Meet Project HELP

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.”  ~ Anthony Brandt


Peggy McGuire

Peggy McGuire | Executive Director

My life long passion is about giving children the best start in life and helping families provide an optimal environment in which their children can thrive and succeed. I have dedicated 28 years to this mission: first having the privilege of serving as the director of foster care for a national adoption agency for 12 years; then serving as the coordinator for the Parents as Teacher’s Program, a home visitation program for vulnerable families through the DuPage County Regional Office of Education, for 13 years; and now as the executive director of Project HELP.

I am exceptionally proud to work with our amazing staff, board of directors, team of volunteers, and our community partners to share in the work we are doing for the community.  Project HELP is truly a resource for all parents who have the desire to strengthen their families!

Katherine Layden | Community Counselor

I am grateful to be a member of Project HELP and enjoy working with such a mission driven team. I have several years of community outreach experience, connecting with a variety of individuals as a Community Counselor. I graduated from National-Louis University with a M.S. in Community Counseling. I am also a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). I am committed to supporting Project HELP, the community and the parents and children within it. I strive to empower parents and provide support that will help to strengthen their children’s emotional and social development and to enhance the family as a whole.


Sofia Bobak | Executive Assistant

I am a graduate from Valparaiso University and earned an individualized bachelor’s degree in Social and Human Behavior Studies. My role at Project HELP has been a perfect fit for my desire to work for an organization that impacts and makes a difference in people’s lives. I enjoy being a part of this compassionate team that is dedicated to helping families.


Estefania Palafox, MSW | Social Worker

As a first generation Mexican American born to parents who immigrated to the United States from Mexico for a better life, my goal at Project HELP is to impact the lives of families to open the doors to opportunities and reach their greatest potential. I graduated from Governors State University with my Master’s in Social Work. I am committed to utilizing my experience and education in order to best serve the diverse families in our community.


Shani Whiteside, MSW | Program Coordinator

At a very early age I realized that I had a great passion for helping others and empowering people. During my undergraduate studies I created a mentorship program for teen mothers and troubled youth. I was later nominated and won the Women of Distinction Award for McLean County. I went on to complete a Masters in Social Work at the University of Illinois, Urbana. I am pleased to have secured a position which will allow me to work alongside other driven and compassionate community servants to serve vulnerable children and families.


 Board Members


Vicki Coletta

Vicki Coletta | Board President and Parent Mentor

I had been a Parent Mentor Volunteer for a number of years and was asked to join the Board and provide input from a mentor’s perspective.  I love being a Parent Mentor, but my service on the Board has given me new insights into the organization and what it takes to keep a non-profit going in Naperville.  Both experiences have been eye-opening and challenging and, at the end of the day, well worth my time when I see the good Project HELP does in our community.


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Kelly Brackin

Kelly Brackin | Board Treasurer | Associate Financial Advisor at Northwestern Mutual

About 5 years ago I was looking for a new volunteer opportunity, preferably something that directly benefited children.  A friend of mine was a parent mentor for Project HELP and spoke very highly of the program. She introduced me to the Executive Director and I was so impressed I decided to volunteer as a parent mentor myself.  I joined the board as treasurer almost 3 years ago because I believe in the mission of Project HELP and want to help the program remain strong and grow. I feel blessed to be part of such a wonderful organization.



Mike Shumaker

Mike Shumaker | Board Director | Sales Manager at  Matt Soergel State Farm Insurance Agency

I had previously been a volunteer for Project HELP and was very impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment exhibited by the members of the organization. The mission of Project HELP resonates very strongly among everyone involved and I am honored to be a part of such a dedicated team. Joining the board of directors has offered me the opportunity to increase my involvement within the organization, strengthen my professional skill set, and to give back to the community in whole.


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Neil Samuels

Neil Samuels  | Board Vice President | President of Profound Conversations, Inc.

Four years ago while searching for volunteer opportunities,  I attended a Project HELP open house. Hearing one client’s story of how the parent mentor helped transform her life convinced me to join this small but amazing organization. Since then I have mentored four families and joined the Board in 2014.  Our long-term 1-1 commitment to families, coupled with the positive approach to our programs, helps real change happen. And I love being able to apply my professional experience and expertise to such a meaningful cause right here in my community.



