loader image



Karen is the Development Manager at APIA Scholars in Washington DC, the nation’s largest organization devoted to providing resources for low-income, first-generation Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) in higher education. Her work focuses on scaling partnerships with companies and affinity groups. Prior to joining APIA Scholars, Karen project managed interfaith programs at Georgetown University Law Center. A passion for service and advocate for under-resourced populations, Karen is excited to support JustRoots’ mission and hopes to build meaningful relationships that embrace the spirit and values of the nonprofit. Karen holds a Master’s Degree in Trinitarian Ontology from Istituto Universitario Sophia, B.A degrees in Theology and Studio Art from Lewis University, and a Certificate in Business Administration from Georgetown University.

Clinton Coats

It Takes A Village Community FARM MANAGER

Clinton is the owner of Good Vibes Farm, a quarter-acre production farm located in Chicago, Illinois. Good Vibes Farm is partnering with Just Roots and Grace United Church of Christ to lead It Takes A Village Community Farm in Sauk Village.

The mission of Good Vibes is to spread good and positive feelings with open arms to the community and their members, providing delicious and nutritious fresh produce from the farm directly into their hands while also educating and raising awareness of a healthy mind, body, and soul.

Email: Goodvibesfarm18@gmail.com

Celie Davis

Director of Programs & Partnerships

Celie lived in Colorado for ten years working in food justice, political organizing, and public policy, most notably for voter access, youth issues, and city and state legislation. She moved to Chicago for graduate school in public policy and soon realized she wanted to get back to her roots in urban agriculture instead. She looked to her previous experiences in volunteering for food waste recovery and working on an urban farm in Boulder, and searched for similar community-based opportunities in Chicago. She discovered Just Roots and was inspired by their mission. She has been with the organization since and has served in a number of titles. She enjoys reading, petting her bunny, and drinking entirely too much water.

Email: CELIE@justrootschicago.org


Pastor, Saint James
Fr. John Edmunds, S.T., became the pastor of Saint James on March 1, 2016. A Baltimore native, Fr. John made his first vows as a Missionary Servant of the Most Holy Trinity in 1970 and was ordained to the priesthood on May 15, 1976. He has worked in California, Chicago, Louisiana, Alabama, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. His ministries have included parish work, youth work, community development, vocation work, campus ministry, formation work,  and in leadership of his religious community. Most of his ministries over the years have been among the African-American community. Before his time in leadership for his religious congregation, he spent seventeen years as pastor of an inner city parish in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Email: jedmunds@stjameswabash.org

Tommy Elwell

Saint James Community Farm Manager

Raised in suburban Minneapolis, Tommy came to Chicago in 2016 to study Humanities and Religion at Shimer College.  He got connected with Just Roots through St. James Food Pantry where he has been working since the beginning of the pandemic. Tommy had a long standing interest in urban agriculture for its ability to create spaces of collective healing, care, resilience, and resistance. He was thrilled to turn his interest into action and started volunteering with Just Roots during the buildout of the Saint James Community Farm and came on staff in 2021. When he’s not at the farm, Tommy loves biking in the sun, laying in his hammock, dancing poorly, and hanging out with bugs.

Email: TOMMY@justrootschicago.org

Rob Jackson

Board Member

Rob is a passionate marketing and communications leader with over 35 years in the business leading the development of innovative and effective strategies across dynamic consumer categories and major brands.

Currently, Rob is the Principle at his boutique consulting company RAJAA (Robert A. Jackson And Associates) where his focus has been on helping grass roots businesses and not for profits optimize branding, customer engagement and communications strategies. On the corporate side Rob has led CX, CRM and Marketing Communications functions at Windstream Communications, a telecommunications company based in Little Rock, AR. 

During his extended tenure at McDonald’s corporation, Rob was recognized for his leadership to significantly increase brand affinity from the African-American consumer market via highly innovative integrated marketing communications strategies. Additionally, as Marketing Director, Rob led the marketing team for McDonald’s Chicago Region, which contained over 700 restaurants and generated $1.5 billion in sales. Rob began his career in advertising at Leo Burnett and Bozell and ultimately Burrell where he started as an Advertising Executive and rose to the level of Senior Vice-President.

Rob is married and has three adult children; he serves on two Not-for-profit Boards — Centers for New Horizons and Just Roots. He enjoys being an adjunct professor at City Colleges of Chicago, crafting, travel and scuba diving. He is also a life member of the FAMU alumni association, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and the Cadet Colonel Society of St. John’s College HS in Washington, DC.

Beverly long

it takes a village community farm Program coordinator

Beverly is a member of Grace UCC and received her Advanced Certification in Urban Horticulture from Chicago City Colleges/Chicago Botanical Gardens, her Roots of Success Certification, as well her ServSafe Food Handler Certification, all in 2020.

Beverly is a Chicago native, born and raised on the southeast side, with an emphasis on faith, family and community. Growing tomatoes, strawberries, and other produce in the backyard is where it began. Beverly is now retired with the opportunity to assist in building out and running It Take a Village Community Farm at Grace UCC, which is taking it to another level because she can now work hard at something she has always loved to do — grow!

Email: beverly@justrootschicago.org


Board Member

Eileen Paliakas

Board Treasurer, Operations & Finance Committee Chair

Eileen has an Accounting degree from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is the Controller at an IT Consulting company in Chicago. She has 30+ years of accounting and financial analysis experience alongside many years of mentoring and coaching. Just Roots has broadened her slate of volunteer activities to include a tremendous team with a deep skill set in urban agriculture and community outreach.  While Eileen is the first to assist with dealing in facts and figures, the team has returned the favor in teaching her about sustainable farming, healthy food preparation and how to maximize output of produce measured in pounds per square foot.


