Our Team: Board + Staff
Board of Trustees
Mary Gay Abbott-Young (Secretary) has been employed by the Rescue Mission of Trenton since 1978. She has served as Executive Director since 1986 and as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) since 2000. As CEO she is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of a 4.2-million-dollar non-profit organization employing fifty individuals. An active advocate for those in need, Mary Gay Abbott-Young serves on the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health & Addiction Agencies, the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, and the Trenton Health Team, in addition to the Coalition. She sits on the Advisory Council of the Mercer County Workforce Investment Board, the State of New Jersey Drug Court Treatment Subcommittee, and the City of Trenton/County of Mercer Continuum of Care Governance committee. Her awards include: Citizen of the Year from the Trenton Council of Civic Associations, the Women of Achievement Award from the YWCA of Trenton, and the YWCA of Princeton Tribute to Women. She has appeared in the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce Magazine, The Times of Trenton and The New York Times. Ms. Abbott-Young has taught seminars on substance abuse and addictions at Bucks County Community College, Newtown, Pennsylvania; and Mercer County Community College, West Windsor, New Jersey. She is often invited to speak on homelessness, hunger and addiction.
Elena Chkolnikova is the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for Diversant, LLC, the largest African American owned IT staffing firm in the US. Elena is an employment attorney by primary area of practice, whose professional experience includes some of the largest national and international firms. In her current role as General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, Elena leads the Company’s legal strategy and compliance on all legal matters, including employment, immigration, corporate transactions, and litigation. Elena has been a long-term advocate for human rights, and has handled a number of pro bono asylum cases working closely with NYC’s non-profit immigrant rights organizations, such as Human Rights First and Immigration Equality. Elena is very passionate about ending homelessness and the main causes behind it, such as lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, mental illness, and substance abuse. She has a J.D. degree from Rutgers Law School-Newark and an ED.M from Rutgers-New Brunswick.
Rev. Angela Fields is the Executive Director of Family Promise of Hunterdon County. She is a graduate of the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University. She holds a Master of Divinity in Community Development (Urban Ministry) and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from William Paterson University. Reverend Fields' esteemed passion and calling is to better the lives of those who are most vulnerable in our communities. Reverend Fields has published articles for Associated Baptist Press, Christian Ethics Today, Reflections Devotional, and Baptist Women in Ministry emphasizing the battles ensnaring those living in poverty. Reverend Fields is also a children’s book author. Her children’s book, I’m Perfectly Different teaches love, compassion, valuing one’s self, and coping skills. Her second children’s book, Finish the Race, teaches individuals to overcome obstacles and demonstrates perseverance as leadership. She is a life-long resident of Paterson, NJ and a graduate of the Coalition's Garden State Leaders Program.
Connie Mercer (Vice President) is the Executive Director of HomeFront, which she founded in 1990. Under Ms. Mercer’s leadership, what began as a small group of volunteers has grown into one of the area’s leading non-profit social service agencies, with a budget of over $6 million. On any given night approximately 450 people, two-thirds of them children, are being sheltered by HomeFront. HomeFront offers more than 30 programs and services, most of which are unique in the area, including a wide range of life-skills and employment training classes. One of HomeFront’s top priorities is developing permanent, affordable rental housing with case management for very-low-income families. Prior to founding HomeFront, Ms. Mercer, who has a master’s degree in clinical psychology, was executive director of the Interstate Consortium on Residential Child Care and then Deputy Director of Program Operations for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Kent Pipes, (Treasurer) President and CEO of The Affordable Homes Group, a not-for-profit based in Mt. Holly, N.J. This 36-year-old family of five separate companies provides housing and social services to more than 250 people annually and has overseen the construction or rehabilitation of 225 affordable homes in eight states. He is also Broker of Record for Delta Real Estate, the only non-profit real estate brokerage company in New Jersey. Mr. Pipes is a specialist in green building who received his Certified Green Builder designation from the National Association of Home Builders in May, 2009. He has been executive director of two other non-profit housing organizations in New Jersey that produced over 100 housing units. Mr. Pipes has been a Board member of the N.J. Affordable Housing Network; Community Loan Fund of N.J.; Automated Builder’s Consortium; the Affordable Housing Coalition of Burlington County and Citizens Serving the Homeless, Inc. He has a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Fresno State University and a Master of Divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary. Mr. Pipes is also an adjunct instructor at Rowan College of Burlington County where he teaches the NJ Real Estate Salesperson course.
Richard Uniacke is the Executive Director for Bridges Outreach, located in Summit and Newark, NJ, and has been with the organization since May of 2018. Prior to joining Bridges, Richard worked for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey for 17 years and in myriad roles. Beginning by developing programs and establishing the Kids Division of the FoodBank, he went on to build capacity in and lead fundraising efforts, special events and marketing functions, including spearheading their rebranding. In 2009, he wrote the winning business plan for Prudential’s “Breaking the Gala Addiction” for Grains for Good – a revenue-generating bagel crisp venture. In his last role, Richard led the FoodBank’s efforts in South Jersey, overseeing an increase in food distribution of more than 40% over two years and forming partnerships to address diabetes in Atlantic City. He is passionately pursuing the objective, sustainable end of chronic homelessness through approaches co-created with those Bridges aims to serve. He has a BA in Communication from Kean University, and an MBA from NJIT.
Jeffrey Wild (President) is a founder of the Coalition and has been a member of its Board of Trustees since 2011. For more than 25 years, Jeff has been at Lowenstein Sandler LLP, one of New Jersey’s largest and most prominent law firms, where he is a partner specializing in litigation. Jeff, who has handled landmark litigation on behalf of New Jersey’s homeless, was helped through law school by his father, who was homeless at times during the Great Depression. After graduating from Cornell University and Columbia Law School, Jeff started at the Paul, Weiss law firm, where his pro bono work included working with the NYC Coalition for the Homeless on cases that led to recognition of a right to emergency shelter for New York City’s homeless. Jeff is also a Trustee of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and Barnert Temple in Bergen County.
Executive Director, Housing & Community Development Network of NJ
President and CEO, Atlantic City Rescue Mission
CEO, Just Believe Inc.
CRA Investment Asset Manager/Vice President, TD Bank
Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey
Director, Bergen County Housing, Health, and Human Services Center
Executive Director, Supportive Housing Association of NJ
CEO & Founder, Pathways to Housing
Kate Leahy, Director
Kate has over fifteen years of experience working in public service and on behalf of the homeless. Before joining the Coalition, she served as the Director of Quality Assurance for homeless outreach and placement at Breaking Ground (formerly Common Ground), a NYC-based supportive housing organization. She also worked as part of a team that helped to develop and launch NYC's first nonprofit assistance website under the guidance of NYC's Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services. Kate has a Master’s Degree in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy from New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.