Derke Price

Derke Price  | Board Director | Equity Partner, Ancel Glink Diamond Bush DiCianni and Krafthefer, PC

I am an Equity Partner at Ancel Glink Diamond Bush DiCianni and Krafthefer, PC where I specialize in representing units of local government including municipalities, park districts, school districts, townships, libraries, and special agencies. I am a 1988 graduate of the Harvard Law School, a 1985 graduate of Wheaton College, and a 1981 graduate of Waubonsie Valley High School.

I have served as Chairman of the Naperville Plan Commission and volunteered for many community groups. My wife Suzyn and I have 2 children, Nick (a college undergraduate) and Annie, a Junior at Naperville North High School.

I joined Project HELP because there is no more important force in creating great citizens than parenting. The Naperville in which I grew up and now live has always recognized the importance of family. Project HELP has a proven record of making a positive difference in the lives of families throughout DuPage County.



Theresa Forthofer

Theresa Forthofer  | Board Director | President & CEO, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley

I am the President and CEO of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley overseeing the operations of three local pediatric outpatient rehabilitation centers (including one in Naperville) serving more than 1,000 children every week. Having more than 20 years of executive non-profit experience devoted to enriching the lives of children, families and communities, the fit with Project HELP is perfect! Most importantly, I am a parent of three children, two with Autism and Muscular Dystrophy. I am excited to join the dedicated and passionate volunteers and staff at Project HELP.


Jimmy Lee

Jimmy Lee  | Board Secretary | Senior Vice President & President, Anthem, Inc.

I am honored to be a Board Member of Project HELP, supporting an organization that counsels families and develops specific roadmaps to lead productive and happy lives.

As an executive at the nation’s largest health insurance company I have lived the mission to improve the lives of the people we serve and will use these business experiences, along with my passion to make a positive improvement in the lives of needy families, to advance the mission of Project HELP.

I am fortunate to have a loving wife and four grown children, and want to do what I can so other families can experience this kind of family love.

Kari Burg

Kari Burg  | Board Director

As the chairperson for the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Women In Business (WIB) committee, I was part of the team that decided to ‘adopt’ Project Help as their charity in 2015. Prior to that time, I didn’t know anything about them. My first exposure was when I learned about the parent mentor program at one of the WIB meetings.

Several months later, I wanted to get more involved personally with a charity and followed up with Project HELP to see if she could participate in the parent mentorship program. I am still mentoring the family I received in October 2015.

But since I was no longer the chairperson for WIB in 2016, I wanted to get more involved in a leadership capacity since I had more to give, including my time. After talking with existing board members, who are also parent mentors, I found out how much the board members really care about Project HELP, the families we serve and the community. I wanted to be a part of that and knew I could help the organization further expand it’s mission.


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Sarah Orleans

Sarah Orleans | Board Member | President & CEO, DuPage Children’s Museum
Having spent the last 20 years of my career as Executive Director of 3 children’s museums, I see first-hand the power of the parent-child learning partnership. I am so pleased, in my role as President and CEO of the DuPage Children’s Museum, to have been introduced to the extraordinary work of Project HELP and to partner with them in supporting parents as they navigate these critical first years of a child’s life. New to Illinois, I have been looking for an opportunity to serve on a board of a non-profit dedicated to supporting families in our region. Project HELP met all my criteria: exceptional staff; strong leadership; and a research-based program with positive results and data driven outcomes.

On a personal note, the mentoring program is a great fit for me, making visible on a weekly basis, the results of my volunteer efforts. I am very grateful to be a part of this organization and look forward to sharing my skills in finance, organizational and fund development, as well as strategic planning, to my new role as Board Member.


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Adiba Khan

Adiba Khan | Board Member
I am a healthcare executive and physician who is passionate about community development and increasing access to care in high-risk and underserved populations.

Project HELP is a unique organization that is limitless in the measures it takes to improve the overall community well-being. By connecting families to critical community-based resources (e.g. mental health centers, schools, churches, and other support services), Project HELP strengthens families, supports parents, and empowers children to reach their full potential. In doing so, I look forward to contributing my grant writing skills and healthcare expertise to this energetic board and organization.


Committee Members

Board Development

  • Neil Samuels, Chair
  • Derke Price


  • Kelly Brackin, Chair
  • Jimmy Lee


  • Kari Burg, Chair
  • Michael Shumaker


  • Peggy McGuire, Chair
  • Katherine Layden, Community Counselor
  • Estafania Palafox, Social Worker
  • Sofia Bobak, Executive Assistant
  • Shani Whiteside, Program Coordinator
  • Theresa Forthofer

Resource Development

  • Vicki Coletta


  • Neil Samuels, Chair