Robert Gannett

Robert Gannett, ICE's Executive Director, has worked as a community organizer in Chicago since 1972. During that time, he has helped residents address issues of redlining, property value protection, affordable homeownership, local school governance, and restoration of publicly funded mental health services in Chicago communities. He helped draft and pass the Chicago School Reform Act of 1988, the Home Equity Assurance Act of 1988, and the Community Expanded Mental Health Services Act of 2011 through his work with the CURE Coalition, Northwest and Southwest Federations, and Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Centers, respectively.

Robert has an A.B. from Harvard University and a M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago's Committee on Social Thought. He is the author of Tocqueville Unveiled: The Historian and His Sources for The Old Regime and the Revolution.

He and his wife Joanne live in the Uptown community.


ICE Board includes the following community leaders in Chicago’s communities:

Pat Vader

Pat Vader, ICE's chairperson, grew up in the North Lawndale and Austin communities and currently resides with her husband in Montclare. She was active for 20 years as a founding Board member of the Northwest Neighborhood Federation and served as its secretary and real estate committee chair. The former director of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Pat currently leads ICE's Board committee developing its Citizens Now Program.

She is most proud of being part of ICE's current efforts to help Chicago residents "dream the dream and achieve the reality" of new mental health services, affordable homes, and action civics for 5th and 6th graders.


Valencia Hardy

Valencia Hardy grew up on the Near North Side and currently resides in Bronzeville. She received her initial training in community organizing in a series of leadership classes at the Lugenia Burns Hope Center led by Barack Obama. She has been active for a decade with Housing Bronzeville, helping to lead its fight for affordable homes on 500 city-owned vacant lots in her community.

Valencia is most proud of ICE's progress in helping residents create mental health centers and steering youth towards civic responsibility and knowledge, as well as contributing to the Hope Center's affordable homeownership campaign.


Vern Vader

Vern Vader, ICE’s treasurer, grew up in the Logan Square community and currently resides with Pat in Montclare.  During the 1980s, he was a founding Board member of the Northwest Neighborhood Federation, serving for eight years as its chair. He currently serves as a member of the Governing Commission of the Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program, helping to oversee the guaranteed home equity program that the Federation helped create.

Vern is most proud of ICE's work in taking on City Hall and helping them realize there is more than one way to solve a problem.



Joyce grew up in West Humboldt Park and currently lives in the Norwood Park community. She served as chair of the Citizen Action Program's Anti-Crosstown Coalition in the early 1970s and helped bring local community organizing to the northwest side as a chair of the Organizing Committee for the Northwest Side, founded in 1976. She has worked for 30 years as a clinical therapist III at the city's North River Mental Health Center and is the current president of the Governing Commission of the North River Expanded Mental Health Services Program.

She is most proud of ICE for stirring the "fire in the belly" of communities across the city.


Diane plotkin

Diane Plotkin grew up in the South Shore community and currently resides in Lincoln Park. After graduating from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, she worked for 25 years as a clinical therapist at the city's North River Mental Health Center. Concerned with the imminent closure of the city's clinics, she became a founding Board member and continues to serve as chair of the Coalition to Save Our Mental Health Centers, both as it resisted those closures and helped develop the city-wide Expanded Mental Health Centers Program.

Diane is most proud of ICE's work in helping residents in the North River community open their own mental health center.


Al Robinson

Al Robinson grew up in the Woodlawn community and currently resides downtown. He is the president of Insurers Review Services of Chicago. He also serves as president of the Urban Development Corporation, an extension of Provident Hospital's former development efforts. He was a recipient of the SON/SOC Coalition's "One Person Does Make a Difference Award," leading the Chicago Tribune to congratulate him in an editorial and nominate him for a Nobel Prize if he could bring his childhood friend, Mayor Harold Washington, and the Chicago City Council together in that era.

Al is most proud of ICE's work as an organization that truly makes a difference for people to take more responsibility for their own communities.