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Staff and Board
Brian Stefan-Szittai came to the InterReligious Task Force staff in 1999, bringing to IRTF several years of experience in community organizing and advocacy for immigrant rights in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Brian co-managed a shelter for Central American refugees, organized support from faith communities through the Border Association for Refugees from Central America (BARCA), and worked to move unaccompanied minors out of detention and reunite them with relatives. Also through BARCA, Brian did community organizing with Mexican immigrant families in rural colonias that lacked basic infrastructure (potable water, waste water systems, paved roads) and services (postal delivery, school buses). During his years on the Texas/Mexico border, Brian served as chair of the Refugee Rights Coalition, director of the Peace and Justice Commission at his church, and co-director of the Coalition of Colonia Service Agencies. Returning to Ohio in the 1990s, Brian taught sociology at Bowling Green State University-Firelands College and Lorain County Community College, as well as ESL (English as a Second Language).
Through IRTF, Brian has organized NE Ohioans in support of worker justice (fair trade and anti-sweatshop campaigns), LGBTQ solidarity, and immigrant defense. He helped to coordinate Ohio’s first-ever LGBTQ delegation to Central America. Brian coordinates IRTF’s Rapid Response Network, which responds to 6 urgent human rights cases each month. He represents IRTF on the Steering Committee of Cleveland Jobs with Justice and the Immigration Working Group CLE. Outside of IRTF, Brian is active with music and environmental stewardship ministries at his church, housing justice through the Community Land Trust, and hospitality for unhoused people through the Cleveland Catholic Worker Community.
Brian is a native of Massillon, Ohio, and graduate of Canton Central Catholic High School. Brian holds a BA in Political Science (Bowling Green State University) and an MA in Sociology (Syracuse University), with concentrations in ethnic identity and conflict resolution.
Chrissy was raised in the legacy industrial city of Youngstown, Ohio. Chrissy devotes passion for social justice to their union-laborer father and concern for Latin American solidarity to their mother, who found refuge in the US from Medellin, Colombia, during the height of the civil war in the 1980s. Chrissy received a BA in International and Financial Management from Hiram College and an MA/MEd in Higher Education Administration and Counseling from Kent State University. At Kent, Chrissy worked in Student Affairs, coordinated experiential education, civic engagement and service learning trips, taught Student Development and Leadership courses and served on the staff Sustainability, Equity and Professional Development committees. While studying at Hiram College, Chrissy helped with the creation of the 501c3 Hiram Farm Living and Learning community for people with autism, and co-founded the Olive Branch fair trade store at Hiram College.
Chrissy joined the IRTF staff in 2013. Currently, Chrissy serves as a representative to the United Nations for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (iFOR), Co-Chair of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR/FORUSA), Co-Moderator of the Disciples Peace Fellowship (DPF), Chair of the Ohio Fair Trade Network (OFTN), on the Council of School of Americas Watch (SOAW), and as a steering committee member of the Ohio Poor Peoples Campaign (PPC) and Community Peacemaker Teams International. Chrissy is proud to be an abolitionist community organizer, organizing in the greater Cleveland area, with groups such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Student Farmworker Alliance (SFA), Alliance for Fair Food with the Fair Food Program (AFF/FFP), Witness Against Torture (WAT), Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD), Tree of Life Education Fund (Israel/Palestine), the Asociacion de Trabajadores del Campo Nicaragua (ATC), Refugee and Immigration Ministries with Disciples Home Missions (RIM DHM) and others. The groups they are currently organizing and helping to build with within grassroots communities in Cleveland are: Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition, Clevelanders Against Federal Policing, Cleveland Immigration Working Group, Utilities 4 All + Water Equity, End Poverty Now, the NEO Medic Collective, Sunrise, NEO Worker Center and Cleveland Pandemic Response. They also love Clevelanders for Public Transit (CPT), the Social Justice Institute at Case Western Reserve University (SJI), the Cleveland Indigenous Coalition and Committee of 500 Years, BLM Clevland, Palestinian Breakfast Club and Youth Movement, the Mitsui and Cleveland Jewish Collective
Program Associates - volunteer corps members
Marc Alvarado email@example.com
Pearl Chen firstname.lastname@example.org
Pearl Chen (she/her) worked in an environmental engineering firm for 2 years prior to joining IRTF as a full-time Fellow. She is a graduate of Ohio State University, and her interests are yoga/meditation, nature (hiking, kayaking), reading, anime, documentaries, and dance. The breakout groups for the Social Justice Teach-In in 2020 are her profound IRTF memory, and community, nature, and space give her hope.
