smart Communities program - the City's broadband adoption initiative.  Prior to her work in the community, Norma was a senior director for Motorola, Inc. where she spent 25 years managing global IT teams.  She has a strong background in vendor management customer relationship management, and program management of large, diverse initiatives. She is a lifelong mentor, with a passion for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), journalism and supporting high-quality education for youth.          


Ray Thompson ( is Director of Education & Youth Development providing guidance, supervision, and critical thinking to our educational support team.  Formerly in leadership at Perspectives Charter School, then Chicago Public Schools, Ray is a dynamic practioner with a Master's degree from University of Chicago.  Ray has a strong background in education and social services and is a thought leader in the Asset Based Development field throughout Chicagoland.

Christa Hunt ( is a Site/Resource Coordinator and works closely with the administration of our Auburn Gresham GOLD school partners and is key in coordinating extended day programs.  In addition to supervising school-wide after school programs, Christa supports schools to ensure attendance and health compliance levels are met and is an experienced member of our Auburn Gresham GOLD summer camp staff.

Tanya Nelson (tnelson@gagdc.orgserves as the Fiscal/Contracts Manager for the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation. Since joining the organization, Tanya has elevated the GAGDC's contract compliance acumen resulting in highly regarded fiscal management of governmental funds, including city, county, state and federal levels.  Tanya earned her Bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Lonyea Ellis
 ( is Resource Development Associate focused on building and sustaining GAGDC's individual and corporate donor relations.  Lonyea is tasked with building out and managing GAGDC's donor management tool and supporting all fundraising efforts. 

Alethea Patterson ( is the GAGDC's Resource Case Manager focusing on providing support to Auburn Gresham families, especially those at AG GOLD schools, experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

Melanie Christion ( is Community Liason for our partnership with Illinois State University (ISU).   Her role is to develop relationships between ISU programs, namely, the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline in Chicago (CTEP), and the community at large. Melanie's work with CTEP aims to develop culturally competent, high quality, urban educators that will teach in Auburn Gresham.  Melanie outstanding performance as an Americorps Member lead to a full-time placement with GAGDC.

Cheryl Brown ( is everyone's star.  As the Crew Chief of the GAGDC's Urban Green Team, Cheryl (affectionately known as Sista Baby) is the face and spirit of the organization on the streets as she leads a team of individuals each day in the maintenance and beautification efforts to keep our community clean.  Each day (rain, shine, or snow) Cheryl and her team do debris removal, landscaping, promote recycling and meet and greet store owners and passersby, with a smile.  Cheryl also handles the intake each January through April 15th, of the GAGDC's free income tax preparation site in partnership with St. Sabina and lead by the Center for Economic Progress (CEP).  

Monique Gaston ( recently completed her Public Allies Apprentice, and is now a full-time Site/Resource Coordinator for GAGDC at our Auburn Gresham Gold schools.

Khayeem Anderson ( is Assistant Project Manager for GAGDC managing the organization's Special Service Areas (SSA#32 and SSA#69).  Mr. Anderson has been a longtime resident of the Auburn Gresham community and brings architectural experience to the SSA management team.

Contact Information:

Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC)
1159 W 79th Street; Chicago, Illinois 60620
Office: (773) 483-3696

To foster and promote revitalization of the community by designing and implementing programs that improve the community’s economic viability; increase availability of quality housing to people of different income levels, while maintaining and improving existing affordable housing; and enhance delivery of social services, particularly to senior citizens.

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