GEORGE MATYSIK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
A native of Lower Northeast Philadelphia, George’s love for Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation began while he was playing baseball at Jardel Recreation Center and Burholme Park, where he was the perennial leader in two statistical categories: hit-by-pitch (HBP) and errors (E). Having cast aside his career in professional sports, George enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his degree in urban studies, while working his way through the school as a janitor. Armed with his experience in urban studies, George took a position as advisor to several prominent area elected officials, where George began his career in public service.
George most recently served as Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy for Philabundance, where he led the development of Fare & Square, the nation’s first non-profit grocery store. George also recently served as President of country’s preeminent senior hunger relief organization—the National CSFP Association—and was founding Executive Director of Feeding Pennsylvania, a collaborative non-profit of the Commonwealth’s food banks. George is Founder and former Co-Chair of the Friends of Mifflin School, an organization dedicated to providing resources to his neighborhood’s community public school. He also serves on the boards of Mercy Career & Technical High School and the Pennsylvania Resources Council.
In his free time George is an avid traveler, reader, and parks and recreation user, though mercifully has retired his bat and glove. George lives in the East Falls neighborhood with his wife, Alix, and his diabolical miniature pinscher, Duke.
VINCE RONGIONE, DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
To hear his older siblings tell it, Vincent grew up from a tadpole stowed away in a cooler on the way home from a family trip to Ridley Creek State Park. Regardless of his murky origins, what is clear is that Vince’s love of parks has come to him quite naturally and from a very early age.
Vince has built a successful career as an attorney, non-profit executive, and political operative. After graduating from Villanova University and the Villanova School of Law, he has worked: for major international law firms, at small nonprofits, in higher education development, on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer, and in federal, state, local and judicial elections in at least 10 states and the District of Columbia. An experienced major gift fundraiser, Vincent is eager to combine his passion for parks and playgrounds with his experience navigating the donor community to create meaningful philanthropy for the Philadelphia Parks Alliance.
Vin is certified in “Leave No Trace” backcountry travel by the National Outdoor Leadership School, he was named one of Pennsylvania’s top 10 staffers by the Allentown Morning Call, once played the role of Estragon in Waiting for Godot, and is deeply ambivalent about what version of his name you use to address him. He currently resides in Upper Darby with his wife, Skye, and their floofy cat, Rhubarb.
Teresa Lundy, Communications Consultant
Teresa M. Lundy, a government affairs and public relations professional, serves as the Principal of her own firm, TML Communications, LLC. Teresa has long served communities in and around the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by handling media relations, event management, campaigns and engagement strategies for business owners, candidates and elected officials. Teresa’s mission is to inspire others to be and stay involved in their communities, to create lifelong changes for the next generation of leaders.
Nance Kerns, Gifts Processing Assistant
Nance is a park leader and steward serving as the Vice President of Public Affairs for the Friends of Pennypack, a board member of Community Umbrella Agency Four, and Secretary of the 8th Police District Advisory Council. She is also a consultant for the Friends of Poquessing Watershed.
Olivia Ortiz, Community Outreach Coordinator Americorps VISTA, Philly Fellow
Olivia recently graduated from Swarthmore College with a major in Mathematics and a minor in Environmental Studies, though she prefers to think of it as the other way around. She calls southern Michigan, northern Georgia, and the handful of vegetable gardens 'home' but suspects that Philadelphia is making its way onto the list. Olivia is excited to join the Parks Alliance under the auspices of Philly Fellows. She hopes one day to have a good response when George asks "How are we changing the world today?"
KATIE BREINER, Data Manager
Katie grew up hiking, biking, and playing softball in Philly's parks and recreation centers. Her experiences in sports management and environmental advocacy led her to the Philadelphia Parks Alliance. Armed with a degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania's College of Arts & Sciences and Management & Sustainability from the Wharton School of Business, Katie wants to transform public spaces so that they promote environmental and social resiliency.
