Kim Close is currently the Chief Operating Officer for the Little Village Community Foundation (LVCF). She began working at the Little Village Chamber of Commerce in 2018 and shortly thereafter created the Little Village Community Foundation (LVCF) to expand the programming capacity for the Xquina Incubator. In her tenure at both organizations, Kim has worked hard to increase the resources and opportunities to the small businesses in Little Village.
Ms. Close takes a holistic approach to achieving the goals of economic development and the creation of equitable livelihood for the residents of Little Village. This approach combines direct investment in the community through educational programs, economic development to create economic impact in Little Village.
As Director of Programming for the LVCF, Kim has overseen three cohorts of Juntos Entrepreneurial Training for entrepreneurs and small business owners, where they develop the skills and expertise needed to grow their business. Kim manages the Road to Recovery fund of $600,000 that distributes micro-grants and technical assistance to small businesses within Little Village. She also manages the Fund for Equitable Business Growth Partnership grant, which provides a network of entrepreneurial resources in Spanish in collaboration with 1871, Btech, FoodHero and FourStar Branding.
Ms. Close is currently on two committees to select and install murals at Manuel Perez Jr. Memorial Plaza and the Learning Landscape educational art installation at a local laundromat to the 26th St. Corridor. She represents LVCF on the Quality of Life Economic Development Committee. In addition, She represents the voice of Little Village business owners on the Small Business Advocacy Council. In 2019, she collaborated with the Chicago Central Area Committee to create a corridor revitalization initiative for Little Village. She also serves on the Richard J. Daley Advisory Board.
Before her work in Little Village, Ms. Close owned a small business for 10 years. This experience taught her about the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship. She previously traded foreign currencies and worked in sales. Kim has a degree in International Relations and a minor in Spanish from Austin College.
Ms. Close currently resides in Evanston, IL.
Lisandra is a Bilingual Latina with a lifelong passion for empowering women and minorities through inclusive entrepreneurship. She brings over ten years experience consulting and training business owners delivering a comprehensive spectrum of solutions from capacity building -- scaling businesses, to competing in the marketplace, and advocacy for equity and access for underserved entrepreneurs.
While serving as Director of the Women's Business Center (WBC) in Chicago, Lisandra spearheaded the Leadership Entrepreneurial Accelerated Development program (LEAD) and the Early Childhood Education Entrepreneurial Program developing bilingual curriculum, leading training, and facilitation of multi-week cohorts targeting start-up & established business owners.
As a result of her passion for social impact, Lisandra’s mission is driving diversity and inclusion as an advocate for black and brown founders.
Cristy Calderon is an accomplished management and communications professional with extensive experience in education, business and non-profits.
As an educator, Ms. Calderon demonstrated her ability to problem solve, create teams and interact within a multi-cultural environment where she created and delivered lessons to individuals interested in cultivating a deep understanding of other languages and cultures. In addition, she worked with private students as well as group classes while participating in their performance evaluation plan integrating learning technology with teaching programs.
Ms. Calderon currently works at the Little Village Community Foundation as a highly valued member of the Foundation’s team. She is responsible for supporting all relationship building, grant management and program initiatives. Her ability to analyze complex technical issues, attention to detail, and overall organizational skills, has brought valued contributions as the Little Village Community Foundation grows to meet the econoomic needs of the Little Village community.
Ms. Calderon has a Bachelors of Arts in English and Communication from East-West University of Chicago, IL and an Associate of Arts Degree in Communication from Harold Washington College. She was born and raised in Little Village where she currently resides.
Born and raised in the Little Village community, her passion for empowering others began in elementary when organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago and After School Matters provided her the necessary resources to become the first in her family to graduate college. Completely humbled and appreciative of the support she received from her community, in 2016 Roxana earned her degree in Communications from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and began her career in the community relations & marketing fields. Now with more than 5 years of experience, Roxana continues to work with organizations that fundamentally change the lives of individuals throughout Cook County and beyond. In her spare time, Roxana serves as a youth mentor and enjoys spending time with animals, especially with her dog Rosy.
Raul Guzman Ayala
Mr. Guzman joined the team at the Foundation of Little Village serving as the Network Operations Manager in February of 2022. His main objective for this role is to create connections between business professionals and emerging entrepreneurs to facilitate strong community development among small businesses in Little Village.
Mr. Guzman’s devotion to serving the community began during his undergraduate career at Carleton College in Minnesota, where he earned a BA in Latin American Studies. There he served as an organizer and advocate for the rights of underserved students within several campus organizations. He also worked closely with immigrant and first-generation elementary school students as a tutor and mentor in Northfield, MN. This experience led him to pursue educational research at the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development. Using data from the robust Minnesota Student Survey, this work resulted in publications about the role of outside-of-school time and post-secondary education goals for Black, Latino, and Native American high school students at the American Education Research Association in 2015 and 2016.
After completing his undergraduate degree, Mr. Guzman provided legal assistance at a Chicago based immigration law firm in 2017, where he continued to support Latinos looking to establish their residency and citizenship within the United States. His commitment to community service continued in 2021 at a Chatham neighborhood high school where he served as a bilingual mentor and after-school program leader.
In his free time, Mr. Guzman enjoys exercising and spending time with his family. He currently resides in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago.
Joining the team in early 2022, Melanie Rockoff is the Little Village Community Foundation’s grant manager.
Previously, she served as senior program advisor at Chicago-based international education nonprofit IES Abroad, overseeing organizational centers in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Granada, Spain; and Santiago, Chile.
She has also worked as a translator for Madrid-based studio Sublime Subtitling & Translation, with a focus in the translation of Spanish-language television and film.
Prior to this role, she spent four years teaching English at public high schools in northern and southern Spain. During this time, she also translated Spanish-language didactic materials for classrooms across Europe, in collaboration with a Zaragoza-based educational consortium.
Early in her career, she worked at nonprofits in Córdoba, Argentina (Asociación Civil: Aprendiendo a Volar) and Santiago, Chile (Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes de Chile)—foundational roles that have served as a professional north star of sorts, fomenting a commitment to and passion for social justice and the third sector.
She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish from Grinnell College, and a Master of Arts degree in Latin American Studies and Management from the Universidad de Granada.
In her free time, Melanie can be found reading, embroidering, and hoping she remembered to turn off the stove.