Elise Chong, Chief Executive Officer
Elise Chong joined Hope for New York in 2003. Under Elise's leadership, Hope for New York has expanded significantly distributing over $9 million in grants to organizations in New York City and growing our affiliate partner network to 40+ organizations. She has focused the organization’s resources on providing overall capacity building support, which includes not only volunteer and financial capital, but technical assistance grants further strengthening organizations to do their work even better as they provide vital resources to their communities.
Growing up in a first-generation immigrant family, Elise became aware of the needs of the poor and marginalized at a very young age. Her passion for mercy and justice began at that time as she quickly understood the barriers and limitations of recent immigrants.
During college, she had the unique opportunity of spending the summer teaching NYS Regents Math to immigrant youth in Washington Heights. It was that experience that further solidified her understanding of how race, class and economic disparities tangibly affect the social fabric of entire communities, families and individuals. Elise has lived in New York City for over 25 years and has been dedicated to allocating resources to underserved and marginalized communities.
Prior to HFNY, Elise worked with other non-profits in New York City, including Covenant House and World Vision in the areas of giving, volunteer mobilization and disaster relief, working with vulnerable and homeless youth and serving individuals and families who had lost loved ones during September 11th.
Elise received a BA from Cornell University, a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and was awarded a fellowship and received a MPA from New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Esther Larson, Director of Affiliate Development
Esther Larson's first introduction to the nonprofit world was cutting potatoes at a soup kitchen in downtown Phoenix, Arizona with her family. Her love for potato cutting launched her into the nonprofit world 20 years later— not because of her master cutting capabilities, but because the experience inspired her to commit to practically "loving in word and deed."
With a BA from Vanderbilt, MA from NYU, and MPA from Texas A&M, and a certificate in Fundraising and Philanthropy from NYU, the most pivotal experience in her career was interning at the White House, where she focused on strategies to mobilize Americans to commit to volunteering. This experience led to working in the anti-poverty field as the Director of Development with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and as Program Analysis Manager with the Met Council on Jewish Poverty, after which she joined the HFNY team in 2011.
At HFNY, Esther manages the organization’s program team including HFNY's holistic partnership of providing grants, capacity building, and volunteer resources to our affiliate partners. She specifically manages the relationships with our Community Development and Adult Recovery affiliates.
One of Esther's favorite aspects of working at HFNY is the amazing affiliate staff who have committed their lives to loving and serving the City. Their faithfulness inspires her everyday to love her neighbor, just as Christ loves us.
Tony Wong, Senior Manager of Affiliate Development
Tony Wong has been working in social services for the last 20 years. His passion for mercy and justice ministries was greatly influenced by his early exposure to economic disparities and the presence of gang activity in the Chinatown community. Most recently, he worked with Children’s Aid on programs involving teen pregnancy prevention, chronic absenteeism in schools, and college/career advancement.
Tony received his MSW from the Hunter School of Social Work with a concentration in direct practice, and subsequently received his MA from City Seminary/Westminster Theological with a concentration in Urban Missions. He had the amazing opportunity to actually complete the degree with his wife.
In his role as Senior Manager of Affiliate Development, he is actively engaged in managing the grant making, capacity building activities, and affiliate engagement with about 20 of the HFNY affiliate organizations. He is involved in identifying and on-boarding new affiliates to be a part of HFNY’s vision and expansion. In his spare time, Tony enjoys fatherhood and raising three lovely children with his wife Maria.
Lauren Jezequel, Manager of Affiliate Development
Lauren Jezequel began her passion for justice and mercy while working at a home for at-risk teen mothers in Lima, Peru. Here she learned firsthand the powerful and important impact a local nonprofit can have on a community.
Her continued passion for community and social change developed into a career while working for The Miami Foundation, a community foundation in her hometown of Miami, Florida; a city overflowing with rich culture and diversity, yet mixed with immense need for mercy and justice. Her work allowed her to invest in and support local nonprofits to carry out their missions to the best of their ability.
After moving to New York City in 2016, Lauren began working for The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, focusing on strategic environmental grantmaking, yet felt a deep call to the vision and mission of Hope for New York. Her favorite part of working at HFNY is the opportunity to work with passionate affiliate staff and being apart of God’s greater story of bringing redemption and healing to New York City.
Lauren earned her BS in International Affairs from Florida State University and volunteered with Young Life throughout college.
Savina KimJohnson, Director of Volunteer Initiatives
Savina KimJohnson became passionate about mercy and justice as a college student, when she started exploring Christianity after being invited to a Bible Study. There, she was introduced to a God who cares deeply for the vulnerable and marginalized, and she committed her life to Jesus, who calls his followers to "go and do likewise" and join his work in the renewal of all things.
During college, she had several significant experiences that formed her perspective and vision for faith-based social justice efforts, including working with Habitat for Humanity and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Urban Ministry programs, and serving cross-culturally in the Dominican Republic and with the Navajo community in New Mexico. Through all these opportunities, God showed her the power that gospel-centered communities can have in transforming neighborhoods.