At the Parks Alliance, Katie uses geographic information systems (GIS), database design, and research to manage information and tell stories about Philly's public spaces. During the day, Katie's mapping software helps her analyze the parks and recreation centers, but by night, it enables her to find the path of least resistance to the closest Indian restaurant or used book store.
Carl Smith, Community Outreach Specialist
Mr. Carl “Roscoe” Smith is the Parks Alliance’s Community Outreach Specialist. Carl’s primary activities at the Parks Alliance include community organizing at rec centers. In his spare time, Carl is involved with his own rec center, West Mill Creek Recreation Center, and is active in his church, Redeemer Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Nadine harris, administrative assistant
Nadine Harris works as a Parks Alliance administrative assistant. She grew up in South Philly where she spent most of her time at the Ridgeway Community Center playing with family and friends. These days, she's more involved at the Marian Anderson Rec Center. Nadine is a loving, caring person and loves to help out anybody who needs it. She loves to read, go to the movies, watch reality TV shows, and spend time with her twelve grandchildren and her one great grandson.
Oreales Knight, Administrative Assistant
Oreales "Rea Rea" Knight works as a Parks Alliance administrative assistant. Before joining she worked as a nurse for 34 years. She is also a long time member of the Calvary Baptist Church in West Philly. In her spare time, she likes to show her love for her family and friends by cooking for them.
Krisann Janowitz, Grants Coordinator
Krisann Janowitz, a native Philadelphian, is an MA candidate in Writing Studies at St. Joseph’s University. Her love for nature, writing and helping others has brought her to intern for the Philadelphia Parks Alliance. In her free time, she enjoys writing poetry and having adventures in local parks with her husband and Shih Tzu. Krisann hopes to serve Philadelphia the best she can working with the Parks Alliance and in her daily life.
Yayin Cai, Recreation Community initiative intern
Yayin, who is a graduate student at University of Pennsylvania majoring in City Planning, currently works as a Recreation Community Initiative (RCI) intern at the Parks Alliance. She is passionate about urban issues including public space, green infrastructure, property development, and community building. As a student majoring in city planning, she loves exploring different cities and experiencing different cultures around the world. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing, listening to classical music, as well as writing stories and poetry. She is excited to join Parks Alliance and hopes to create better public spaces with the team together.
Shannon Rafferty, Development Assistant
Shannon is a Philly transplant by way of Bel Air and St. Mary’s, Maryland. She holds undergraduate degrees in Art & Art History and Psychology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and is currently pursuing a Masters in Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to starting her Masters, she worked for a management consultancy specializing in strategic communications. Shannon is excited to merge her enthusiasm for public space with her communications background to help the Philadelphia Parks Alliance build their funding base.
VICTORIA DURAND, Urban Studies Intern
Victoria is a senior at Drexel University majoring in both History and Political Science. She fled the confines of the Washington DC Beltway for University City and hasn't looked back since. When her nose isn't behind a book, she spends her time enjoying live music and continuing her search for the best cup of coffee in Philadelphia. She was drawn to the Philadelphia Parks Alliance because of her passion for community advocacy and her belief in the importance of flourishing public spaces. .
SARAH COUGHLIN, PUBLIC POLICY INTERN
Sarah, an undergraduate student at Temple University, is a true New Englander at heart but has found a second home in Philly. She is completing her Political Science and Global Studies degree and hopes working in public policy will help narrow down her environmentally-focused career goals. In her free time, she loves exploring the side streets and trails of Philadelphia by getting lost during long runs. Sarah is excited to join the Philadelphia Parks Alliance team and hopes to contribute by improving equity and access to a parks system that deserves to be enjoyed by all.
NOELLE VOUGHT, GIS & DATA ANALYTICS INTERN
Noelle is an undergraduate student at Temple University. She is from the suburbs of Reading, Pennsylvania, but found a strong connection to the city of Philadelphia. Noelle is in her last semester, completing her Environmental Studies major and certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). She is passionate about environmental justice, food studies, health geography, and environmental policy. In her free time, Noelle enjoys biking, exploring different areas of the city, and petting dogs. Noelle is excited to join Philadelphia Parks Alliance team and hopes to contribute by improving access to quality green and public spaces that everyone deserves.
