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Board of Advisors 
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Lisa Tedeschi Vergara, Founder

Lisa was raised in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Needham High School, Lisa attended The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where she graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design in 1983. She began her career at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, as Creative Art Director, winning numerous awards for her design work. It was early on in her career where she gained invaluable experiences and knowledge that the most powerful weapon for changing the world is education.

     In May of 2019. Lisa founded Storytime Crafts, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization with the goal of uniting communities to promote inclusive childhood literacy opportunities. Lisa is described as “a literal connection to all things literary in Greater Boston”. Today, Lisa’s purpose and passion lies in her commitment to promoting literacy through art, community and kindness.

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Lennox Chase, Legal Advisor

Lennox is an honoree of the 2023 Charles River Regional Chamber and Get Konnected! 50 Most Influential Business Leaders of Color.

     Growing up in Dorchester, Chase learned the value of service to others and how to create job stability through the work of his parents. His mom was a detective in the Boston Police Department, and his father was a small business owner. Chase attended Bedford Public Schools via the METCO program and went on to earn a law degree from Northeastern University. He later founded Chase Legal Services.

     Chase is committed to giving back to the community as a nonprofit board member and mentor to students and emerging leaders. He has chaired numerous committees for nonprofits that address urban education, expanding access to legal services, and domestic violence issues. As a member of Needham Bank’s board of directors, Chase manages and supervises the bank’s policies and assets and has been instrumental in advancing the organization’s community outreach.

     "Storytime Crafts founder Lisa Vergara of Needham, MA, is an impactful nonprofit leader. Storytime Crafts has a clear mission and purpose of creating diverse book-rich environments for children. Ms. Vergara has assembled talented and skilled volunteers dedicated to supporting the organization’s grassroots literacy initiative.

     The ratio of program expenses to total expenses is such that a donor can rest assured that their donation will go as far as possible. Ms. Vergara has displayed an ability to inspire and engage volunteers and constituents/members as passionate partners and spokespersons. Further, Ms. Vergara has shown a willingness to partner with other nonprofits working to address the same issues, regarding those organizations as allies as opposed to competitors.

     Accordingly, I am pleased to be a partner with Storytime Crafts."

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Maria Citrin, Literacy Advisor

Teacher, Newton Public SchoolsFormerly Teacher at the Richard J. Murphy K-8 School in Dorchester,

As a former teacher at the Richard Murphy K-8 School in Dorchester, Maria helped Storytime understand the needs of students in underserved schools and identify resources that would engage and motivate them. Maria’s insight was critical in developing a list of books and authors that would resonate with children of color; help them envision a wider range of careers; understand the importance of reading, learning and exploring; and build critical life skills such as financial literacy.  Maria also helped Storytime develop programs aimed at meeting the needs of underserved communities.

     I went to undergrad at Smith College and then got my Master’s in Sports Management at UMass Amherst. My first “real” job brought me to Boston as an Account Executive at a cause-marketing firm, where we helped build and publicize partnerships between businesses and non-profit organizations. From there I took my marketing skills to the nonprofit side as I became Assistant to the President of the founder of YouthBuild. 

     When I was 29, someone asked me, “What is your most cherished unfulfilled dream?”  Without hesitation, the answer came out “to teach.”  That moment marked the beginning of my career transition from marketing to teacher and educator. 

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Ty Allan Jackson, Chief Literacy Advisor

Ty is an award-winning children’s book author, literacy advocate, captivating motivational speaker, and honorary Doctorate recipient. In 2011 he founded Big Head Books, LLC, a literacy organization that aims to introduce children to the joys of reading. Ty travels around the country inspiring children and educating adults about the impacts of illiteracy.  A three-time TedX presenter, Ty believes that literacy is the foundation for a successful life and promotes it with humor and enthusiasm. Ty’s work as an author and literacy advocate earned him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from MCLA, the Massachusetts inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Content of Character Award, and citations from the Massachusetts Governor, Senator, and the House of Representatives. Ty’s books have been featured on CNN, NBC Nightly News, The Steve Harvey Show, PBS and countless other media outlets. In 2012, Ty’s books were gifted to former First Lady Michelle Obama by his hometown mayor. He is the co-founder of the Read or Else movement and Danny Dollar Academy.

     "I can say with great sincerity that there are fewer people who care and make the effort to better their community than Lisa Vergara. With a level of dedication and commitment aligned with a remarkable work ethic, Ms. Vergara lives to serve. From supplying toiletries to families who are less fortunate, to gifting hundreds of bikes to children who can’t afford them, to giving away tens of thousands of books to kids in need, Lisa and Storytime Crafts, has changed the lives of countless children and families. Her level of goodwill makes her a superhero in a time when it is needed the most. She is worthy of all the praise, accolades and support given to her."

