Board of Directors
Tom Wells, Founder and President
Tom is an attorney and the founding partner of Wells, Jaworski & Liebman, LLP, Attorneys-at-Law. Tom practices in New Jersey and Vermont and is active in civic organizations in both states. He is also the principal of Wells Mountain, LLC, which develops and operates real estate properties in New Jersey and Vermont. Tom has traveled to Africa and Haiti numerous times and has volunteered in the YMCA, in particular its World Service Program, for over 40 years.
Carol is currently devoting her time to WMF, Bristol Suites (Tom & Carol’s lodging business) and Wells Mountain, LLC, a property management company. She is the former executive director of the Bristol Downtown Community Partnership and a past member of the Bristol, Vermont, Select board (town council). She has been very active in numerous community organizations, such as Bristol Friends of the Arts, PTO, the Five Town Business Council and Art on Main. The former owner/manager of an independent bookstore, she uses her expertise in literacy to shape WMF’s literacy programs, such as Book Angels. She visited our African programs in 2006, 2012, and 2015, and our projects in Haiti in 2008 and 2011.
Gwenael Apollon was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. After college, he and his wife, Marie Laurence, emigrated back to the country of their ancestors, Haiti. As they raised a family, they began a commitment “by choice” to spend a lifetime working for change in their deeply-challenged nation.
The Haiti YMCA of today was born out of a restart effort begun in 2002. From that point, with Gwenael Apollon at the helm, the YMCA d’Haiti has grown from one little branch in Port-au-Prince to a national entity providing support to young people and families at nine community center YMCAs throughout Haiti. Gwenael is in every way the father of this accomplishment.
David is a highly successful businessman, banker and philanthropist. David’s civic accomplishments are numerous and his philanthropic causes even more so. He has provided continued support to West Bergen Mental Health Center, Valley Hospital, Mt. Bethel and Westside Presbyterian Churches, Northfield Mount Herman, Kay Espwa (Project Hope) and hundreds of other charities. David has been a long-time client and dear friend of Tom Wells. The Bolger Foundation is WMF’s largest donor.
JT Bolger currently serves as the president of Bolger & Co., a commercial real estate management firm as well as the managing partner for two real estate development companies. JT is a recreational vehicle enthusiast, and has served as the state director of the New Jersey chapter of the Good Sam Club, a nationally-known camping organization. He is also very involved with his children’s school activities and coaches many youth teams within his community. While he has not visited the home countries of the scholars to date, he has enjoyed meeting WMF Scholars and looks forward to promoting the WMF mission.
With a degree in international business, Nicole started her career in the non-profit sector with the goal of creating opportunities for people worldwide to achieve their educational pursuits. Nicole has worked for Wells Mountain Foundation since 2013. First as a programs coordinator and now as our alumni coordinator. Her passion for assisting others reach their goals is contagious. Nicole is very knowledgeable about our international programs and assisted with the building of the Caracol YMCA Community Center in 2014! Nicole’s cultural competencies and program development abilities have been developed through living, studying, working, participating in service trips and connecting with cultures as a tourist in 25 nations. Nicole currently lives in Curitiba, Brazil with her husband Luiz.
Rick has devoted his professional life to the Ridgewood YMCA and has served as its CEO since 1994. Rick is a long-time member and past president of the Ridgewood PM Rotary Club and heads up the International Youth Exchange as coordinator and counselor. Additional volunteer positions include serving on the board of directors at the Phoenix Center, a not-for-profit school for young people with disabilities and board member and past president of the New Jersey Association of Y Professionals, advancing the professional development of YMCA staff members. He has traveled to both Kenya and Haiti to observe our projects and programs in action.
Bob and his wife Marianne owned and operated The Rink, classic roller rink and entertainment establishments in Bergenfield and Montvale, New Jersey, for more than 20 years. Bob now manages various commercial real estate properties owned by his company R2D2, LLC. Bob got involved in the recreational industry after leaving a position as vice president for human relations of the American Stock Exchange. Bob has been active in Ridgewood, New Jersey, YMCA for many years and serves on the World Service Committee. He has volunteered for four trips to Haiti to help build container YMCA.
Brent is the president and founder of E.C.I. (Edmonds Contracting, Inc.), which was established in 1984. He is a 16-year member and past president of the Bergen Highlands/Ramsey Rotary Club. He has also served as the vice president of the Upper Saddle River Education Foundation for the past-four years. Brent has supported the Center for Food Action for over ten-years and has just completed his largest mission to date by fundraising and building a new 5200-square-foot Food Center in Mahwah, New Jersey.
Kenneth Forester is the CEO of Meridian, a full-service private aviation company based at Teterboro Airport in Bergen County, New Jersey. Meridian companies include the fixed-base operation at Teterboro, which features a luxurious executive terminal at the nation’s most active corporate airport, as well as aircraft maintenance and air charter businesses. Last year, Meridian began an expansion and opened a separate facility at the airport in Hayward, California, near San Francisco. Meridian’s predecessor company was founded by Ken’s father, and Ken joined the company in 1974 after graduating from the United States Air Force Academy and serving in the Air Force. Ken and his wife Suzie live in New Jersey and California.
Dr. Bob Jones maintains a consulting and teaching practice that focuses on issues related to governance, fund development, management and planning. Among his other professional involvements, he is CEO emeritus at Children’s Aid and Family Services in Paramus, where he served as its president and CEO for the last three decades. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza Business College, where he teaches fundamentals of philanthropy in their master’s program. He is also a faculty member for the Executive Leadership Institute of the University of Michigan.
