Often, big ideas come out of long road trips. In 2010, two Chicago moms, Kristina Lowenstein and Catherine Tannen were driving their kids to camp when they shared a wish to do more community service with their families. Before having kids, they both actively volunteered but now it wasn’t so easy – their lives were hectic. They wanted to connect their kids to the issues they faced every day like hunger and pollution but struggled to find meaningful volunteer projects that welcomed people of all ages.
Kristina and Catherine created The Honeycomb Project in January, 2011 in celebration of MLK Jr. Day of Service. Since then, more than 4,00o volunteers have joined Honeycomb to improve our communities and learn first-hand about local issues like river health, homelessness and literacy. It’s a busy hive.
We put families—not just individuals—at the forefront of our mission to effect change. Teens, toddlers, parents and grandparents have volunteered with us to build trails and hoop houses, prepare meals for the hungry, clean city beaches, bring cheer to hospital patients and more. Families from more than 60 Chicago communities have volunteered with us.
The Honeycomb Project is dedicated to working with partner organizations who serve at-risk, homeless and low income individuals and families, and improving natural and recreational areas in under-served and impoverished neighborhoods. Our projects address critical issues:
Hunger/Homelessness – 32%
Environment – 29%
Seniors – 15%
Education/Community Arts – 13%
Health & Wellness – 11%
“What a great way to teach our kids about volunteering and preserving nature. They absolutely loved helping out and I had a great time too!” (Parent, Gompers Park Project)
“Honeycomb fills a real void by providing kid-friendly volunteer opportunities. We loved it!” (Parent, 63rd Street Beach Clean Up Project)
“We had such a great time as a family, and the kids LOVED participating in something that was about helping others. I really think they learned a lot, and also got to meet some other fantastic families.” (Parent, Greater Chicago Food Depository Project)
“Honeycomb brings organized, friendly staff to help lead the workday with us while bringing new families to our park and programs.” (Anonymous, Partner Organization)
Board of Directors
Marcia Festen is an independent consultant to foundations and nonprofits, with expertise in the process of giving and philanthropy, program development, and evaluation. She has more than 27 years of experience in the field. Since 2006, Marcia’s firm has been contracted to manage the Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development, a funder collaborative that provides grants to help strengthen the management and operations of small arts and cultural organizations. She is co-author of Level Best: A Step-by-Step Guide to Evaluation for Grassroots Nonprofits and How Effective Nonprofits Work: A Guide for Donors, Board Members and Foundation Officers. Marcia joined the Honeycomb board after participating in several family volunteer events with her two daughters and her partner and seeing first hand how high quality, organized opportunities can impact volunteers and communities.
Co-Founder and President
Kristina Lowenstein has more than a decade of experience in the nonprofit world that includes The Field Museum and the Chicago 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Bid. After earning her undergraduate degree from New York University, she spent several years in New York City working with World Hunger Year and the New York City Bar Legal Clinic for the Homeless. She is currently pursuing a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Kristina resides in Chicago with her husband and two kids.
Gabrielle Martinez is co-founder and Managing Partner of agencyEA. After receiving a degree in Economics and Spanish from Lake Forest College, Gabrielle honed her skills in the hospitality and catering industry, eventually founding agencyEA with husband Fergus Rooney. As Managing Partner, Gabrielle oversees the agency’s talent, culture and growth. For the past consecutive three years, she has served as lead designer of The White House holiday décor, managing the theme, creative design and logistical execution. Along with her two daughters, Gabrielle regularly volunteers with The Honeycomb Project. She resides in Chicago with her family.
Fergus Rooney is CEO of agencyEA, an experiential and event marketing agency based in Chicago. Fergus received a degree in Hospitality Management from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and in 1999, founded EA with his wife Gabrielle Martinez. Since then, they have executed large-scale events for notable clients including The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Obama Administration, General Electric and Boeing. Throughout his two-decade career, Fergus has demonstrated a commitment to the non-profit sector. He consistently contributes the talents and time of EA to non-profit organizations such as Near North Montessori and Lurie Children’s Hospital. Fergus resides in Chicago with his wife Gabrielle and their two daughters who regularly volunteer with the Honeycomb Project.
Ruth Swibel is a learning specialist with expertise in literacy development and language-based learning difficulties. After earning a master’s degree in Education from Harvard University, Ruth worked at schools in Atlanta and Chicago, where she supported students with learning disabilities. Ruth also develops and teaches custom reading and writing development workshops for parents and teachers. Her volunteer experiences have included participating in the launch of a conflict-resolution program for middle school children, working at an anti-corruption nonprofit organization in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and participating in Honeycomb volunteer events with her two daughters.
Co-Founder/ Vice President and Treasurer
Catherine Tannen received her undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, earned a juris doctor from Boston University School of Law. She works as a staff and contract attorney impart for the Cook County Public Guardian’s Office representing foster children in abuse and neglect cases, litigating civil rights lawsuits on behalf of foster children and advocating for adults with disabilities. Her volunteer experiences include working as a rape crisis counselor, teaching refugee children in Costa Rica and working with a women’s cooperative in Nicaragua. Catherine lives in Chicago with her husband and two kids.
Matt Taylor received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley and received an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Matt has worked in advertising for the past 8 years, he currently handles new business development at a multi-cultural advertising agency. He served as the Vice President of Community Relations for Kellogg and started a volunteer organization, My Own Two Hands, which organizes monthly volunteer events for young professionals in Chicago.