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Claire Kaiser, Community Connector Advisor

Systems Navigator, Families in Transition, YMCA of Greater BostonFormerly Association Director for Community Hub Schools​, YMCA of Greater Boston

Claire Kaiser has worked closely with Lisa and Storytime Crafts since 2018. She first connected with Storytime Crafts while working at the King K-8 School in Dorchester, MA. As a result of this partnership, the King received thousands of books that were used to host book giveaways for students and to stock the school’s library. Lisa also donated multiple art chairs for the library, hundreds of bikes, delivered countless toys, games and other items to the school community and hosted read-alouds and visits from authors like Ty Allan Jackson. Claire left the King in 2020 to work for the YMCA’s Community Hub Schools strategy in partnership with Boston Public Schools. This gave Lisa the opportunity to broaden Storytime Crafts impact across additional BPS schools and YMCA afterschool and housing programs. Throughout the past 5 years, Storytime Crafts has used its resources and network to supply books, bikes, baby items and many other resources to students and families across BPS and the YMCA. Claire is so grateful to be connected to Lisa, Storytime Crafts and the wonderful work they do in service of the Boston community!

     "Lisa and her organization, Storytime Crafts, has been an incredible asset to the King K-8 School since beginning her work with us in the Spring of 2018. Lisa has provided thousands of books to our students and two incredible art chairs that we are proud to make use of in our library.

     Lisa's passion for literacy is contagious and students often walk out of one of her events asking for extra books to take home and making special requests for her next visit. The Grove Hall Community has been historically underserved and under-resourced and Lisa's partnership has made it possible to bring books into the lives of all of our students in a way that we would not be able to without her help. Her reach has gone beyond the King as she continues to collaborate with other schools and community centers in our neighborhood. "
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Dhana Kotwal, Community Volunteer

Hello, I'm Dhana (duh-naa). Needham has been my adoptive home since 2013! I am an engineer with a business degree. I've worked almost 2 decades in healthcare/ public health in the greater Boston area at the functional intersection of data, improvement science and project management. 

     As a mom of 3 little ones, I am rediscovering the magic and importance of reading for kids. Which Is why I am so excited to volunteer with Storytime Crafts. 

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Sharon Murray, Volunteer Outreach Coordinator

Director of Marketing for 3 time super bowl champion Patrick Pass football clinics
Sharon brings a deep understanding of the needs of children separated from family through the foster care system. She understands the importance of providing children in vulnerable situations with resources that can help them connect with others and express and process their emotions nonverbally.  Sharon works closely with the Home for Little Wanderers along with other community organizations serving children in homeless shelters and foster care. 
"I have always had a passion for giving back and feel so lucky I was asked to volunteer at this wonderful organization Storytime  Crafts."
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Jennifer Santos, Secretary

Jennifer Santos, Secretary of Storytime Crafts, is an Executive Director at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, in the Office of Business Integrity & Ethics, the department responsible for Vertex’s Corporate Compliance Program. Jennifer leads a group of lawyers and compliance professionals providing compliance advice and guidance to colleagues in North America. Prior to this role, Jennifer served as the Head of Global Corporate Compliance Operations and before that, a commercial attorney advising the cystic fibrosis business. Jennifer started her legal career at Ropes & Gray in Boston, MA advising health care and life sciences clients across the US.

     Jennifer holds a B.A. in Biology from The College of the Holy Cross, a J.D. from the George Washington School of Law, and an M.P.H. from the George Washington School of Public Health and Health Services.

     Jennifer also sits on the Board of the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers in Cambridge, MA, an organization focused on providing services to Portuguese speaking populations in the greater Boston area. Jennifer is originally from New Bedford and comes from a family of Portuguese immigrants. Jennifer understands the importance of education and fostering a joy and love of reading from an early age and is committed to Storytime’s mission and work.

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Melissa Sapini, Literacy Advocate

Melissa Sapini, Miss Massachusetts USA 2024, professional model and television commercial actress is an entertainment television reporter of The New England Sports Network, show Dirty Water. With two years of experience reporting on Boston Pop culture. She’s currently pursuing a bachelor of Arts degree in journalism with a concentration in Broadcast at Suffolk University. Melissa has her sights set on becoming a E! News television correspondent.

     Her platform as Miss Massachusetts USA reflects her dedication to making a positive impact, just as her mother and grandmother did before her. Melissa’s grandmother played a pivotal role in her life. Born in Haiti, she sought a better life in the US, carrying dreams of opportunity and access. Christiana grew up in a time where education was not a priority. Unfortunately, she was taken out of school at a very young age to work at flea markets to support her family, which included 11 children. Despite facing challenges, her grandma's resilience and determination left a lasting impact on Melissa. Her unwavering spirit and sacrifices inspired Melissa’s commitment to Literacy advocacy. Melissa’s background equips her with cultural competence—an understanding of diverse reading materials that are culturally relevant and accessible to diverse audiences. She enjoys guest reading and interpreting Haitian Creole for new migrant students in the Massachusetts public school system. In addition, Melissa is also involved in the establishment of a scholarship program at her mother’s former middle school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, providing assistance for students who cannot afford tuition. Her journey so far is a testament to the transformative power of cultural pride and empathy.