Chris is a senior vice president of investments at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, where he leads a financial advisory team servicing high-net-worth individuals, and middle market institutional clients. Chris is deeply involved in his community and participates in a variety of charitable pursuits that focus primarily on children and education. He is a founding board member of the Hoop-A-Paluza Foundation, a grassroots non-profit organization that has granted over $2.5 million to local children’s charities since its inception in 2002. He also sits on the board of Team Walker, an organization that provides after-school programs and tutoring for underprivileged children in Jersey City, New Jersey, A graduate of Muhlenberg College, where he was a member of the varsity football team, Chris lives in Madison, New Jersey, with his wife Alison and their three children, Paige, Matthew, and Alexandra.
Seta Nazarian has worked and volunteered in the non-profit world since graduating from Wesleyan University in 1979. Her work has concentrated on strategic planning, board training and development, and fundraising in the arts and education. She has held numerous positions in development and alumni relations at Wesleyan University. She is currently the vice chair of Major Gifts and Special Projects on the board of directors of Bergen Community College in Paramus New Jersey, where she has spearheaded the establishment of The Center for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation. Seta is inspired by her parents and her two sons, William and Nicholas, to ensure that all those seeking an education are given the access they deserve, to learn not only for themselves, but for the greater good.
Growing up in New Jersey, Gail has strong roots in the traditions of family, faith and humanitarian work. After college in Virginia, Gail earned a master’s degree in special education. In 1977, Gail joined the Peace Corps and was stationed in Costa Rica. Her master’s degree stood her in good stead as she helped set up special education classrooms throughout the country. Gail stayed in Costa Rica after the Peace Corps and eventually created her own organization, the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation. The CRHF works to improve the quality of life for thousands of people, while at the same time providing quality volunteer experiences with a program of contextualization for thousands of volunteers each year. Gail has worked directly with at-risk populations for more than 35 years and is planning to use her accrued experience to further her mission of working to eradicate poverty and give hope to as many people as possible.
Kennedy Odede is an internationally-recognized social entrepreneur, a New York Times best-selling author and the founder of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) in Kenya. SHOFCO combats extreme poverty and gender inequality by linking free schools for girls to a set of high-value, holistic community services for all. A former street child who lived most of his life in Kibera, Kenya, one of Africa’s largest slums, he founded SHOFCO with savings from his $1 per day factory job. SHOFCO’s programs collectively served over 76,000 individuals in 2015 and is scaling across Kenya’s slums, currently focused on the Kibera and Mathare slums. He and his wife, Jessica Posner, recently released their New York Times best-selling memoir, titled Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in An African Slum.
Denis has spent his entire 35-plus-year career in accounting and finance. He is the recently retired CEO and chairman of the board of Hudson City Bancorp in Paramus, New Jersey. Due to educational opportunity provided to him during his formative years, Denis is passionate about advancing similar opportunities for underprivileged children. He is an active supporter of Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School, a multi-cultural New York inner-city school, and currently serves on the board of trustees of St. Francis College, an institution which has historically nurtured immigrants and the children of immigrants. He is a board member of the Ridgewood New Jersey YMCA and is a former board member of The Fred Waring Foundation, which provides assistance to an orphanage in Cambodia.
Gerald Shanker lives in North Caldwell, New Jersey with his wife, Nancy. His son Michael lives in Los Angeles and his daughter Jen is a graduate of Indiana University. Gerald is a Certified Public Accountant and a partner in the firm Kreinces, Rollins & Shanker, LLC in Rochelle Park, New Jersey. His hobbies include golf, photography, and fishing. He is also involved in coaching local youth ice hockey.
For the past two decades, Leanne Tingay has coordinated non-profit, local and state downtown and neighborhood revitalization programs. Most recently, she coordinated the National Main Street Network-affiliated Designated Downtown program for the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Leanne’s experience also includes serving as director and chief executive officer of Erie Downtown Improvement District in Erie, Pennsylvania, where she worked with the Erie Redevelopment Authority on several mixed-use projects, including artist live-work space, creative neighborhood initiatives, and the redevelopment of Erie’s Waterfront District. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. She is currently working for the Orton Family Foundation in Vermont.
After graduating from Bard College with a double major in anthropology and studio art, Jordyn joined Do Something, a New York-based national non-profit that inspires and supports young people changing the world. As Do Something’s chief program officer, she provided young people with the funds and skills to start and grow their own community action projects and non-profit organizations. She managed the distribution of over 400 grants annually, ranging from $250 to $100,000, including the Do Something Awards, a televised awards show on Vh1. In addition, she was instrumental in the creation of the Do Something’s Boot Camp Program that, to date, has trained over 2000 young social leaders and activists. In 2013, she received her master’s in social work from Columbia University. Currently she is the chief program officer for Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) and divides her time between New York City and Nairobi, Kenya.
Phil is an architectural intern at his family’s firm, Peter Raymond Wells Architects, pursuing his license to become a third generation architect. He became involved with WMF in 2012 to help design, coordinate, and construct a new prototype for a YMCA Community Center constructed of retired shipping containers. Because this aligns with two of Phil’s passions; philanthropy and construction, he has been committed ever since. Phil is also involved in many organizations in his local community in New Jersey. He is currently president of the Park Ridge Rotary Club, and is an active member of Church at Bergen, Meals on Wheels and various other groups. He has visited Haiti with WMF and the YMCA d’Haiti numerous times and looks forward to continued involvement in the future.