Board of Directors
Jamila Larson, LICSW, President and Co-Founder
While a college student in Minnesota, Jamila founded a program similar to Playtime Project at a Minneapolis homeless shelter which earned her the “Social Work Student of the Year” award in 1995. Jamila came to Washington to work for the Children’s Defense Fund in 1996 where she researched and wrote about best practices for strengthening low-income families for four years before getting her Master’s degree in social work. She then served as a Clinical Social Worker at Bright Beginnings, a Head Start program for families experiencing homelessness, and then as Regional Director and Consultant for LIFT.
Prior to joining Playtime Project full-time, she served as the Community School Director for the National Center for Children and Families at the JC Nalle Elementary School in Southeast D.C., where she managed a mental health and after school program. In 2005, she was awarded “Employee of the Year” as a “Voice for Children” by the agency whose 180 staff provides comprehensive child welfare services in the D.C. metropolitan area. Jamila ran Playtime Project as a volunteer since it was founded in 2003, and assumed her role as first full-time Executive Director in September 2009. In 2012, she was honored as a Washingtonian of the Year for her work as Playtime’s Executive Director.
Char Beales, Board Chair, Independent Consultant with Compass Pro Bono Strategic Consulting
Char Beales consults with Compass to provide pro bono consulting to D.C.-area nonprofits, leading teams for the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, DC Diaper Bank and Healthy Babies Project. Char served as President and CEO of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing for more than 20 years, and served as President of the CTAM Marketing Co-op, a for-profit subsidiary that creates and manages co-operative marketing campaigns. She was Secretary/Treasurer of the CTAM Educational Foundation, which produces an annual Cable Executive Management course at the Harvard Business School. She continues to serve as a strategic advisor and member of the Board of Directors of CTAM Europe. In 2009, Char was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.
She chaired The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs National Council from 2010-2017, and was a co-chair of Making History: the Campaign for GW, a $1B philanthropic campaign. She is a member of GW’s Task Force on Volunteer Engagement. In the community, Char is president of the Riverwood Citizens Association. Earlier in her career Char represented the newly-launched cable networks while at the National Cable Television Association, led program development at COMSAT, and held marketing, research and media buying positions at NBC, CBS and J. Walter Thompson. She holds a BA from GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.
Omid Mohebbi, CPA, Treasurer; Senior Auditor for Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman
Omid Mohebbi is a senior auditor with Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman CPAs. He joined the firm in 2011 and specializes in audits of nonprofit organizations including associations, private voluntary organizations and other charitable institutions. Omid is responsible for performing fieldwork and reviewing the work of audit associates relating to audits performed in accordance with auditing standards. He ensures the efficient, timely and accurate completion of fieldwork, audit report preparation and other key deliverables.
He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in economics from University College London, and studied accounting at Montgomery College, Md., where he achieved the coveted Dean’s List distinction. He continues to expand his expertise through continuing professional education, hands-on experience and attending industry conferences. He recently wrote an article titled “Trust but Verify: An Introduction to the Life Cycle of an Audit.”
Franco Tao, Secretary, Independent Consultant
Franco Tao has over 20 years of business experience in the technology services and federal government contracting industries. Previously, he was an executive at a firm delivering technology-based solutions to various federal agencies. He volunteers with Compass to provide pro bono consulting to D.C.-area nonprofits; Playtime was his first client.
Franco holds an M.B.A. from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, and a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia. He has called the D.C. area as his home for most of his life.
Andy Chasin, Assistant Vice President of Federal Policy and Advocacy for Blue Shield of California
Andy Chasin is Assistant Vice President of Federal Policy and Advocacy for Blue Shield of California, a four-million-member nonprofit health plan with more than $13 billion in annual revenue. Blue Shield was the first health plan in the country to endorse the goal of universal coverage, and it has been the largest carrier on the state’s exchange, Covered California.
In his role, Andy partners with regulators, policymakers, and government officials to advocate Blue Shield’s priorities, including expanded access to quality and affordable health care. Andy is based in Washington, D.C., and has led federal advocacy on both implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and opposing attempts to replace the ACA through the American Health Care Act (AHCA). He previously served as Associate General Counsel for Health Reform at Blue Shield, where he helped lead implementation of the ACA for the company. Prior to joining Blue Shield, Andy served as Health Policy Council for the Senate Republican Policy Committee. As a leadership staffer, he was responsible for providing Senate offices with analysis and guidance on pending health care legislation and amendments. After graduating law school from Stanford University, he was an associate at a major D.C. law firm where he specialized in regulatory issues.
Andy lives in D.C. with his wife and two children. He is a long-time triathlete and avid biker who enjoys any and all outdoor activities.
