Board of Directors

Shirley Sadjadi, Esq., President


Shirley Sadjadi has been practicing immigration law exclusively for over 22 years, including several years as an attorney advisor with U.S. Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review. She is a frequent speaker on immigration law topics and is a passionate advocate for immigration reform. Shirley’s law office is quite unique as it is comprised of 10 attorneys and staffers who are ALL women. Over the years, Shirley she has mentored young women lawyers who have gone on to establish their own legal solo careers. She has donated generously of their time, talent and treasure to several causes, in addition to immigration law, Shirley is devoted to educating people about healthier life-style choices and has received a number of awards for her volunteer work. Shirley is a self-described foodie. She is married to Wilde Sotomayor, an architect, and they have 2 children.

Shirley also speaks Farsi and Spanish and Immigration Law.

Ryan Waesche, Vice President


Ryan became a professional chef in 2015 and showed an exceptional talent for food management. After 22 years of working for Motorola, mostly in transportation logistics, having started at an entry-level position even before finishing high school and working his way up to Transport Platform Manger, he decided to make a big change his life and career. Ryan decided to go to culinary school and then opened his own catering business. Ryan said he was inspired by his father who had been one of the chefs at the famed Bismarck Restaurant in Chicago. Recently Ryan became the Corporate Chef at Dream Foods in Elgin, and he oversees three departments within the business. In his spare time, Ryan volunteers his time with the Homeless Ministries and the Street Reach Team, helping to feed the homeless. He also travels the country as a volunteer chef for a group called Mercy Chef, which feeds victims and first responders at natural disaster sites like floods and fires, and most recently the devastation of the California fires. More

Julie Dahlberg, CPA, R.D., Treasurer


Julie Dahlberg, CPA, RD, is employed as a certified public accountant, although her passion has always been good food. Over the past 25 years, she has worked in public accounting (PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte) specializing in corporate taxation. She now develops corporate tax software for Corptax, LLC. After contemplating her passion for healthy eating, 13 years ago, Julie completed a nutrition degree at University of Illinois, Chicago, and earned a registered dietician license. During her training, Julie counseled WIC (Women, Infants and Children) participants in Chicago, worked in a diabetes center, as well as cardiac, ICU, and oncology floors at many area Chicago hospitals. Julie’s love of healthy food led her to be a founding member of the school garden at Fox River Country Day school. She enjoys preparing foods from around the world with her family and friends. Food can do amazing things for one’s health; in the words of Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Julie also speaks IRS Tax Code; someone has to do it.

David Im, Director


He is a graduate of Illinois State University with a degree in Marketing. David is an Elgin-based State Farm Insurance Agent and an active member of the community. He is also an active with the Elgin Hispanic Network, serving several years as their Social Committee Chair. David talks lovingly about his multi-ethnic family and how they celebrate Korean, Mexican and American traditions, giving his children the best of all those worlds. David is one of the founding directors of CHEF and is committed to helping his community to learn about how to live a healthier life, through the body, mind and spirit connection.

David speaks Korean and Spanish.


Douglas in Chef coat (2).jpg

Born and raised in Brazil and always amazed by the culinary delights prepared by his mother and grandmother, Douglas Callegario decided to formally train as a chef in a new and unique 4-year gastronomy course, a study of the art and science of food, health and cooking, at the Federal University of Rio. Douglas has worked as a chef, consultant, educator and business owner in various countries around the world, and from the poorest favelas in Rio to the fisheries of Argentina to some of the trendiest spots on the west coast of the U.S. Now living, thriving and working in the Midwest, Douglas has his newest venture: Nourish, Inc., located in Algonquin IL and in July 2019, he will be a special vendor at Taste of Chicago offering street foods from his native Brazil.

Edith Pelcastre, Director & Volunteer Coordinator


Edith says she loves to cook and experiment with different and exotic foods and as a stay-at-home mom, she has plenty of time to play with her food. One day she decided that she was going to not just learn English, she was going to master it. After completing an ESL program, she decided to go to college at the same time her sons began college–just to prove to her skeptical sons that it was never too late. Edith was an outstanding student and was selected to participate in a Bridge Program at Elgin Community College and became that year’s Valedictorian. She received both an Associate Degree, with High Honors, in Digital Forensics and an AA in Fine Arts, and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Edith volunteers with several community groups and appreciates volunteering as a way to keep honing her communication skills, while serving her community and s including Elgin CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and formerly a volunteer for YLA (Youth Leadership Academy) and more. She said she needs to always be setting a good example for her children. Edith is a wife and mother, and cares for her elderly parents. Edith is an avid runner.