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Sean Thimas, Literacy Outreach Advisor

Special Projects Manager of the Worker Empowerment Cabinet for the Office of Mayor Michelle Wu
Formerly Program Manager, ReadBoston, Mayor's Office of Workforce Development
ReadBoston is the City’s only comprehensive early literacy program. It reaches Boston’s children at all points in their day, all year long. 
     As Program Manager of ReadBoston, Sean organized and managed the Storymobile and Read To Achieve programs, and participated in live Story Time and after school book clubs. Sean also performed guest author events for early literacy throughout the city of Boston and helped Storytime connect with multiple MPS schools and community organizations serving young children and their families. As the current Special Projects Manager of the Worker Empowerment Cabinet for the Office of Mayor Michelle Wu, Sean’s tasks include Community Outreach, supporting Green New Deal, and Youth Employment. Sean has been an essential partner for literacy collaborating on special programs and initiatives aimed at supporting the needs of children and families.
Supporting Members 
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Adrianne Banks

Field Engineer at Dellbrook | JKS Construction Company

Professionally, I am a Real Estate Specialist in the telecommunications field, with a background of 13 years in administration, child care, and senior adult care. I am a mother of two who is extremely passionate about reading and books! When I was first introduced to the lovely work that Lisa Vergara does, I was taken aback. I knew the joy of reading and gracefulness of giving would intricately come together in the best way! 

     Children in schools and communities will benefit from the diverse reality of what Storytime Crafts has to offer. They will learn to love reading more as they are able to identify with the characters in the stories they read. "My ideal world would be for every child to have a room with books lining every wall, and a cozy chair to sit in while reading them all! Storytime Crafts is on its way to making this a reality! It is a great honor to help support such a much needed and well deserved mission, such as Storytime Crafts."

Diane DerMarderosian, MD

Pediatric Director, Hasbro Partial Hospital Program, RI

Diane graduated from Amherst College and then attended the Mount Sinai School of Medicine where she was selected to be part of the Humanities and Medicine Program. She completed her residency training in pediatrics at Brown University where she first became involved with Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together. She went on to work as a primary care pediatrician in Roxbury, MA, where she incorporated ROR into the practice and expanded the program to serve a broader age group.

     Diane served as the Medical Director for Reach Out and Read RI for over 10 years and is presently on the Medical Advisory Board for the organization. Currently she is the Pediatric Director of the Hasbro Partial Hospital Program and an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. 

Neddra English

I am from Boston, Massachusetts and I currently reside in Waltham. I have been working with children for over 18 years. I love sports, dancing, Zumba Fitness, music and cooking. My energetic ability lights up a room, and my personality makes it easy to work with children. My main focus in life is try to help others as much as I can. Summer is my favorite season and I enjoy traveling the world. 

Rose Marie Flores

Wellesley College alum, former Hospital Administrator, now an Economist and Environmentalist, Caterer for Filipino Cuisine (especially desserts), Volunteer to instill passion for reading and education 

I am originally from the Philippines and proud to be Filipina and American. Here in the USA we are privileged to have better access to education and books (at least in some areas). Most of my volunteer work involves sending used children’s books (sometimes clothing and shoes) to poor areas of the Philippines to help lift families out of poverty.  I also facilitate virtual book discussions with Filipino teachers to improve their skills in teaching English (which is part of the Philippines’ curriculum) to their students. 

Jordan Freeman

Special Ed Teaching Assistant, Schofield Elementary School, Wellesley, MA 

At 16 years old, I started working at the YMCA as an after school/summer camp counselor for the preschool and school aged children that attended the program. After spending 4 years at the YMCA I decided to work at a daycare center in Watertown, MA, where I worked with infants and toddlers. The years I spent working at the YMCA and daycare prepared me for the job I have today, as a Teacher's Assistant in an elementary school.

     Working with Lisa has been a pleasure, and I am more than thankful for having such a great person in my life. I know how much Storytime Crafts means to her and I am thrilled to be a part of it. It is so important for children and youth to get a taste of all types of literature from all parts of the world. Helping our generation of children getting acquainted with different cultures is very important, so I applaud Lisa for all of the time and effort that she puts into making this happen.”

Julie Holmes

School Librarian, Martin Luther King, Jr. K-8 School

I am the Library Paraprofessional at the Martin Luther King Jr K-8 School. I began working for BPS in 1999 and have been the Library Paraprofessional at the King K- 8  since 2012. My love for literacy and children compels me to continue fostering a love for reading in all children. To say that I enjoy being surrounded by smiling faces that light up when they enter the library because they get to browse and read books is an understatement!

     I met Lisa in 2019 when she donated two awesome Storytime Crafts chairs to our library. She brought over a thousand books to our school through her "Kindness Project",  more than once I might add. Each child was able to take home more than one book and even toys and games, Wow! The epitome of kindness. I'm honored to be a part of Storytime Crafts, such a wonderful cause.

Sue Young

Library Foundation of Needham, Board Member

It's been fun to watch Lisa as she got  started with her idea - figuring out how to add illustrations from classic children's books to chairs and tables. Lisa thinks through which book would be best for each piece and how to feature the illustrations, title, and perhaps some text to maximum effect. I continue to be amazed by her artistic sense as the inspiration for each project takes hold. I'm so happy to watch her enthusiasm for books evolve into sharing her projects with her admirers.

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