BOARD OF DIRECTORS

BOARD ALUMNI

Alumni

Shama Ahmed

As a former Assistant Public Guardian, Shama represented abused and neglected children in juvenile court; she advocated for her child clients through all phases of their case, as well as outside of the courtroom through mediations and interdisciplinary staffings. Previously, she served as staff attorney/court coordinator for the Honorable Maxwell Griffin, Jr., in Juvenile Court before working at Lehrer and Redleaf, where she represented parents indicated of abuse or neglect in their administrative hearings with the Department of Children and Family Services. She authored a chapter entitled, "Children in a Family Court Mediation Program" in the book, A Guide for Courts, Mediating Conflicts Involving Children and Families. In addition to legal endeavors, she served on the board of the Downtown Islamic Center. Shama graduated from the University of Toledo with a B.A. in Psychology and Ohio State University Moritz College of Law with the recognition of "Public Service Fellow" and a certificate in dispute resolution. She has four young children.  

Mara Block

Mara joined Orenstein and Associates in 2015. Before joining the firm, she was an attorney at LAF, the largest provider of free civil legal services to low-income individuals in Cook County. Mara started as a general litigator, representing clients in matters of domestic violence, consumer fraud, unemployment insurance benefits, and subsidized housing eviction defense.  As Director of Volunteer Services, she oversaw all of LAF's pro bono efforts including project development, volunteer recruitment and training, and corporate relations. Mara received her undergraduate degree from Emory University, and her law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Suzanne Ritzler

Suzanne Ritzler is Of Counsel at Thompsom Coburn LLC and practices corporate law, advising clients on a range of contractual issues. During her career, she has worked for several Chicago law firms, as well as serving as General Counsel for a North American mining firm. Suzanne has a B.S. in Accountancy with Highest Honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, and an M.L.I.S. from Dominican University. Suzanne is also a Certified Public Accountant. She lives in Oak Park with her husband and son.

Jennifer Valentine

Jennifer started her own freelance consulting business, Write Words, helping non-profits with grant funding research and proposals. Previously, she worked as an assistant general counsel for the City Colleges of Chicago, handling all its employment defense, tort liability, and premises liability litigation, as well as its workers' comp, insurance and risk management related matters. Jennifer started volunteering with PBN in the fall of 2015 by writing grant funding proposals and working at the telephone counseling project. She joined the Board in July 2016, bringing her fundraising advancement skills to our table. Jennifer has four young children: triplets plus their big brother. She earned both her B.A. in government and her J.D. from the University of Notre Dame.

Sarah Arnett

Sarah is a freelance business valuation consultant. Sarah has held positions at Price Waterhouse and Deloitte and Touche. Most recently, Sarah was employed as a business valuation senior associate at Evergreen Advisors. Sarah received her degree from the University of Oregon, and completed the Chartered Financial Analyst program in 2002. She is a resident of Oak Park, an active community volunteer, and mother of two children.

Ruth Masters

Tali is a Staff Attorney/Pro Bono Projects Manager at the American Bar Association, where she is national administrator of ABA Free Legal Answers for the Center for Pro Bono and also supports the Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel. During her career, she has worked for several Chicago law firms focusing on federal civil rights litigation, specifically addressing police misconduct claims. Tali became involved with PBN shortly after it began, participating in all PBN projects, managing its senior projects, and joining the board in 2013. Tali has a B.A. in Political Sciences from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. She lives in Oak Park with her husband and two daughters.  

Shari Schinder

Shari has been involved with PBN since its inception.  She was the bookkeeper for several years, before stepping up to the Treasurer role. Shari is the supervisor of an elite group of forensic accountants within the Internal Revenue Service, who work criminal income tax investigations with the US Attorney’s Office and other federal law enforcement agencies.  Prior, she was a revenue agent for 24 years, working in the Special Enforcement Program of the Small Business Self-Employed division. She is a Certified Professional Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner.  Shari has been a guest speaker at financial continuing education seminars including the IL CPA Society, DePaul Law School, FBI, and HHS. She has travelled the globe to assist the US Department of Justice and USAID, participating in Money Laundering and Political Corruption Seminars in Indonesia, Bosnia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Stoja Zjalic

Stoja helped develop and manage judicial technical assistance and legal reform programs for the American Bar Association’s pro bono Rule of Law Initiative. She has assisted various Canadian non-profits to successfully navigate organizational and legal challenges, and advocated for the reform of Canadian non-profit law. She also served as a Board Member with The Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor, a registered Canadian charity, helping with employment training of disadvantaged visible minority women.  Stoja holds a Law Degree from University of Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and an M.A. in Political Science and International Relations from University of Windsor, Ontario. 

Andrea Belard

Andrea is a Staff Attorney for the Safety and Families Program at the Legal Aid Society (LAS), the legal advocacy arm of Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago. Andrea provides legal advice and representation in family law matters to survivors of domestic violence seeking an order of protection and/or a dissolution of marriage.  Prior to joining LAS, Andrea worked at a small private practice where she focused on complex divorce and custody matters.  Andrea received her B.A. in Business Administration from Northeastern Illinois University and her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law, where she also received a certificate in family law. Andrea is the current Treasurer for the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI) and President of HLAI Charities. She serves as a member of the advisory board to the DePaul’s Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center.

Julie Renehan

Julie Renehan became involved with PBN in the fall of 2015 working with the Incarcerated Women's Clinic and the Legal Aid Society Simple Divorce project, which she managed in 2016. Previously, she worked in private practice, providing representation in family law, corporate contract negotiation and employment law.  She holds a SHRM certificate in Human Resources Management and is a member of the DuPage County Bar Association.  Julie has volunteered with Junior League, Hinsdale Jr. Womens’ Club, Hinsdale Village Caucus, ABA Veterans Claims Assistance Network, and she serves as a DuPage County Precinct Committeeman.  Julie received her B.A. in English Literature and French Language/Literature from Vanderbilt University and a J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis.

Gloria Schwartz

A former computer software executive, Gloria has held technical, sales, consulting ,and management positions with United Airlines, Cullinet Software, Price Waterhouse, Informix, and Active Software. She was also one of the founders of Software Architects and Soma Consulting. After leaving the software industry, Gloria enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Chicago. She also sits on the Board of Advisors at Catholic Charities. Gloria is currently chairing the PBN Board Development Committee.