David is an Architect whose heart was pricked by the reality of unplanned architecture and its adverse effects on earth. His love for nature provoked him to pursue graduate studies in Sustainable Design at Philadelphia University in order to maintain healthy ecosystem. His adoration for natural habitat and his desire to save it led him to intern at Philadelphia Parks Alliance. David is passionate about travelling and photography.
Terrance Jones, Recreation community Initiative Intern
Terrance Jones grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, spending most of his time playing sports such as football and basketball at Houseman Playground, with a love for boxing. He currently is enrolled at YouthBuild Philly Charter school and is taking Business Administration Scholars (BAS). He is also taking classes at the Community College of Philadelphia in the dual enrollment program, hoping one day he can become an Electrical Engineer. His mission is to make a great impact on the people around him and make a change in the community.
Before joining the Parks Alliance, Sara Reckahn worked for many years in non-profit ESL and adult literacy programs because she wanted all Philadelphians to enjoy life and prosper. The same desire to connect residents with resources, combined with her love of parks and public spaces, brought her to volunteer with the Parks Alliance. Sara is a little obsessed with the city of Philadelphia in general, and enjoys exploring trails and side streets with her two Chihuahuas, Ernie and Dot.
Melissa grew up in a suburb in Taiwan, where she played in fields, meadow, and creeks. As time went by, she moved to the city for studying and working, and then the United States, and then Philadelphia. She missed nature, so she chose to study in Sustainable Design at Philadelphia University, which led her to be an intern at Philadelphia Parks Alliance. Melissa is passionate about nature and traveling.
Julia Dionne, Communications Intern
Julia is a senior at Penn majoring in American History and Hispanic Studies. She is from Bethesda, MD, but likes to think she is from DC. When she’s not busy reading, you can find her practicing yoga, attending live shows, searching for puppies in Rittenhouse Square and volunteering at Lea Elementary. Julia joined the Parks Alliance because she believes that community spaces are essential for the well-being of city residents. Working as a Communications Intern, Julia is excited to help spread the word about Philly’s amazing Parks & Recreation Centers.
Danrick is currently a 10th Grader at Mastery Charter Shoemaker Campus. He was born and raised in Jamaica with his younger siblings. He plays multiple sports, but his favorite is soccer. He is currently enrolled in a soccer League at Academy at Palumbo. He wantes to also be successful in his internship (a requirement for at Mastery Charter students), so he is going to give it his all and do his best at the Parks Alliance.
Ben Manarski, Urban Studies Intern
Ben Manarski is a third-year architecture student at Philadelphia University with a special interest in urban planning and public policy. When he is isn’t chained to his desk in studio Ben enjoys going to the gym, exploring the city, and film photography. His interests in the vastly social applications of design and its infusion into public life lead him to the Philadelphia Parks Alliance where he plans to take on new challenges and learn much more about Philadelphia.
ALEXA ZIZZI, EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF GREENE COUNTRIE TOWNE
Alexa is a recent graduate of Temple University with a degree in journalism and has a passion for looking through the lens of others to share their stories with the world. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Alexa moved to Philadelphia to pursue a career in journalism and communications. She has been invested in advocating for sustainability, green spaces, underserved neighborhoods and community work. During her time as an intern for the Parks Alliance, she established Greene Countrie Towne as a platform to create conversation amongst neighbors and share important stories within Philadelphia’s beloved communities. She loves to connect with people through community outreach and public service and hopes to eventually travel the world someday and document it all.
ZURI HOFFMAN, MANAGING EDITOR OF GREENE COUNTRIE TOWNE
Zuri is a Germantown native and sophomore journalism student at Temple University. Her love for writing, reporting and helping others influenced her to get involved in community work and public outreach, which led her to interning at the Parks Alliance. As a current writer and reporter for Greene Countrie Towne, she looks forward to one day connecting with people in her career as a broadcast journalist.