50 Years of Helping our Neighbors

Our mission: Common Pantry meets the emergency needs of our local community by providing healthy food, kinship and support to help overcome poverty-related challenges.

Our vision: Strengthen Common Pantry’s capacity to provide food and services for the overall well-being of our clients. We take a strategic, forward-thinking approach to reduce hunger and address the root causes of poverty, infusing compassion into everything we do.

Staff and board

Margaret O’Conor (Executive Director)

Margaret comes to Common Pantry after serving as development director of the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce and Community Council. O’Conor has also served as a volunteer leader in several local organizations including the Chicago Park District, the Friends of Amundsen High School, and the Chase Park Advisory Council.

While at the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, O’Conor worked to grow the organization’s member base and acted as lead event organizer for its annual fundraiser, Taste of Ravenswood. Her achievements also included advocating, connecting, and growing small businesses in Ravenswood.

“Margaret O’Conor is an established community leader with a passion for social work and the nonprofit sector,” said Common Pantry board president Anne Zender. “She has a strong track record of fund-raising and working with volunteers to support the missions of the organizations she served. The Common Pantry board of directors sought an executive director to provide vision, creativity, and compassion in managing the organization, and we look forward to moving forward with Margaret as the face of Common Pantry in the community.”

She has a master’s degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of Santa Fe in Santa Fe, NM.

Abby Greaney (Common Community Program Manager)

Abby started as the Common Community Program Manager in October 2019. She previously worked as a Pantry Coordinator at Lakeview Pantry and completed graduate level internships with the Cook County Circuit Court Social Service Department and Chicago Child Care Society. Abby has over five years of experience working in social services, focused on case management, workforce development, and food insecurity.
Abby holds a master’s degree in social work from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago with a focus on clinical services and a bachelor’s degree in education from Valparaiso University. Her social work interests include trauma-informed care, crisis intervention, values based therapies, and mindfulness practice.

Isabel Markowski (Operations Coordinator)

Isabel joined Common Pantry as the Operations Coordinator after completing her dietetic internship at Edward Hines, Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital and obtaining her credential as a registered dietitian nutritionist. Before coming to Chicago, Isabel was heavily involved with the Slow Food movement in promoting “good, clean, fair food for all” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she graduated with a degree in nutrition and environmental studies. Isabel has also worked on multiple farms, including a chili pepper farm and product business, and is motivated to work within all aspects of the food system as she loves agriculture, cooking, sustainability, and sharing food with others.

David Brown (Board president)

David is the Chair of Community Outreach for Common Pantry and has been very active in the Roscoe Village/Lakeview community for more than a decade. In addition to various volunteer and charitable activities, David has served on the Boards of Roscoe Village Neighbors and Epiphany United Church of Christ. David is currently on the Board of Rogers Park Montessori School.

David is particularly passionate about ensuring that pockets of need in Chicago’s relatively affluent north side are not overlooked or ignored. David attended Northwestern University and subsequently received a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, concentrating in Housing and Community Development. David has been in the commercial real estate business for 25 years and is president of Harrington Brown, LLC.

Brittany Barson (Board vice president)

Brittany has lived in the community her entire life.  Her whole career has been in restaurants and hospitality so she understands how important it is for people to have healthy, delicious food readily available. Currently she works for Educational Advantage, Inc. which, in part, works with the Chicago Housing Authority to train and help CHA residents obtain and retain jobs in the hospitality field

Gregg Friedman 

Gregg is a 20-year resident of the Northcenter/St. Ben’s neighborhood. He’s an Information Security Advocate & Mentor for the private sector. Gregg has served on local school councils for both CPS elementary & high schools and has been involved with community fundraising for the arts, anti-hunger, social justice, music, and education. Gregg is bilingual in English & Spanish and enjoys time with family, travel, and bicycling safely around Chicago.

Cheryl Imo (Treasurer)

Cheryl has been a resident of the North Center Neighborhood for almost 20 years. She is a CPA with a BS of Accountancy from the University of Missouri and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Cheryl spent 14 years in the workforce with roles in public accounting, corporate finance and investment banking until taking off time to raise her two children. During this time away from the workforce, Cheryl spent several years as a volunteer Treasurer and Board Member of Friends of Bell School, a 501(c)(3) organization.

Sarah Mihalik

Sarah Mihalik

A Northcenter resident, Sarah began volunteering at the Pantry in spring 2016, starting first with Wednesday evening food distribution and building relationships with clients in need. As a former journalist, she specializes in connecting with people to understand their story and serves as chair of the communications committee at the Pantry. Sarah works at a global biopharma company as the lead writer and content creator for the corporate responsibility and philanthropy group. 

Laura Harwood

Laura has worked as a psychologist in the Chicago area for most of her life.  When looking for a local volunteer opportunity about which she felt passionate, Common Pantry fit the bill. She is a person who loves eating, sharing and preparing food with others. Providing meals with thoughtfulness and love has always been Laura’s instinctive way of taking care of those around her. She began volunteering at Common Pantry in 2015 by stocking, shopping and working produce days. She is very excited to contribute more time and energy as a Common Pantry board member.

Charles Herrig

Charles began working with Common Pantry in Summer of 2017 volunteering in evening food distribution, providing translation service, and working with clients. He has over 10 years of experience in food manufacturing, first managing operations at Good Foods Group based out of Chicago and currently manages fruit procurement for Zentis North America. Charles has a BS and MS in accounting from Northeastern Illinois University. In addition to his work at Common Pantry he is a member of the Emerging Leaders Auxiliary Board at Casa Central.

Chris Landgraff

Chris has lived in Lincoln Square and North Center for over 20 years.  He is a partner at Bartlit Beck and has served on the boards of Rogers Park Montessori School and About Face Theatre.  He is a full-fledged music fan and a fair-weather sports fan.

Amy Pagliarella

Amy is a Presbyterian Minister — as “Free Range Pastor”, she serves a variety of churches and organizations as retreat leader, leader of “spiritual parenting” gatherings, preacher, and consultant.  Amy is a co-founder/moderator of “Common Kids,” which provides opportunities for parents and children to volunteer together at the Pantry, as children grow in compassion and their understanding of food insecurity.   She has two sons who attend Rogers Park Montessori School, where Amy enjoys leading children to make and serve lunch at the pantry each month.   

Beth Benjamin

Beth has lived in the North Center community for more than nine years. She is a recently retired attorney who is excited that she now has more time to help others by volunteering and serving on the board of Common Pantry and other not for profit organizations. She volunteers at the pantry on Produce Days and assists with various issues. Beth also serves on the boards of Friends of Amundsen and Erie Neighborhood House and is a volunteer at the Chicago History Museum.

 

Melaina Prest

Melaina Prest practiced as an attorney for over 10 years, before turning her focus to mindful real estate development.  Her genuine passion is rooted in serving and advocating for local community organizations and charities.  She currently serves on and/or has been elected to boards of numerous organizations dedicated to feeding the hungry, educating the underprivileged, and improving community infrastructure.

Melaina currently lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and loyal canine Sugar Louise.