Jo Ann Armenta, Executive Director


Jo Ann retired a few years ago after a long career with the Illinois State Police. In fact, in 1979 she became the first Latina Illinois State Trooper, and probably the shortest one at a mere 5’2” tall. In 1999 she was offered a special assignment in Washington D.C. as the Federal Project Officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Justice Act Grant, administering a $20 million grant to the 50 states to help improve child abuse and child homicide investigation outcomes. After 2 years in D.C., she returned to Elgin just days before 9/11. Jo Ann has served on several boards and commissions, including a six-year appointment as an Elgin Human Relations Commissioner, she was a director of the Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation (now AMITA Health St. Joseph), and served for more than 12 years on The Salvation Army Advisory Board. And she was elected to a four-year term to the Gail Borden Public Library Board of Trustees. Jo Ann currently services on the library’s foundation, and is past president of that board. She was recipient of an Elgin YWCA Leader Award. Jo Ann has traveled extensively throughout North America and Western Europe, and now does most of her traveling via the National Geographic channel. She was an Illinois State Scholar and holds both a BA and MA degrees.


Honorary Directors and Senior Advisors

Mike Kenyon, Award-winning Farmer


Mike Kenyon is the current Secretary/Treasurer of the Kane County Farm Bureau and has been a member since 1971. Mike operates a dairy farm and farms 1600 acres of corn, soybeans, and hay. He has been farming for 45+ years. Mike earned a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Illinois and is a U.S. Army veteran. He is a director at First Community Bank and District Director of the Illinois Farm Bureau. In 2014, he was awarded the prestigious Prairie Farmer Master Farmer Award. He enjoys riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle. Mike and his wife, Carol, have three children. Mike currently serves on the Kane County Board and has served since elected in 2008.

Dr. Ashwani Garg, M.D., Member PCRM


Ashwani Garg, M.D., was recently certified by the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine (ABLM). He was among 204 physicians and 43 PhD/Masters-level health clinicians who have become the first medical professionals globally to be certified as Diplomates of the ABLM/American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) and the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine. Lifestyle Medicine, defined by the ACLM, is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic approaches, such as a predominantly whole food, plant-based diet, physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, tobacco cessation, and other non-drug modalities, to prevent, treat, and, oftentimes, reverse chronic disease. He encourages his patients to actively participate in their medical care. He takes a holistic approach to health, taking in to account the mind-body, social factors, and biological factors. He is a member of the Physician’s Committee on Responsible Medicine and a highly sought after speaker. More


Dr. Silvia Abel-Caines is a Veterinarian with a PhD in Ruminant Nutrition. Her master’s degree at the University of Tennessee focused on neonatal immunity and colostrum supplementation in dairy calves and the doctoral research at the University of Nebraska, focused on improving the fatty acid profile of milk through nutrition. She is a certified grazing planner, and aims to address animal health and productivity through balanced nutrition. She is currently the Staff Ruminant Nutritionist for Organic Valley / CROPP. Trained as a conventional Veterinarian and Animal Nutritionist, her new approach to a holistic animal health and nutrition started when she found herself selecting organic dairy products for her new born twins and choosing to grow herself the herbs that will help treat the basic family illnesses.

Combining the knowledge from experienced organic farmers from around the world and her technical training and research, Dr. Silvia Abel-Caines provides practical technical information that highlights the link between health and nutrition for both humans and animals. She resides in Chicago with her husband, three teenage children, and a small flock of backyard chickens.


Dr. Dallas-Prunskis served as Chairwoman of the University of Chicago Pain Management Program, which she led for seven years, before co-founding the Illinois Pain Institute (IPI) and The Regenerative Stem Cell Institute (TRSCI). Dallas-Prunskis is passionate about her clinical work, directly helping patients overcome their painful and degenerative conditions and live their lives to their fullest. She also remains active in training the physicians of tomorrow in the United States and abroad as an annual guest lecturer and instructor at Vilnius University (Lithuania), which has a formal relationship with Rosalind Franklin University (Chicago). Dr. Dallas-Prunskis has authored and reviewed several publications including chapters in the recently published book Peripheral Nerve Entrapments, which gives clinicians a comprehensive guide to possible nerve entrapments and treatment methods.