Category Archives: Member Profiles

Member Profile – Ellen Goldwasser

Ellen Goldwasser is a counselor with an NYC organization called Esperanza, an alternative to incarceration program dedicated to youth, families, and communities. Esperanza began as a demonstration project of the Vera Institute of Justice, and now works to find ways to reduce reliance on out-of-home placement for youth who are adjudicated delinquent in the family court system. Ellen provides therapeutic services to youth and their families, including assessments, intensive family and individual counseling, and crisis intervention.

Ellen’s Spark Story

Before moving to NYC to complete her master’s in social work at Columbia University, Ellen worked at Minami Tamaki, LLP, in San Francisco. One day she was chatting with her co-worker (Steve Ngo) about her interest in women’s rights organizations and he told her she needed to get involved in Spark. Ellen reached out to Spark’s Executive Director, Shannon, and over the next couple of years she joined the investment committee, the Black and Pink Ball committee, and the Spark Champions. When Jenn Wilcox and Ellen moved out to New York around the same time, they were thrilled that there was so much interest in creating a Spark affiliate in NYC.

Favorite Grantee?

YWCHAC – Spark’s first New York grantee. Ellen particularly likes the WE SPEAK program (Women Empowered Support Protect Educate Advocate and Know), which holds weekly events and teaches young women in New York City the skills to empower themselves and to advocate for better sex education programs in New York City Schools.

Why Spark?

Ellen believes that Spark does critical work, both by partnering with and awarding small grants to women’s organizations that might otherwise be overlooked, and also by creating awareness about important issues that impact women locally and globally. She loves the fact that Spark is so democratic and that the leadership is very open to new ideas.

Questions by Proust – Answers by Ellen

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being super busy, surrounded by people I love.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Training my puppy – although it never quite ends, the early stage is the biggest test of patience.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?

Oh man, if I could fly…

What is your most marked characteristic?

Aside from my interpretive hearing, I’m very adventurous – I’m always up for anything.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

A giraffe – they’re so tall and stoic AND they barely require any sleep!

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?

Reliability and trustworthiness. Humor is a great plus, but it’s most important to me to be able to count on someone.

What is your favorite journey?

The summer after I finished college, my sister and I traveled around Africa and Europe for four months, sightseeing and visiting friends. It was one of my favorite experiences and allowed for a lot of sister-bonding time!

Who are your heroes in real life?

Two of the most incredible women I have ever met: Maya Angelou and my grandmother, Lizie Goldwasser.


Member Profile – Jenn Wilcox

This is Jenn.

Jenn Wilcox works for Summit Rock Advisors, an NYC-based investment management firm that provides financial advice and portfolio management to US-based charitable institutions and wealthy, philanthropic families.

Prior to joining Summit Rock in 2010, Jenn spent two years in San Francisco as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, working with public sector entities and municipalities. She graduated from Pomona College in 2008. Jenn has been a board member since 2010, and she founded SparkNYC in 2010 when she moved from San Francisco to New York. Jenn also serves on the Board of Trustees for Pomona College, and on the Social Investment Council for Echoing Green.

Jenn’s Spark Story

After reading an article in the New York Times Magazine about wealthy women directing their philanthropic dollars to issues affecting women and girls, Jenn was inspired. After a few Google searches, Jenn found Women’s Funding Network, a collaborative philanthropic network that connects and strengthens organizations that fund women’s solutions across the globe. In their member directory, Jenn found Spark. She showed up to Spark event, and the rest was history!

Favorite grantee?

Young Women of Color HIV/Aids Coalition (YWCHAC), Spark’s first New York-based grantee

Why Spark?

Spark, to Jenn, represents a thoughtful community of people that she likes, respects, and admires, with whom she can discuss serious issues in the world. As a result of her time with Spark, Jenn has gained an incredible amount of knowledge and insight on women’s issues. Additionally, she’s gained a sense of responsibility and leadership, and a genuine, first-hand belief in Spark’s model.

Oh, and she met her fiancé at Spark event!

Questions by Proust – Answers by Jenn

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Sleeping in with nothing on my schedule

Which talent would you most like to have?

The power to stop time

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Maintaining interest and curiosity in the world, even when I am busy and tired

What is your most marked characteristic?

I am incredibly energetic. Some say I can compete with the Energizer Bunny.

What is the quality you most like in a man?


What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Empathy. Why would they be different?

What do you most value in your friends?

Sincerity and forgiveness

What are you favorite writers?

Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer, David Foster Wallace

What is it that you most dislike?

Being clad in anything with buttons, Velcro, elastic, or a zipper from the waist down and disorganization

Member Profile – Jack Berglund

ImageThis is Jack.

Jack was working for Thomson Reuters as a Product Manager in New York, and recently left the city after 8 years to cultivate his yodeling skills in Switzerland. He has been attending SparkNYC Investment Committee meetings for the last 18 months.

Jack’s Spark Story

Jack knew Ellen Goldwasser, Chair of the SparkNYC Investment Committee, through a mutual friend in San Francisco, and she convinced him to go to an Investment Committee meeting. He was duly impressed by Spark’s mission and loved the approach to finding innovative charities both locally and worldwide.

Favorite grantee?

Young Women of Color HIV/Aids Coalition (YWCHAC), Spark’s first New York-based grantee

Why Spark?

From Spark, Jack gained a true appreciation of many issues facing women worldwide, and a sense of satisfaction from playing a small part in addressing some of those issues. Also, the inclusive atmosphere, and enthusiastic and dynamic people

Favorite Muffin?


What Jack will miss most?

The people

A Note From Jack

A huge thank you to everyone at Spark for making me feel so welcome. I’ll miss you all! I’ll make sure to say Hi whenever I’m back in New York. Look me up if you’re ever in Europe or need a place to stay in Switzerland. I’ll be following the progress of the grantees from afar. Keep up the good work. Spark, you’re awesome!