Meet the DWC Staff

David Cassel: Chief Professional Officer

David most recently served as the Executive Director at Alliance of Local Service Organizations (ALSO) whose mission is to end violence in the homes and streets of communities nationwide. During his tenure at ALSO, David expanded the organization’s work to a national level, increased revenue from $500,000 to $2.8 million, thoughtfully recruited a strong/engaged governance board and developed and delivered upon a new strategic plan that upon implementation, created organizational capacity, community awareness and meaningful partnerships. Before joining ALSO, David held management positions with the National Center for Violence Interruption, The Children’s Guild and the American Academy of Dermatology. He also led a special consulting assignment for the Chicago Public Schools. David received his MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his BA in Peace & Conflict Studies/Communications from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

In 2009, David was named Chicago 35 under 35 by the Community Renewal Society for his commitment to eliminating race and class barriers. In 2008, he received the Community Partnership Award from the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention/CeaseFire and in 2011, received their Community Leadership Award. E-mail David


Karen Hill: Major Gifts Officer

Karen joined the United Way team just over a year ago. Prior to United Way, she was the Development Director at People’s Resource Center in DuPage County, spent three years working in Thailand with families who fled Burma and worked in New York City as a Job Developer and Grant Writer for a Welfare-to-Work Program. Karen holds a Master’s of Science degree from DePaul University in Public Service and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of St. Thomas.

Karen’s passion for work in the non-profit field is inspired by knowing her work helps provide struggling families basic needs and opportunities for a brighter future. She loves to connect people who want to make a difference in our community with opportunities to do so! Fun Facts: Karen ran the New York City Marathon and enjoys yoga, knitting and spending time with her family. E-mail Karen


Lorena Vaughn: Senior Program Manager

Lorena Vaughn is our Senior Program Manager within Community Investments. Lorena comes to the United Way of DuPage/West Cook office with strengths in coalition building, community and government relations, volunteer coordination, program development and fundraising. Lorena originally began her career with United Way as corporate development officer in February 2011. She has lived in the Chicagoland area for many years.

Lorena has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and a wide range of nonprofit and educational experiences not only domestically, but internationally as well. She fondly remembers some pivotal moments within her professional career such as her service within AmeriCorps NCCC, her time spent interning at a children’s orphanage run by Dominican Sisters in Trinidad and Tobago, and the rush of helping a candidate win a political campaign. Lorena treasures time with family & friends, biking, traveling and eating her husband’s gourmet food! E-mail Lorena


Laura Olson: Senior Fundraising Manager

Laura has been with United Way for more than six years. Prior to United Way, Laura gained experience as an intern for Chicago Youth Centers in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Laura has been instrumental in maintaining the relationships with corporate supporters throughout DuPage/West Cook and working closely with the volunteers and Board of Directors. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Development and Family Studies from University of Wisconsin at Madison. E-mail Laura


Jessica Plechaty: Fundraising and New Business Manager

Jessica comes to DuPage/West Cook from the South-Southwest Suburban office where she was a fundraising manager; she transitions into a new role focusing on new business opportunities. Jessica earned her Masters in International Public Service with a concentration in non-profit management from DePaul University. Her past experience includes working and interning for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Heartland International and the Institute of International Education. She loves to travel and her passion for non-profit work stems from an international development voyage to South Africa. Through these travels Jessica has developed strategic plans on water sustainability, refugee services and grassroots mobilization while attending numerous conferences around the world, such as the Women as Global Leaders in Dubai, U.A.E. Jessica was born and raised in the south suburbs, and after receiving her undergraduate degree in International Studies and French from Miami University (Ohio), she is happy to be back in the Chicago area.  E-mail Jessica