Charlie Loewisch - ARSP volunteer email@example.com
Janet Allt, CPA
Jean Gillet - office
Mary Hurley, HM - Rapid Response Network Coordinator
Patt Needham - database
Ditte Wolin - database
Board of Trustees
Akshai Singh - Board Member
Akshai Singh ( they/them, he/him) is a National Transit Justice Organizer with Alliance for a Just Society. Akshai is a double graduate of Case Western Reserve University. They are passionate about soccer (football), live music, and community organizing, and their profound IRTF memory was protesting the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. Seeing leaders grow through campaigns gives Akshai hope.
Alisha Bagley - Treasurer
Sr. Diane Pinchot, OSU - Co-Chair
Diana Therese Pinchot (she/her/hers) is a Professor Emerita at Ursuline College and works as an artist. She is a graduate of Ursuline College, Wesleyan University, and Ohio University, along with coursework being completed at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Institute of Art. She is passionate about working as an artist advocate, and her profound IRTF memory involved the many demonstrations to the SOA in Georgia including the recent trips to the Border before COVID. Working in solidarity with others for peace, and seeing the younger generation having this same passion gives her hope.
Rev Ellen Huffman - Board Member
Ellen Huffman (she/her) is the Operations Manager at the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Chirst . Ellen is alumni of University of Toledo, Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She is passionate about reading, swimming, laughing, eating vegan food, and learning. Her profound IRTF memory was attending the Colombia Delegation with Christian Peacemaker Teams in June 2015.Love and the power of compassion; her co-workers, the IRTF board and staff give her hope.
Kai Kyles - Board Member
Kai Kyles (she/they) is the Midwifery Healthcare Coordinator at Neighborhood Family Practice. Previously she was a Project Coordinator at All-Options, an organization promoting unconditional and judgement-free support for the full spectrum of experiences with pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption. She is an alumni of Denison University, and is passionate about ceramics, sacred ecology, outdoor adventures, and herbalism to name a few. Her profound IRTF memories include attending the Caravan for Justice: Resist Militarization, Support Refugees, End Incarceration throughout the U.S. South and Standing Rock in 2016. Community full-spectrum midwives and herbalists give her hope.
Lisa Caroline Splawinski, JD - Secretary
Lisa Caroline Splawinski (she/her/hers) is an Immigration attorney for Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. She is a graduate of University of South Carolina and University of Cincinnati, and her interests include travel, soccer (playing and watching), and reading. Meeting Chrissy at a City Club Cleveland event about immigration where they both were speakers led Lisa to IRTF. She is inspired by the work that IRTF (and other organizations around the U.S//world like it) does!
Melaak Rashid - Board Member
Melaak Rashid is Director of Development at Smart Development, a nonprofit serving refugee and immigrant populations. She is also an Independent Nonprofit Consultant leading in organizational development, compliance, grant, and fund development raising over $15M focusing on minority-led organizations. Melaak has a deep commitment to community impact and serving at-risk populations, as she is a proud daughter of Palestinian-Muslim immigrants. Melaak obtained both her Bachelor’s degree majoring in Political Science and International Politics, and her Master’s in Public Administration with a Nonprofit Management and Urban Planning Certificate at Cleveland State University. She started her professional career as a Human Resource Coordinator, which led her to becoming a freelance grant writer and consultant. Melaak has led grassroots efforts in the Arab, Muslim, and immigrant community of Northeast Ohio for years through continuous volunteerism. Melaak was awarded the Ned Nehusel Award by the Ohio CDC Association in 2020, and also was a 2021 recipient of the Movers and Shakers 25 under 25 Award by the Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club, as well as recognized in 2021 as Volunteer Translator of the year and in 2021 Youth Leadership award both from Global Cleveland. She is an advisory board member of The Refugee Response and ClevelandVOTES, Steering committee for Palestine Children Relief Fund, a board member of CAIR Cleveland, IRTF, and a member of the Leadership Council at JumpStart.
Rachel Rosen DeGolia - Board Member
Rachel Rosen DeGolia (she/her) is formerly the executive director of the Universal Health Care Action Network for 28 years before retiring in 2021. Rachel is an alumna of the University of Chicago and Cleveland State University. Her interests are justice in all spheres! Long walks in the woods, cooking, reading, being involved in my community and with local politics are more of her interests too! Her profound IRTF memory is the prayer service at the annual Commemoration-it is always powerful she says! Rachel finds hope in the younger generation of activists.
Yolanda King - Co-Chair
Joann Rymarczyk-Piotrkowski - Community Shares Rep
Joann Rymarczyk-Piotrkowski is assistant director Newman Campus Ministry for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. She previously served 19 years as director of campus ministry at Ursuline College. She is also dean of the Cleveland Ecumenical Institute. She hes recieved degrees from Xavier University, the Univerisity of Cincinnati, Ursuline College, and St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology. Joann is passionate about faith, family, and food. Her most poignant IRTF memory was her first trip to the Protest of the School of the Americas. Her favorite social justice hero is Dorothy Day (co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement). Joann finds hope in the young people she works with everyday.