Leadership

Merri Ex, President and CEO, joined Family Focus in 2011. Previously, she was president of Philanthropic Solutions, Inc., 2007-2011, providing consultation to donors and nonprofit organizations. She was vice president for philanthropic services at The Chicago Community Trust, 2000-2007. In 1981 while director of Erie Neighborhood House, Ms. Ex helped to open Family Focus’s first Nuestra Familia program for Latino families. She has a B.A. in Latin American Studies and Spanish from Newcomb College of Tulane University and an M.A. in Ibero-American Studies from the University of Madison, Wisconsin. She is currently a member of Mayor Emmanuel's Early Childhood Executive Council.

Caterina Varvaro, Senior Vice President, Administration and Finance, joined Family Focus in 2004 with 32 years of increasingly responsible experience in the area of finance and administration, including seven years as Chief Financial Officer of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A CPA with an MBA from Loyola University Chicago, Ms. Varvaro has been involved in almost every aspect of Family Focus, including personnel recruitment and management, day-to-day operations and long-range planning, budgeting, grant applications and administration. 

Steve Majsak, Senior Vice President, External Relations, joined Family Focus in July 2015 and is responsible for fundraising and marketing. Mr. Majsak received his M.B.A. in Nonprofit Management from UCLA’s Graduate School of Management and has 25 years of experience in fundraising, having led the development departments at organizations including Gilda’s Club Chicago, The Chicago Academy for the Arts, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and Court Theatre.

Loretta Barriffe, Vice President of Centers, joined Family Focus in August 2002 and most recently was the Center Director at our Englewood center. She was previously with the Ounce of Prevention Fund for 8 years, most recently as a Program Adviser for 18 sites. She also served as Assistant Director of Family Focus Evanston, Illinois from 1991 to 1994. Ms. Barriffe has a bachelor’s degree from Kendall College and an M.P.A. from Roosevelt University.

Sherneron Hilliard, Vice President of Early Childhood Education and Programs​ was our  Lawndale center director for seven years. Previously, she was the Project Director of Adult Services for eight years at the Lawndale site. Prior to joining Family Focus she was an Individual and family therapist for ProCare Centers. Ms. Hilliard has a B.A. from Jackson State University and a M.S.W. form Loyola University. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Education Counseling Psychology.

Mariana Osoria, Vice President of Centers, was the center director at Nuestra Familia for eight years, overseeing the Hermosa and Cicero centers. Previously, she was Assistant Director of Nuestra Familia at our Cicero site. Before joining Family Focus in 2006, she was a Program Manager for Project S.T.R.I.V.E. at Youth Guidance. With 15 years of experience in the field, Ms. Osoria has been a national trainer and facilitator for nine years. She received her A.M. from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

Rosaura Realegeno, Senior Center Director​DuPage, has been director of the DuPage Center since July of 2012. She joined Family Focus in May of 2010 as a Program Manager for the Healthy Families DuPage program. Before joining Family Focus she worked with Lifelink Corporation for 14 years overseeing the Healthy Families Program and 3 years at Elgin Community Crisis as a bilingual domestic violence counselor. Ms. Realegeno has a BA in Social Studies with a major in High School education.

Colette Allen, Evanston Center Director, joined Family Focus in July 2015. Ms. Allen has worked in the nonprofit sector since 1995, most recently in fundraising as a corporate major gift officer at the Museum of Science and Industry and as the Midwest Director of Development for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Ms. Allen was also the Executive Director of Literacy Volunteers of Atlanta and she worked for the United States Olympic Committee, managing community and media relations.  Ms. Allen holds a Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College, and a Master of Science in Elementary Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York. She also attended the School of Drama at Yale University.