Board Member

Beverly is a television producer and writer, who believes in the transformative power of media to educate and entertain. Beverly enjoys lakefront walks, Chicago’s rich theater community and travel anywhere in the world. She has a special interest in social entrepreneurship and community revitalization.

Tamara Reed Tran

Board president
Tamara (TammyReed Tran is the Managing Director of Development & Public Relations at BPI Chicago. With 19+ years of development, fundraising and public affairs/marketing experience, Tammy has worked for several nonprofit organizations including Oral Health America, the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, The Family Institute at Northwestern University, the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, the Committee of 200, Rush University Medical Center and Volunteers of America. 
Tammy holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a focus on communications and African American Studies. She’s also pursued graduate studies with a focus on clinical psychology.
In her spare time, Tammy has served as the Chair of the Executive Women’s Committee of the Metropolitan Club, founded the Nonprofit Professionals Forum and in 2018, hosted American Women Galvanizing, a series of talks geared towards those issues that impact women professionally. Additionally, Tammy served as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Juanita Fields Foundation and as the Gala Co-Chair for the Vietnamese Association of Illinois’ Annual Gala and Benefit.
 She currently serves as the Treasurer for Wisdom Knot, a Chicago based nonprofit that strives to help young people reach beyond the field of competition. Tammy resides in Chicago with her husband, is the mother of two and grandmother of one.

Sean Ruane

Director of Operations & Development

Sean was born on the Southwest side of Chicago and developed a love for growing food at an early age, while spending time at his grandparents farm in Ireland. Sean holds a B.A in Education, an M.A in Justice Education, and a certificate in Sustainable Urban Agriculture through the Windy City Harvest Apprenticeship program. Sean has served as an educator and non profit leader for over a decade and believes growing food is a powerful force for cultivating more sustainable, resilient, and collaborative communities.  

Email: Sean@justrootschicago.org

Cinnamon Sanchez

FARM Operations Specialist

Chicago native, but raised in Boston, Cinnamon spent their time working as a professional chef, performing community outreach and food access organizing. They moved back to Chicago in 2020 to immerse themselves in the community working with the Chicago Food Depository. After adopting a vegan lifestyle, Cinnamon decided they wanted to grow their own food, eventually completing an urban farming apprenticeship with the Chicago Botanic Garden. Upon completion of the apprenticeship, they were introduced to Just Roots and came on staff in 2023. Cinnamon is very interested in achieving food sovereignty and striving for decolonization. They enjoy cooking for family and friends, boxing as a form of meditation, and thrifting the best vintage finds to add to their wardrobe. 


PASTOR, grace united church of christ

Rev. Melody L. Seaton is the founding pastor of Grace United Church of Christ located in Sauk Village, IL. Her pastorate began in an empty building, seven years ago and was founded on the principals of ‘reaching out and lifting up’. This comes in part from Rev. Seaton’s thirty-eight years as an educator with a staunch belief that all children could learn and deserved to leave her class and school with more than they came. As a school principal, the last eighteen years, the role of the community, especially the church was vital in helping to provide some of this support. Grace UCC wants to be that church to the community.

Email: revseaton@grucc.org 


Saint James Community farm program coordinator

After nearly 30 years as a teacher and reading specialist, Tracey is enjoying her newfound freedom outside of the classroom walls by learning all aspects of farming at St. James, managing our new bee program and always training for her next marathon.

Email: Tracey@justrootschicago.org



Jess grew up in Chicago, finding wonder in the City’s forest preserves and the grounding force of
Lake Michigan. From an early age, she understood the transformative power of land-based
relationships and has worked to deepen them ever since. She has facilitated land-based learning
for 10 years, with young scholars, college students and adult learners. Through several years
living in China and Ireland, Jess has worked in cross-cultural dialogue and relationship-building.
She has deepened her experience in farming through several seasons at Detroit urban farms and
the University of Michigan Campus Farm. She has learned about the gifts of seaweed from the
Atlantic, fungi in Chinese mountains and the foods and medicines of Midwestern woodlands and
prairies. Jess has a BA in Environmental Science and Sociology and a MS in Environmental
Justice, specializing in urban food systems. In her free time, she loves to look for wild foods,
climb big ol’ rocks, create new dishes in the kitchen and explore creativity in movement.”


Email: JESS@justrootschicago.org


Board secretary

Renee is a Senior Manager of Research at Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Prior to joining Feeding America in 2018, Renee worked at the Global Knowledge Initiative in Washington, DC, where she led coalition-building projects focused on reducing food loss and waste globally. Renee is originally from the Chicago suburbs, earned a Master in Public Policy from the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government and B.S. degrees in Business Administration and Psychology from Illinois Wesleyan University, and served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda.

Peter Wawire

Director of Social Care, Saint James
Peter Wawire joined the St. James Parish Staff in November of 2007. He hails from Kenya, East Africa. Before coming to the United States, Peter was with the Mill Hill Missionaries. As a student in formation, he served in social and spiritual ministries in Kenya and Uganda. He came to the United States in August of 2005 to pursue graduate studies. Peter holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Uganda Martyrs University in Uganda and a master’s degree in ethics from Catholic Theological Union at Chicago. He oversees St. James Social Care and looks for resources to support its programs.

Email: pwawire@stjameswabash.org