Denise is a pioneer and consultant in the field of social entrepreneurship, and has been at the forefront of the movement since it began. While receiving her MBA from University of California at Berkeley, she helped organize the very first Haas Social Venture Business Plan Competition, a global competition for mission-driven business ventures that promote social responsibility and economic profitability—that is now the largest such competition in the world. After receiving her MBA, Denise went on to help define the very meaning of social innovation in a number of critical positions: She was a Farber Fellow and business director at CVE, Inc., a San Francisco nonprofit that provides jobs and training to people with mental health disabilities. She also worked with the Grameen Fund, Bangladesh’s first venture capital fund, the National Park Service and the National Parks and Conservation Association, and is currently the chairperson of the Advisory Board of BUILD. Denise has a background in finance and before finding her passion for social enterprise, she worked for Barclays Global Investors and was the international equity portfolio manager in the firm’s Alpha Strategies Group. An Oakland resident and mother of three, Denise says that playing outdoors and getting muddy was a critical piece of her childhood while growing up on a farm in Oxnard, CA. She is passionate about Pogo Park not only for providing safe and enriching play spaces, but for the transformation that can happen when children, families and the community are involved in a project that brings everyone together.
Board of Directors
Veteran CPA, Hank Levy, currently serves as County Treasurer-Tax Collector for Alameda County. A deeply respected source of tax information, Hank possesses a broad range of expertise and talent in business consulting and tax planning for over 30 years, including family law and civil litigation. After growing up in New York City and obtaining a degree from Swarthmore College, Hank moved out west where he obtained a Master’s Degree before going on to work for CPA firms, ultimately opening his own practice. The Henry Levy Group includes 30 employees, with four partners and five offices in Northern California. Hank teaches and lectures frequently, is widely quoted as an expert in publications, and appears as a witness for forensic accounting. He is on the boards of North Atlantic Books, and on the finance committee of La Pena. When he’s not working, Hank spends time umpiring baseball several times each week. A father of four and resident of Oakland, Hank possesses a love for data, and hopes to use his passion and expertise to help grow Pogo Park.
Toody is an artist, inventor, and entrepreneur. Born in Canada to British parents, Toody’s family emigrated to Los Angeles in the late ’60’s where she grew up on the beach surfing and playing volleyball. She followed her brother Adrian into sports, becoming one of the first girls in LA to play on a boys little league baseball team. Later she was one of the first Title IX athletes, winning a scholarship to UC Berkeley to play volleyball where she finished First Team All Conference for four consecutive years. After taking off junior year to play professional volleyball in Switzerland, Toody graduated from UC Berkeley in 1983. After graduation, Toody secured the distribution rights to Swatch Watch in the 11 Western States. She set up the regional office, pioneered Swatch’s product launch, and helped to drive sales in her region from $0 in 1983 to $30 million in 1986. After Swatch, she founded a new start-up, Fun Products, which created the world’s first clear telephone with lights (named one of Fortune Magazine’s “Product of the Year” in 1990). In 1990, Toody was named Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year.” Later, she became the Business Director at Juma Ventures, a San Francisco nonprofit that operates businesses that provide jobs and job training to youth at-risk. At Juma, Toody created a series of “social enterprise” businesses, most notably a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream concession at the Giants and ’49ers ballparks that employed 200 at-risk youth each year, ages 14-21, from San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunter’s Point and Mission districts. Thereafter, Toody invented, developed, and patented a number of different products and either sold or licensed them to other companies. She worked as a consultant on a project for a research institute at UCLA, helping to translate their scientific, evidence-based research into formats that people can actually use. It was during this project, when she was working on ways to the overall health and well-being in communities, that she realized that city parks – if properly designed and managed – were a potent vehicle to transform entire communities. This realization led her to found Pogo Park in 2007. Toody has been the recipient of several awards including The Jefferson Award for Public Service, The Comcast Local Hero Award, The Sui Generis Award, and The Woman of the Year for the California Assembly.
As co-founder of the popular scavenger hunt cellphone based game, The Go Game, Ian is a visionary and forward thinking entrepreneur on the subject of turning work into play. After running interactive games on the streets of San Francisco with groups of players who used their phones to solve clues and perform tasks, Ian turned his vision into a bonafide company and a five million dollar business. The Go Game was the first location-based game of its kind. Over the past 15 years, the game has evolved to be a leading provider in corporate team building, running over 100 events a month around the globe, with clients like Facebook, Google and Genentech. Before founding the Go Game, Ian—who hails from New York City—attended the University of Colorado at Boulder and led groups of incarcerated youth on month-long expeditions in the wilderness of Florida with Outward Bound, as well as working with Juma Ventures. Ian is a Berkeley resident and father of three.
Ali is a technologist and savvy mathematician who uses his brainpower to enable high performing teams via algorithms and process excellence. A Bay Area native and UC Davis grad, Ali has been involved in 5 startups dating back to the birth of the internet, using his unique skillset to disrupt several industries while taking multiple companies to an IPO. Ali is currently Chief Operating Officer of Mynd, a tech enabled real estate startup in Oakland. With passions that run deeper than material success, Ali took a two-year break from working after 9/11 to explore his Muslim roots, traveling throughout his home country of Pakistan and other Islamic countries to connect with the past. In his novel “The 5 Pillars: A Journey through the Modern Muslim World,” written after his trip, Ali explores his Muslim identity. Ali has also distinguished himself as a weekly DJ and host of KALX’s A Method to the Madness, featuring interviews with innovative entrepreneurs. Ali is a father of three and resident of Berkeley.