After graduating with a B.A. in English from Wesleyan University, Savina moved to NYC over 12 years ago with a vision for and commitment to Christian community development and urban ministry. Prior to HFNY, she was a campus staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at City College in Harlem, a dynamic and diverse campus that represents over 150 nationalities.
At HFNY, Savina leads the volunteer and church initiatives team in strategic planning and managing 1,000+ volunteers each year. She is passionate about seeing Christians being fully engaged in transforming communities in need by generously giving their time, heart, and God-given talents to love their neighbor as themselves.
Whitney Edge, Manager of Volunteer Initiatives
Whitney Edge began her journey in social justice by traveling to Peru, Mexico, and Uganda to work hands-on meeting practical needs of local communities.
After earning a BA in journalism from University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2009, Whitney moved to New York City. She worked for The Uniform Project (Brooklyn), Architecture for Humanity New York, and United Way of New York City to learn more about nonprofits and serving the poor and marginalized in the city.
Whitney joined HFNY after serving as the Executive Assistant to the Vice President of The Bowery Mission and as the Campaign Coordinator for the 2012 & 2013 Don't Walk By homeless outreach campaigns.
Connecting people to ideas that could shape their view of the world and other people has always been Whitney's passion. As a Manager of Volunteer Initiatives, Whitney has the privilege of being a voice for the many populations and movements that HFNY mobilizes volunteers to have compassion for. The need is great, and a simple expression of a need could bridge the gap for a volunteer who has the opportunity and ability to change the life of a man, woman or child. Only by the grace of God are we in a different place than those we serve, and that realization makes all the difference.
Kristi D'Elena, Volunteer Coordinator
Kristi D'Elena developed a passion for social justice while serving on a summer project with Cru in college in 2011 and serving locally with anti-human trafficking organizations while living in Atlanta.
After earning a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Georgia, Kristi began to work for North Point Ministries as a Groups Director for their student ministry. During her time there, she recruited and trained adult volunteers to effectively lead students in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ through mentorship and service both within their community and abroad.
Kristi relocated to New York City with her husband in 2017 and is thrilled to come alongside Hope for New York’s affiliates, volunteers, and church partners. She is passionate about raising up leaders who are dedicated to seeing a change for the poor and marginalized of New York City.
Megan Chu, Program Coordinator
Megan Chu joined Hope for New York as Program Coordinator in 2017. Her passion for mercy and justice was cultivated through volunteering at outreaches like Don’t Walk By and His Toy Store. Over five years of volunteering with HFNY affiliates, Megan was called to become a HFNY team leader at Restore NYC.
Prior to joining Hope for New York, Megan had spent a decade focused on non-profit art audience services and cultivation. She received her BFA in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University. Since then she has served as the Director of Touring and Development for the Latin Ballet of Virginia and was on the teaching artist roster for the Tennessee Arts Commission. She moved to New York in 2010 where she worked for the arts organizations Dance Theatre Workshop, New York Live Arts and Miller Theatre at Columbia University.
Megan hopes to support the Hope for New York Program Team by anticipating and serving the needs of affiliates, church partners, and volunteers. She is looking forward to seeing God's love and care of the city through the talents of ordinary people taking little steps toward their neighbors.
Church & Community Engagement
Peter Ong, Director of Church & Community Engagement
Peter Ong first connected with Hope for New York as a volunteer with non-profit affiliate Herald Youth Center. It was there he felt compelled to serve the Chinese immigrant community as a youth worker, and later became the organization’s Director.
He has served in New York City for nearly 20 years, with his passion for mercy and justice focused on engaging the church to serve local immigrant youth. He has advised youth ministries and conferences locally and nationally.
Peter also served as volunteer staff at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at New York University. He then came on staff as Director of Gospel Community at Living Faith Community Church where he established a mercy and justice ministry.
In 2011, he was a Redeemer City to City Church Planting Fellow, during which time he and his wife, Jamie, planted King’s Cross Church, a congregation of Living Faith Community Church, serving downtown Flushing’s immigrant families. He also served as City to City’s Catalyst Leader to network and coach new church planters.
He joins Hope for New York with a desire to continue bringing renewal to the city with mercy and justice through church partnerships. He hopes to bring a unique perspective as a former volunteer, affiliate director, and church planter.
Peter graduated with a B.A. in English and a Minor in Philosophy and East Asian Studies from New York University. He received his M.A. in Urban Missions from Westminster Theological Seminary through City Seminary of New York. He is a certified Church Multiplication Ministries Coach.
Sharon Baldessari, Manager of Church Partnerships
Sharon Baldessari is a native New Yorker whose desire to serve the city through mercy and justice gradually confronted her over the years of interacting with Hope for New York as a volunteer. Her growing love for the city and desire for a servant heart combined with 10 years at J.P. Morgan working with not-for-profit organizations as clients led her to join Hope for New York in 2018. Specifically, volunteering with the Bowery Mission, New York City Relief, Don't Walk By, and attending a workshop on making poverty personal all contributed to her transition.
