Presenter bios in alphabetical order
Peter Dunn is President and CEO of the Central New York Community Foundation. He has more than 25 years of experience in the community foundation field working to support the growth and impact of the philanthropic sector. CNYCF administers more than 800 component charitable funds with a collective value of $300 million. In its most recent fiscal year, the Community Foundation distributed $15 million in grants and support for local strategic initiatives, including notable projects addressing early childhood literacy, concentrated poverty, childhood lead poisoning, post-secondary educational attainment, and nonprofit fiscal sustainability. In 2020, the Community Foundation launched the Black Equity & Excellence initiative and, along with local partners, created the CNY COVID Community Support Fund. The Community Foundation has distributed more than $200 million to local charities since its inception in 1927.
Previously, Peter was Vice President, Philanthropic Services with the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles, CA. Peter joined CCF as Gift Planning Officer in 1996, became Director of Gift Planning in 1998 and the foundation’s chief development officer in 2006. During his tenure, CCF’s assets grew from $200 million to more than $1.3 billion. From 1994 to 1996, Peter was Program Coordinator for Community Foundation Services at the Council on Foundations in Washington, DC. He began his nonprofit career as a fundraiser for the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County in 1993.
Peter earned a bachelor of arts with honors from the University of Notre Dame in 1987 and a Juris Doctor from the University at Buffalo School of Law in 1990. He was admitted to practice law in New York State in 1991.
Peter is a member of the board and treasurer of the Volunteer Lawyers Project, Downtown Committee of Syracuse and the NY Funders Alliance. He is a member of the boards of CenterState CEO, Governance Matters and the leadership councils of Say Yes Syracuse and the Early Childhood Alliance of Onondaga County. In 2011, he was appointed to the New York State Attorney General’s Leadership Committee on Nonprofit Revitalization.
Maarten Jacobs is the Director of Community Prosperity at the Allyn Family Foundation. The foundation, founded in 1954, is committed to a collaborative partnership with organizations and the community to build a responsible and vibrant Central New York. In his role at the Allyn Family Foundation, he is co-developing a Community Prosperity Initiative to disrupt concentrated poverty in Syracuse neighborhoods by empowering residents to fulfill their full potential, while contributing to the wellbeing of their families and the revitalization of their neighborhoods. Within this initiative, a strong focus is being placed on creating economic opportunities, economic empowerment, and vibrant neighborhoods where residents are empowered to transform their communities into the places where their families thrive.
In addition to his work with the Allyn Family Foundation, Maarten teaches Community Economic Development at the Syracuse University School of Social Work. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology and a master’s degree in Social Work with a concentration in Community Development and Social Action from the University of Maryland.
Prior to working for the Allyn Family Foundation, Maarten was the executive director of the Near Westside Initiative, a nonprofit organization working to combine the power of art, technology, and innovation with neighborhood values and culture to revitalize Syracuse’s Near Westside, also known as the SALT District. In seven years in that role, Maarten worked to ensure residents of the Near Westside were actively engaged in the revitalization in their neighborhood and ensuring the community’s interests were represented. Similarly, with a personal passion for the arts, Maarten has pushed the Near Westside Initiative to be a truly place-based initiative with a focus on creative placemaking as a fundamental strategy for economic and community development. In January of 2016 Maarten Jacobs received the Martin Luther King JR Unsung Hero award at Syracuse University in recognition of his work on the Near Westside. He also is a FOCUS Wisdom Keeper.
Nancy Kern Eaton became the President of the United Way of Central New York in September of 2017. She has spent her entire career working in non-profit organizations.
Nancy has served in leadership roles at ARISE, Salvation Army of the Syracuse Area, Syracuse Weed & Seed Community Partnership, Home HeadQuarters, and Housing Visions Unlimited. Nancy began her non-profit career as a client advocate at the Erie County Mental Health Association.
Nancy has served on numerous local boards and initiatives and is a graduate of the Leadership Greater Syracuse Class of 2000. She has been honored to receive awards including Key4Women Community Impact Award 2020, Outstanding Fundraiser from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Women of Distinction from New York State Senate, Champion for Children from the Boys & Girls Clubs, Northside Hall of Fame from Syracuse Northeast Community Center, and two awards from the City of Syracuse.
Margaret “Meg” O’Connell is Executive Director of the Allyn Family Foundation. She has served as Executive Director from 1994-1998, 2001-2012 and from 2013 to present. From 2012-2013 Meg served as Interim President of Onondaga Community College and from 1998-2000 Meg and her family lived in London, England.
With a long history of community leadership, Meg currently serves as Board Chair of the following: Early Childhood Alliance, ABC Cayuga Play Space, E. John Gavras Foundation and Work Train. In addition, Meg recently served as Chair of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign. Meg also currently serves on the Executive Committee of the HOPE Initiative and CenterState CEO.
Meg has spearheaded the founding of a new nonprofit entity, the Syracuse Urban Partnership, that is constructing a building in downtown Syracuse. The Salt City Market will be a mixed-use building with a food hall and grocery store as well as offices and mixed-income apartments.
In the past decade, Meg has also served on numerous nonprofit Boards including Blueprint 15, Onondaga Community College, Syracuse 20/20, FOCL, Skaneateles Library Association, Wells College Board of Trustees and Planned Parenthood of Rochester/Syracuse. From 2014-2015 she served on the Board of Education for the Skaneateles Central School District.
Prior to joining the Allyn Foundation in 1994, Meg worked in development, marketing and outreach for a number of nonprofit organizations, including Planned Parenthood of Syracuse and the Shelter for Help in Emergency, a battered women’s shelter in Charlottesville, Virginia. She and her husband also taught at the American School in Switzerland.
A graduate of Dartmouth College, Meg lives in Skaneateles with her husband, Eric Allyn. They have three wonderful daughters.
Sheena Solomon was named Executive Director of the Gifford Foundation in January 2019 after 12 years with the foundation. Her prior work at the foundation focused on expanding its community impact initiatives and working with the grants management team.
In her role as Executive Director she remains fully committed and engaged in racial justice and equity work.
Before joining the Foundation, Sheena spent several years working at local non-profit organizations where she developed an understanding and joy for working with people in the community. Sheena was essential in the creation and implementation of Gifford’s city-wide initiative, the “What If…” Mini-Grants, which provides a resource in fostering growth in neighborhoods and strengthening the capacity of residents who are focused on making positive changes in their communities.
Sheena has partnered with and advised the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York on neighborhood issues and served on the advisory committee of The Leadership Classroom, a project of the Central New York Community Foundation. She has been instrumental in the design and planning of Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders a leadership development training intent on increasing the diversity and inclusiveness of nonprofit boards.
Sheena is a 2012 graduate of the PLACES (Professionals Learning About Community Equity and Smart Growth) program, a yearlong professional development program designed to explore critical issues that affect grantmaking decisions that are responsive to the needs and assets of low-income neighborhoods and people of color. She now serves on the Advisory Board for the program and on local and national boards such as You Can’t Fail Inc, the Syracuse Economic Development Corporation, and The Near Westside Initiative.
Sheena is passionate about fostering growth in others. She understands the need to have patience and understanding in addressing the needs of the community. She truly believes the “teaching people how to fish” concept and celebrating diversity is the best way to build and sustain strong, vibrant and inclusive communities. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family and treasuring every moment because tomorrow is promised to no one. She looks forward to continuing her journey of being a confident, calm and courageous leader.