From his early days as a civil rights activist alongside Malcolm X to his current role as a community economic-development consultant, Gus Newport has always been a champion of the people, helping to frame the nature of grassroots community organizing to benefit the underserved. Among his many notable distinctions are his roots in the civil rights movement, where he befriended Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell and helped found the Organization of African American Unity in 1964 before Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965. After serving as mayor of the city of Berkeley for seven years, Gus became director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) project in Boston, the very first example of an impoverished community taking back their neighborhood. Under Gus’s direction the DSNI was able to purchase large properties using eminent domain, allowing local residents to buy homes at affordable costs. The program—which has been ongoing in Boston since 1984—laid the groundwork for what is possible when a neighborhood is run “by and for the people.” Gus has continued to serve on numerous governmental and nonprofit agencies including the advisory board to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina; as faculty of higher education institutions such as Yale, M.I.T., and the University of California; and as a member of U.N. delegations advocating peace and justice. A father of two and resident of Berkeley, most recently Gus has been on the leadership committee of the National Council of Elders, an organization comprised solely of people over 65—each of whom played pivotal roles in the social justice movements of the 20th century—including civil rights, women’s rights, environmental rights, farm workers’ rights, and gay and lesbian rights.
Shyaam is the founder and director of EcoVillage Farm Learning Center and has more than 40 years of leadership experience in public health, sustainable urban agriculture, environmental, social and economic justice in low-income communities. After 28 years as a director in the City of Berkeley’s Health and Human Services Department, Shyaam retired and decided to put his passions to work with inner city youth. In order to create a hands-on nature experience for children, Shyaam partnered with several foundations to establish a five acre eco-farm in the heart of Richmond. Eco Village has been a teaching center, engaging over 5,000 urban kids in the sustainable raising of honey bees, tomatoes, oranges and pumpkins. Shyaam holds a B.S. from Texas Western College at University of Texas at El Paso and a Masters of Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley. For his many contributions, he’s received numerous community service awards; served in the Peace Corps in Nigeria; and has sat on the Boards of Food First, International Child Resource Institute, California Food and Justice Coalition, Consumer Cooperative Federal Credit Union, and Oakland Community Action Partnership to Combat Poverty. A native of Texarkana, AK, Shyaam lives in Richmond, and joined the board of Pogo Park because he is a strong believer in the system approach to problem solving rather than the “quick fix,” “band-aid” or “treating the symptoms” approaches and he believes Pogo Park is on the right track.
As founder of Zakem Coaching + Consulting, Jami has a long track record of mentoring individuals and teams to reach their highest potential. With a talent for identifying people’s strengths, Jami is passionate about bringing out the best in people by tapping into their core skills and innate abilities. Over the course of her professional career, she has been able to apply her skills to a range of organizations, from Bay Area nonprofits to corporations. She began as youth program coordinator at The Volunteer Center of SF and then as the first employee at Juma Ventures, a local nonprofit serving at-risk youth. At Juma Ventures Jami was instrumental in building and scaling their first portfolio of social enterprise operations – Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops and ice cream catering – as well as launching the HR function and youth training & support services. In 2000 Jami moved to the for-profit sector holding leadership roles in sales, account management, and customer support. She built the account management department at AngelPoints where her team supported Fortune 500 companies’ community involvement and volunteer programs. In 2008 Jami joined Yelp where she led customer support retaining more than $500M in revenue and most recently she was VP of Customer Support and Customer Success at Eventbrite. Jami currently lives in Mill Valley, CA with her husband and two children. As a mother of young kids, Jami feels every child deserves to have safe, clean parks to play in. She is inspired by the work Toody and the Pogo Park Community are doing to make a difference in Richmond and is looking forward to contributing her time, resources, and talents (big and small) to Pogo Park.
Galen was with Pogo Park since the beginning, functioning as the first President of Pogo Park’s Board of Directors. He was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer in December 2015 and left us on January 10, 2018. All of Pogo Park’s staff and board are deeply shaken and saddened by the loss of this big-hearted and visionary man. Galen operated at the leading edge of fiscal investment and analysis on a worldwide scale, as a partner at the Capital Group Companies, where he served for 22 years as an analyst and global portfolio manager. With decades of experience managing large investments at the international level, Galen spent his days jetting across the globe while directing a sophisticated hedge fund that had a single focus on semiconductors and consumer electronics throughout Asia and the world. Galen rose to his rank by dreaming big while growing up underprivileged in a small working-class town in Colorado. After gaining acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, he leveraged their program in East Asian studies to learn Mandarin, obtaining the necessary edge to access the international business arena. First traveling in Indonesia, Singapore, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong while sourcing operations for Macy’s, he went on to get his MBA from Columbia Business School and was soon hired by Capital Research as an equity investment analyst. With a proven knack for summing up new fiscal opportunities in an instant, Galen was committed to investing in the next generation. A father of four and resident of Oakland, Galen was introduced to Toody Maher many years ago and knew right away that Pogo Park was special. “Pogo will revolutionize the way parks are imagined, built and operated,” he said, “because they are parks of, by, and for the people of the community. In a riff on Robert Fulham’s great insight, I believe that almost everything we need to know we can learn playing in a healthy playground.”