Meet the Gerry’s Cafe Board of Directors
One of our greatest resources is our board and the dedicated members serving as our directors. The common bond they share is that of their commitment to our mission, vision and core values in creating new job opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Natalie Griffin, Co-Founder and Board President
Natalie is a former Special Education teacher and saw a need for the students who graduated from the school programs to have more employment opportunities in our community. After researching other businesses with a model to employ adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, she set out with Co-Founder Amy Philpott to create Gerry’s Cafe as a gathering place of joy that welcomes and includes all people; a place that empowers our exceptional employees, helps them feel valued and earn a fair paycheck.
Amy Philpott, Co-Founder and Board Vice President
Amy is a Real Estate Broker in Arlington Heights, IL with The GetBurbed Team of @properties. Amy joined the drive and partnered with Natalie Griffin to bring the idea and concept of Gerry’s Cafe to the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. Amy’s background in management, retail and restaurant operations is a driving force in creating Gerry’s Cafe to be a viable and successful operation in our community. Quality food and service is a critical success factor for any restaurant operation. Amy’s experience is paramount in the cafe design and creation for our future employee’s success and livelihood.
Mary Ann Jahrling, Secretary
Mary Ann is an original board member, joining the board in 2018. She serves as secretary and on the Human Capital and Development Team and the Site Search Team. After 38 years Mary Ann retired from education. She continues to substitute teach and volunteer at area schools. Mary Ann enjoys working as an advocate for individuals with diverse abilities and is eager to see Gerry's Cafe, its employees and volunteers be an integral part of the community.
Brian Milligan, Treasurer
Brian joined the Board in 2021. He serves as the Treasurer. Brian has over 35 years of financial experience, including over 20 years operating as a CFO for privately held services companies. He has also served in many leadership roles as a volunteer with local community groups. Brian loves Gerry’s Café since it provides an opportunity to enable adults that are not historically provided the chance to perform meaningful work and at a competitive wage. Gerry’s Café lifts up these joyful adults and celebrates all of their special gifts.
Joe DeMarco, Board Director
Joe joined the Board in 2021. He currently serves as the Vice President of Global Sourcing and Procurement at Stericycle, and lives in Green Oaks with his wife and two daughters. Growing up, Joe had a disabled brother and was inspired by his parents’ dedication and commitment to his care. As a Board Member of Gerry’s Café, Joe brings the same dedication and enthusiasm to the continued success of our mission.
Greg Burns, Board Director
Greg Burns recently retired from the Allstate Insurance Company after a 36-year career. Greg spent much of his career in HR along with time in Claims, Business Insurance, and Transformation. Greg earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of South Florida and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Greg is married to Kate and has three adult daughters. Greg’s interest in Gerry’s Café is driven by his deceased brother Jeff, who was born with Down Syndrome. Greg’s passion is to continue his brother’s legacy by paying it forward for those who are developmentally disabled.
Sheila Lullo, Board Director
Sheila Lullo, Clearbrook’s Executive Vice President of Program Services, is responsible for the operation of Community Day Services, CILAs, Quality Assurance, Community Employment and Admissions. In 1980, Lullo helped establish Clearbrook’s first residential group home. Ms. Lullo has taken the lead on many large grants during the past several years which have focused on developing leadership skills among managers and curriculum developed for Community Day Services.
Graduating from Western Illinois University with a B.A. Early Childhood, Ms. Lullo later attended the University of Chicago where she earned an M.A. Social Work with an Administration emphasis. In addition to being a member of various professional organizations, Lullo has taught Disability Studies at the college level and has served on the statewide Quality Committee for 10 years and currently serves on the statewide DD Advisory Committee.
Frank J. Portera, Board Director
Frank Portera is an attorney at Lavelle Law in Schaumburg and lives with his wife in Arlington Heights. Frank grew up in nearby Palatine and attended Palatine High School before enrolling at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for both his undergraduate and juris doctor. Frank is looking forward to working with and supporting Gerry’s Café in order to give back to his community and witness firsthand the growth and fulfillment of adults with disabilities.
Valerie Norris, Board Director
Valerie has been a public school educator for over 20 years. She is currently the Principal of the Specialized Schools in Township District 214 (Arlington Heights). With a school counseling and Special Education background, she is looking forward to making connections between the local school programs and Gerry's Cafe. She hopes that Gerry's Cafe can be a model for the business community in the Northwest Suburbs to employ more students and adults with disabilities.
George Frigelis, Board Director
George has over 22 years of Commercial Real Estate and Insurance experience. He has lived in Arlington Hts for 19 years with his wife Vicky and four children. George is looking to give back to his community and looking to be a small part of a wonderful organization that will provide employment for adults with disabilities.
Jakub Kar-Ali, Board Director
Jakub has been involved with Gerry’s Café since its launch in 2018. He has nearly 20 years of expertise within restaurant and retail branding, visual merchandising, and environmental design. A trusted visual consultant by many of the most sophisticated retailers and global brands, Jakub is committed to driving the cafe's mission forward. He has brought his Design & Development skills to lead the design and build of Gerry’s Café Flagship location. Currently, Jakub is the Chief Growth Officer of Marana Group, where he is responsible for leading growth strategy, both domestically and internationally, to develop new partnerships and deepen existing ones within the company's impressive portfolio of clients. He lives in Arlington Heights, IL with his wife and two children.