UCAN Announces Zack Schrantz as New CEO

After nearly 29 years of leading youth services agency UCAN from a shelter with one program for 50 boys and girls that was on the brink of closing to the forefront of youth welfare organizations in Chicago, CEO Thomas Vanden Berk has announced his transition to CEO Emeritus beginning in July 2016.

In that role, he will continue to focus on social justice issues and fundraising for UCAN, which today serves more than 10,000 youth and families and is a respected sanctuary for youth who have suffered trauma.

As part of Vanden Berk’s planned transition and UCAN’s strategic planning, the governing board has named UCAN President and Chief Operating Officer Zack Schrantz to succeed Vanden Berk. Schrantz has served in his current capacities since 2010.

Focused on team building, program expansion and private fundraising, Vanden Berk’s many accomplishments include UCAN’s merger in 2004 with FamilyCare of Illinois that enabled UCAN to expand its services to Lake County; establishment of the Peace Hub collaborative of more than 30 youth-serving Chicago nonprofits to increase engagement of Chicago youth ages 12-24 in programs and services provided by local service providers; and the creation of the Teen Parenting Service Network, the nation’s only statewide network that serves pregnant and parenting teens and young adult parents in foster care and their children. Today, the innovative social service agency offers a full continuum of more than 30 programs and services to meet the critical needs of Chicagoland’s at-risk populations by transitioning youth from one program to another as their individual needs change.

“The last 29 years of my career at UCAN have been professionally rewarding and personally inspirational,” Vander Berk says. “I have so many people to thank for their support and commitment at every level as we helped youth who have suffered trauma become our future leaders. I’m incredibly proud of how our employees, boards, funders and partners, from the past and present, have come together to develop UCAN into the professionally run, financially sound organization it is today. I am proud to have led a committed team of professionals who transformed UCAN from primarily a child welfare agency into a holistic, community-based provider of a wide range of much-need services and programs. Our employees’ dedication to our youth and selflessness is the foundation of our strategic plans and in our ability to spread UCAN’s impact and visibility statewide.”

Vanden Berk, who has devoted 40 years to improving the lives of abused, neglected and dependent children, added, “I very much look forward to staying active and visible in social justice, particularly the disproportionate homicide rate among youth of color. I’m also focused on fundraising for UCAN. I’ve benefitted by watching so many of our staff members grow and develop. However, now I’m also looking forward to spending more time with my grandchildren who are growing up right before my eyes.”

Widely regarded as an active leader in youth welfare and violence prevention, Vanden Berk has been instrumental in forming and informing several child welfare organizations on the importance of strategies to combat gun-related deaths, disability and suffering. He founded HELP for Survivors, a victim self-help support group for parents and others who have lost children or loved ones to the gun violence epidemic. A founding member of The Bell Campaign (eventually known as the Million Mom March), he also is a board member of the Brady Campaign.

In June, more than 100 UCAN staff from across Chicago will move into the organization’s new John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols Program Center, which is the second phase of UCAN’s $41 million campus project at Central Park Avenue and Fillmore Street in North Lawndale. Vanden Berk led a campaign for private fundraising to support the campus, which is enabling UCAN to provide expanded outreach services focusing on youth leadership, violence interruption/prevention, clinical and counseling services, mentoring, family support services and workforce development. The community-based campus came to life through a $40 million capital campaign that benefitted from leadership and significant involvement from the Governing Board and UCAN’s other volunteer boards.

Since September 2015, the campus has been home UCAN’s new $26 million Diermeier Therapeutic Youth Home for youth in care who moved last fall into the new state-of-the-art facility that is an integral part of UCAN’s commitment to serving youth and their families where they live. The facility enables UCAN to become a greater community-based asset by offering youth programs and violence prevention initiatives. Once the move into the Nichols Program Center is complete this summer, the campus will house more than 250 UCAN employees in both buildings.

Rick Fleming, chairman of UCAN’s Governing Board, said: “Personally, and on behalf of my fellow board members, it certainly has been a pleasure to work closely with Tom to support his vision to bring innovative programs and services to the youth UCAN is so committed to serving. Over the years, we have seen firsthand his passion and focus to give our youth a voice in their healing and the support they need to chart paths to their success. We’re deeply thankful for his long-time commitment to serving youth who have suffered trauma. We also are grateful for his energetic leadership that has enabled UCAN to provide outcome-driven programs in healing trauma, preventing violence and building strong families. The Governing Board is warmly indebted to Tom and look forward to continue working with him as CEO emeritus.”

Jeff Diermeier, a member of UCAN’s President’s Board and whose family is the namesake of the Diermeier Therapeutic Youth Home, said, “Tom Vanden Berk has been a great leader of UCAN, bringing business principles, driving outcome research and generating passion for the kids. We are blessed to have had Tom in the role of CEO for these last 29 years and will continue to benefit from his vast experience as CEO emeritus.”

Schrantz said, “We look forward to Tom having a meaningful role in our philanthropic efforts given his success in navigating Chicago’s competitive charitable giving community. I am ready to continue working with our boards and incredible staff on revenue growth, program integration and improvement, and our long-term plans. Our new North Lawndale campus demonstrates how UCAN is well positioned as a resourceful, financially viable organization that provides youth a voice in their personal healing.”

Since joining UCAN in 1990 as a caseworker in Relative Foster Care, Schrantz has held a series of increasingly responsible leadership and policymaking roles, including controller, chief financial officer and chief operating officer. These varied roles have provided a balance of youth and family programming, administrative and fiscal management experience. In addition to managing the creation and implementation of dashboards to effectively measure program outcomes and impact, he has been at the forefront of UCAN’s diversity and inclusion efforts to set a standard for the non-profit industry. Externally, Schrantz has held a number of leadership roles in local and state collaborations and advisory groups.

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