As Manager of Church Partnerships, Sharon is most eager to activate and equip lay ministry to become advocates of the poor and marginalized and to foster a transformational lifestyle of generous justice.
Sharon has a B.A. in English Literature with a double minor in Law and Art History from Baruch College.
Rebecca Hampe, Manager of Giving and Events
Rebecca Hampe first became passionate about mercy and justice during a summer mission trip to inner city Boston through Youth With a Mission. It was there that she became convinced that spiritual and physical well being are both essential for holistic life transformation.
Shortly after earning her B.A. in Music from Grove City College in 2011, Rebecca moved to New York to pursue the variety of arts opportunities the city affords. However, she was immediately struck by the contrast in quality of life across the city and the vast needs of the poor and marginalized. Rebecca connected with Hope For New York by volunteering with affiliates like The Bowery Mission, NYC Rescue Mission, All Angels’ and Young Lives. Through Hope for New York, she experienced firsthand the powerful impact the gospel has had in the lives of both New Yorkers in need and herself as a volunteer.
During this time, Rebecca worked as a Fundraising Associate in the Metropolitan Opera Development Office. There she focused primarily on mobilizing and growing the Met Young Associates Program. Most recently, Rebecca served as the Development Coordinator for the Yale School of Drama, where she planned their events and special projects, including the 50th Anniversary of the Yale Repertory Theater.
While she will always have a special place in her heart for the arts, Rebecca is most looking forward to coming alongside the church and exploring the ways in which we can live out the gospel, demonstrating Christ’s love not only by being generous with our time, but also our resources.
Katherine Woodell, Director of Communications
Katherine Woodell first connected with Hope for New York as a volunteer when she was a college intern in New York City— and she was hooked from that first kickball game with the awesome kids at Living Waters Fellowship in Brooklyn.
After getting her start with college and community publications as well as with Slate and North Carolina Public Radio, she helped start the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program at the University of Notre Dame, working with the founder to create the program and recruit scholars. Katherine then moved to New York City to join the marketing team of Morgan Creek Capital Management, a global investment firm.
Since joining Hope for New York in 2012, it’s been Katherine’s joy to communicate how God is restoring our city through our non-profit affiliates— and how New Yorkers can get on board by sharing their time and resources.
Katherine graduated with a B.A. in English with a Minor in Creative Writing from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar.
Corrie Mitchell, Marketing and Content Specialist
Corrie Mitchell knew she wanted to spend her life telling people’s stories since her first journalism class as a high school freshman. It was during her time as an undergraduate English student at Christopher Newport University in Virginia that she grew particularly fond of finding and sharing stories that often go untold of people who often go unnoticed.
That passion only increased after moving to New York to attend graduate school at New York University, where she studied literary reportage and spent much of her time writing about believers in the city—from NFL chaplains to Christian rappers and New York City church planters. After graduating, she spent two years as Editor of OnFaith, a faith publication where she worked with a variety of writers to craft articles on the intersection of faith and…pretty much everything else.
Since moving to the South Bronx to join Restoration Community Church, her desire has really been to use storytelling to seek the peace of the city and to pursue mercy and justice for her neighbors. Corrie joined Hope for New York in 2016, and is thrilled to be able to spend herself telling stories of the incredible work being done on the ground through our affiliates, volunteers, and church partners.
Scott McVittie, Director of Operations
Scott McVittie has spent his entire career working within the social sector and is passionate about seeing a restored New York City. He is particularly interested in how cities operate and enjoys the challenge and privilege of working to bring about meaningful social change within the urban context.
Scott joined Hope for New York in 2014. He oversees daily operations to enable us to successfully meet our growth objectives, including performance measurement and management, information systems, human resources, finance, and strategy.
Prior to working at Hope for New York, Scott was the Program Evaluation Specialist at Project Renewal, Inc. and an Education Data Analyst at United Way of New York City. Scott received his MSc in Regional & Urban Planning Studies from the London School of Economics and his BA in Economics & Business from Kalamazoo College.
Kendall Seely, Executive Assistant
Kendall Seely joined Hope for New York in 2015. Her passion for mercy and justice began during her time growing up overseas in Budapest, Hungary. The city provided a unique opportunity for her to serve the poor at a young age. Since then, Kendall has made an effort to seek work that helps people and glorifies God. Her hope is that by serving as Administrative Coordinator at HFNY, she will be able to support the staff in their endeavors to reach people in need in NYC.
Kendall moved to New York in 2011 to attend The King’s College and study Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. One of the most influential experiences she has had was interning with Cru in South Africa. This internship made her aware of how important it is for local Christians to be involved in their communities.
Kendall’s dream is for all people in NYC to have a heart for their neighbors in need. She is excited to see the people of New York take action against poverty through service. “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). She is excited to have the opportunity to witness the amazing work of Jesus through the affiliates and volunteers at HFNY.
Headshots generously provided by Frame Photographics