Denise Forte, Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation
Before joining The Century Foundation, Denise Forte served as the senior staff member overseeing staff and policy direction for education and labor issues for the Democratic Members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Prior to returning to Capitol Hill in 2014, she was the Vice President for Policy Leadership at Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), a leadership development organization supporting current and former teachers in public leadership. Denise also served in the Obama Administration at the U.S. Department of Education from 2011-2013 where she held the positions of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, providing direction and management of the office that oversees policy and budget development across the agency. Denise started her career in policy in 1995 as a congressional fellow and rose to the position of Education Policy Director on the Committee on Education and the Workforce prior to joining the Administration.
Denise has been recognized by national advocacy groups for her leadership on education and family policy to include elementary and secondary education reform, higher education, juvenile justice reform, and improvements to child nutrition programs. She has also been selected to participate on several commissions focused on improving public schools in Washington, D.C. Throughout her career, Denise has also served as a mentor to young professionals who wish to enter into public service. Denise received her B.S. in Computer Science from Duke University in 1986, and an M.A. in Women’s Studies from the George Washington University in 1996. She resides in Washington, D.C. with her family.
Ann Gray, Independent Consultant
Ann Gray’s career has spanned academia, consulting, and entrepreneurship. Her focus has been on guiding organizations, both for- and non-profit, through difficult transitions. With business and private equity partners, Ann acquired and managed three mid-market manufacturing firms, two of which were facing bankruptcy. For this work, the Worcester Business Journal awarded Ann its Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2007. Prior to this, Ann worked with the Center for the Quality of Management (CQM), a non-profit consortium of businesses developing and sharing best practices, and was the recipient of the organization’s Outstanding Contributor Award. Early in her career, Ann joined the faculty of the Harvard Business School, where she wrote business cases and consulted with companies to improve their operating practices and strategies. She has been featured in several articles and books, including Strategies for Successful Career Change and Smart Women, Small Business.
Ann has served on several Compass pro bono teams, providing management consulting services to non-profit clients. She also worked with Virginia Science Olympiad (VASO), an all-volunteer organization running science and engineering competitions, where she recruited talented professionals from education, science, and business to join her in improving the experience of the hundreds (now, thousands) of engaged students and coaches. Ann holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Industrial Engineering from the University of Michigan, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business Administration. She and her family live in D.C.
Dr. Geoffrey Mount Varner, Physician with John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
Dr. Geoffrey Mount Varner obtained his MD from Wayne State University School of Medicine in 1990 after completing his BS in Mathematics at Hampton University in 1989. Following the completion of his doctorate, Mount Varner attended the Harvard University School of Public Health, where he earned his Masters in Public Health with a special focus on Health Care Management and Finance. After graduating, he obtained an internship in internal medicine at the George Washington University and later went on to become the Chief Resident in emergency medicine at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Currently, Geoffrey is an Assistant Professor, attending physician, and Chief and Interim Chairman at Howard University Hospital, where he focuses on emergency medicine. Since January of 2010, he has also served as the Medical Director and Assistant Fire Chief for the Fire and Emergency Services in the District where as one of six executives, he is responsible for overseeing the correct execution and completion of EMS training and protocols for medical treatment for a staff of over 2,500 paramedics and firefighters. Geoffrey has been a strong advocate of the Playtime Project as he rallies his workplace, family, and his children’s school to sponsor events and speak to the teens in our Teen Program.
Folu Okunade, Manager for Accenture
Folu Okunade has 10+ years of experience in the consulting industry, implementing process improvement solutions for companies in various industries and across several countries to help resolve some of their most complex business and technology issues. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Cape Town and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, concentration in Economics, from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
While in South Africa, Folu served as program advisor and senior project manager for a non-profit organization focused on bringing innovative development solutions to underserved communities. During this time, he was responsible for helping to set up a program management unit, implementing, monitoring and evaluating project management guidelines, re-designing the funding strategy for the organization, and managing relationships with donors and corporate partners. Additionally, Folu has founded two organizations – one committed to providing a platform for aspiring thought leaders and writers, and the other providing services and solutions for young organizations.
Patience B. Peabody, Senior Managing Director of Communications, Flamboyan Foundation
Patience oversees brand strategy, marketing, media relations, and leadership visibility efforts for the Flamboyan Foundation. Before joining Flamboyan, Patience served as the Director of Communications and Community Engagement at D.C.’s $1.2 billion state education agency, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). She led OSSE’s communications, brand, digital media, internal communications, crisis communications, and co-led the agency’s internal culture change efforts. Prior to joining OSSE, Patience was Vice President of Communications and Creative at the national poverty-alleviation organization, LIFT. In this role, she oversaw internal and external communications and brand. Patience joined LIFT from The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, where she oversaw marketing and donor-focused communications and stewardship. She has held roles at Share Our Strength and the Advisory Board Company.
Patience supports several local and national charities and is a board member of New Futures, an organization that helps underserved young people get through a certification or community college degree and into a rewarding career. She holds an Executive Master of Global Strategic Communication from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Hampton University. A native Washingtonian, she’s committed to making communities stronger and closing the opportunity gap. Patience lives in Hyattsville, Maryland with her husband Dan, an educator, and very energetic toddler daughter, Peyton.
