Jeff Bartow, Executive Director
Jeff has been organizing in the Chicago metropolitan area since 1989 after spending a 10 years organizing in Fort Worth, Texas. Jeff has been a resident of Southwest Chicago since 1992. He joined SWOP as Executive Director in September 2002. Prior to becoming the Executive Director of SWOP, he served as the Executive Director of the Interfaith Leadership Project of Cicero, Berwyn and Stickney for nearly a decade.
Chris Brown, Director of Operations
Chris joined SWOP in July of 2016. He has worked as an organizer, funder, program manager, and researcher. Having grown up in Missouri, Chris is a St. Louis Cardinals fan. After eight years working at LISC, Chris joined SWOP to get back to his organizing roots. His work at SWOP covers fundraising, communications, human resources, and other tasks that support the organizing work.
David Castro, Youth Organizer
David was born in Chicago and grew up in the Albany Park community. He met Andrea Ortez while in school at Loyola, who convinced him to come to SWOP to run a youth debate club. He joined the SWOP staff and now runs the Teen Reach Program at Morrill Elementary and Gage Park High Schools. David got his undergrad degree in history from Loyola and has a Master’s degree in education from DePaul. David is a big Cubs and Mets fan, which never created a problem for him until 2015 when both teams were very good.
David McDowell, Senior Organizer
David McDowell joined SWOP in April 2002 after his move to Chicago, leading on SWOP’s housing and community planning efforts. Originally trained as a sculptor, he worked as an illustrator for 7 years before beginning his career as an organizer. David got his start as a political organizer in 1991 in Missouri, worked for 5 years as the Service Employees International Union, Local 96 Organizing Director and begin community organizing in 1999 with the Wyandotte Interfaith Sponsoring Council, a community organizing project in Kansas City, KS. David was raised in Boston and proudly claims to be a Sox fan, occasionally failing to admit to his leaders a preference for the Red kind.
Harry Meyer, Director of Vacant Property Reactivation
Born and raised in Gage Park, Harry has been working in Southwest Chicago for more than 30 years. Harry was a member of the SWOP Strategy Team for a number of years before joining the staff in 2013. He leads SWOP’s Reclaiming Southwest housing development campaign. Harry has a strong interest in preserving the community, which is why the housing work is so important to him. He’s an active leader at Ashburn Lutheran Church and an avid photographer and has taken several of the pictures you see on the SWOP website.
Andrea Ortez, Organizer and Statewide Parent Mentor Director
Andrea moved to Chicago from her native Los Angeles in 2007 to attend Loyola University. She started worked with SWOP while in college, running youth programming. Andrea has been on staff since 2008 and currently leads the Statewide Parent Mentor program. She is also an organizer with the following schools: Azuela, Eberhart, Fairfield, Lee, Marquette, McKay, Morrill, Nightingale, Pasteur, Talman, and Tonti. She and her husband Omar moved into the Southwest Chicago community in 2014 and she has become an expert on how trucks get stuck under and removed from viaducts because they live close to an underpass where this happens about once a month.
Maggie Perales, Organizer
Maggie has lived in the Southwest Chicago community for 30 years after moving to the community from Little Village. She has been an active member and leader at St. Nick’s parish for almost as long as she’s been in the neighborhood. She and her husband raised their four sons in the community, sending them to the local parish school. Maggie started at SWOP as a part-time bookkeeper in 1997, but realized that her passion wasn’t numbers, but was organizing. She is active in SWOP’s immigration, health, and the Parent Mentor Program Statewide work, and is the organizer for St. Nicholas of Tolentine & Queen of the Universe.
Rafi is a long-time resident of Chicago Southwest. He grew up in Altgeld Gardens on the far south side of the city and played multiple sports as a young man at Carver High School. Rafi is very active as a leader at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and runs a house for men transitioning out of prison and into the community. He is an avid reader and competes with Jeff Bartow to see who can read the most books.
Jamillah Rashad, Elev8 Director
Born and raised in Englewood, Jamillah worked at a number of private sector employers before coming to SWOP in 2012. She started as an after-school program manager and now leads the Elev8 program at Marquette School of Excellence. When Jamillah is not working on a plan to change the world, she is on an adventure with her toddler daughter or cheering her middle school son on at a sporting event. She is a modern day “Mombie”! She recently moved into Chicago Southwest and is happy to be in the community.
Imelda Salazar, Organizer
Imelda was born in Guatemala and came to Chicago after experiencing missionary work in Mexico. She fell in love with her adopted city and felt compelled to take on the issues she saw in communities in Chicago. While her background is in organizational management, she found she naturally had all the skills to be a good community organizer. She has been at SWOP since 2007. She works on the issues of immigration, leadership development, and churches. Imelda is a strong trainer for SWOP and has led neighborhood and city-wide community organizing trainings in both English and Spanish.
Jasmine Serrano, Teen Reach Manager
Jasmine Serrano leads the Teen REACH program at Morrill School. Jasmine has work with SWOP as a consultant for the last four years on Teen REACH, Play Streets and other youth-oriented programming. She started as a youth leader when she was 16. Jasmine is a graduate of Marquette Elementary School and Gage Park High School. She is also a vegetarian and the proud parent of one cat.
Adriana Velázquez, Organizer
Adriana grew up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in the Southside of Chicago, where she got her first organizing experience working with friends in her parish to bring awareness and action around the issues of immigration and education. When she was placed at SWOP through One Summer Chicago, she was surprised to learn that she could build a career doing what she’d been doing in her community as a volunteer. Adriana graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in 2015 with a Bachelors in music. She is also the lead vocalist of Quinto Imperio, a local band whose music is rooted in the stories and culture of the Latino community. She has participated with SWOP since 2012, and stepped in as organizer in 2015. Adriana currently works on the Parent Mentor and Safe Passage programs and is the organizer for Azuela and Pasteur Elementary Schools.