Jan Piercy, Advisor to Enclude
Jan Piercy is an Advisor to Enclude, an inclusive financial services advisory firm that grew out of ShoreBank, a Chicago-based community development financial institution. She stepped out of full-time work with Enclude in 2016 to devote more time to her community service and other interests. Jan’s career has included management and leadership responsibilities across private sector, non-profit, academic and public sectors. She served for the United States on the Board of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation, where she chaired the Board Committees on Development Effectiveness and Personnel and was on the Audit Committee, receiving the U.S. Treasury Medal of Honor in 2001 for her service at Treasury and the World Bank. Earlier, Jan headed public management programs at Stanford and Cornell Graduate Schools of Business, worked in Bangladesh and Thailand for an international NGO and was Senior Vice President at ShoreBank.
Jan graduated from Wellesley College and did graduate studies at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. She is a member of the Advisory Councils of the Global Philanthropy Forum, Acumen, and the Opportunity Collaboration and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Jan is an active member of St. Columba’s Church in D.C. and is a long-time resident of the City. Her daughter, Lissa, is co-founder of Strength of Doves, an agency representing social activist spoken word artists.
Cena Maxfield Smith, Manager of Corporate Strategy for Exelon Corporation
For over a decade, Cena Maxfield Smith has worked on strategic, economic and growth issues spanning the public, private and non-profit sectors. At Strategy&, she leads engagements with Fortune 500 companies in the infrastructure, energy, and commodity sectors to address their strategic questions about industry trends, competitiveness and growth. Prior to joining Strategy&, Cena worked at Nathan Associates Inc. on economic growth and poverty reduction initiatives as an economic development consultant to USAID and the World Bank. At Nathan, Cena provided trade capacity assistance to developing country governments and multilateral organizations, and was based for several years in Jakarta, Indonesia. Cena also served as a Program Manager for the United States-Indonesia Society (USINDO).
Cena was introduced to the Playtime Project through Compass, a pro-bono consulting organization in which she is active. She has an M.B.A. from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, an M.A. from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), a B.A. from Dartmouth College in Government and Economics, and a degree in motherhood (still in progress) from her young son.
Renée Stikes, Executive Director for Horizons Greater Washington
Renée Stikes joined Horizons Greater Washington in 2014 bringing a vast amount of experience in development and non-profit management. She has served as Vice President of Philanthropy for Kaboom! where she successfully created and implemented strategies to raise visibility and secure funds from individuals, foundation, corporate and government sources. Prior to that, she served as Director of Development at CentroNia, a nationally recognized multicultural learning community, where she helped to secure $17 million in funding to support an award-winning early childhood education program, an accredited out-of-school time program and a public charter school for 1,500 low-income children and youth in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Renée also worked as director of membership for Council on Foundations where she was responsible for managing the processes that brought in more than $11 million annually. Her fundraising experience includes work as Interim Director of Development and Director of Corporate Relations and Special Events for the Children’s Defense Fund. She has held development positions with National Minority AIDS Council where she developed the agency’s first donor-recognition program resulting in near 100% retention of corporate and foundation donors and almost 60% increase in corporate contributions. Her resource development work began in earnest at Building Futures, a Washington, D.C.-based housing organization. She earned the Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fundraising School in Indianapolis, Indiana. And, she holds a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from American University and a Bachelors of Arts in mathematics from the University of Louisville.
Elizabeth Voyles, Principal at Brass Ring Communications
Elizabeth Voyles has over a decade of experience in public affairs, political and media strategy at the federal, state and local levels; and in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. She is Principal of Brass Ring Communications, a boutique media relations and marketing firm in the nation’s capital. She holds a Master’s of Public Administration from The George Washington University and a Bachelor’s of Political Science from Tufts University.
Voyles started her career in Washington as Deputy Press Secretary to U.S. Senator John F. Kerry. Prior to her position at Fulcrum, Voyles was a Senior Associate of Communications at The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, DC. Her professional experiences at Morgan Allen Moore, a public relations firm, and as a field organizer for several political campaigns have further diversified her skill set. As a graduate student, Voyles served as a fellow at The Concord Coalition, a non-partisan organization dedicated to educating the public about America’s fiscal challenges. Prior to that, she served as Communications Manager at the Trust for America’s Health, a public health non-profit that focuses on policy related to chronic disease, infectious disease and emergency preparedness. She supported the group’s successful effort to secure a groundbreaking prevention fund in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, Ty and their two children, Emma and Zachary.
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We are grateful for the service of our former Board Members:
- David Graling of Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman
- Gina Kline of Brown, Goldstein, Levy
- Kirsten Lodal of LIFT
- Patty Mullahy-Fugere of Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless
- Wendy E. Stark of Pepco Holdings
- Amanda Fuchs Miller of Seventh Street Strategies LLC
Statistic – Child Trends
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness estimates that 80 percent of mothers with children experiencing homelessness have previously experienced domestic violence.