Board of Directors
Executive Director of the Cayuga Medical Center Foundation
I have spent over 20 years as a fundraising professional, largely in higher education and healthcare, serving in the roles of frontline giving officer, program manager, and leader. During my career I have been deeply involved in annual, major and planned giving.
Prior to my current position I was Associate VP for Advancement at Ithaca College. Prior to moving to Ithaca, I spent eight years working in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Syracuse University, first as a major gifts officer, then as the Assistant Dean for Advancement.
I have always been involved in the community, Some of the organizations I support include the Rotary Club of Ithaca, Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas; the Pinnacle Academy of Fine Arts (Fort Worth, Texas); Adapt CNY, Inc.; and Leadership Greater Syracuse.
Sr. Director, Finance at Cornell University
I grew up in Vestal, NY and moved to Florida after I graduated. After spending 30 years in Florida and Virginia, I wanted to come home to upstate NY. I enjoy skiing in the winter and boating and gardening in the summer.
I would include my younger years of 22 and the 2 years since I’ve been back. 24 years.
Once I came back to NY, I was looking for a way to give back to the community with the skills I’ve acquired throughout my career as well as experience the pride in people’s faces when they achieve their goals, no matter what those goals are. I enjoy participating on the board and helping to move Challenge forward so that many others can achieve their goals.
Associate Vice President – Student and Campus Life Cornell Univ.
After graduating from Ithaca College I fell in love with the area.
After living and working in Syracuse for a number of years, I returned to Ithaca to build a home with my husband, raise our children and work at Cornell University. I am inspired by the mission of Challenge in providing growth opportunities for our community members who face barriers to employment.
Through the years, I have seen the Cornell community and our students benefit greatly from our relationships and interactions with Challenge employees. I look forward to learning more about the organization and helping to contribute to its success.
Joe C. Mareane
I spent most of the past 40 years working in local government, first with the City of Syracuse, then with Onondaga County, and finally with Tompkins County before retiring in 2018. My lifetime commitment to public service was incredibly fulfilling; giving me many opportunities to improve my community and the lives of the people who lived there. It’s a terrible cliche, but I entered local government, and stayed there, because I liked helping people.
I’m very happy to now be a part of a Challenge organization that is so passionate about helping those it serves, and so capable in delivering the services they need. Being on the Board will allow me to apply whatever skills and insights I’ve gained to help empower managers and staff and, most of all, maximize the support Challenge provides to those with disabilities or barriers.
Kensa Group, LLC
I was born in Ithaca; returned for college at Cornell; returning once again to start a business and raise a family. The beauty and diversity of the region and the people are a unique treasure.
Professionally, I have come to realize over the years that successful businesses are built upon a common foundation with a diversity of skills and experiences. The foundation is built upon three characteristics – intelligence, caring and a demanding nature. Through my exposure to the Challenge workforce I have learned that these three characteristics reside in the clients. I look forward to learning from Challenge and contributing when possible in this new experience.
Branch Manager at Tompkins Trust Company
In 2016, I was fortunate to be able to attend some Challenge events and was moved and inspired by the people I met and their stories. The dream of employment for all and the work Challenge does to help people get there is an endeavor I wish to be involved with any way I can.
President & CEO at Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce
Jennifer Tavares is the President & CEO of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, a progressive chamber and destination marketing organization with the goals of growing, supporting, and promoting local businesses and the tourism economy; advocating for sound economic development and the free enterprise system; and investing in projects which improve quality of life and economic conditions in Tompkins County.
Previously, Ms. Tavares served as the Director of Economic Development for Chenango County, NY, working at Commerce Chenango on behalf of the county’s lead economic development organization and industrial development agency. Ms. Tavares also has experience leading a 350 member chamber of commerce in Potsdam, NY, and started her career in the private sector, working for a small manufacturer in northern New York.
Ms. Tavares currently serves on the board of Tompkins County Area Development, the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency, the Tompkins County Workforce Development Board, the Air Services Board, the United Way of Tompkins County, the Tompkins County Energy Task Force, and the BOCES Career and Tech Ed Advisory Council.
Ms. Tavares is a potter specializing in wheel-thrown and hand-built wares, an avid runner and reader. She and her husband Nathan have two children, and relocated to Lansing, NY in 2014.
Chief Executive Officer for GORGES
I arrived in Ithaca in 1989 to attend the Johnson Graduate School of Management and never left. I met my wife here and raised my family here and believe it is a great place to live.
After earning an MBA from Cornell I spent 20 years running a Data Description, statistics software company. We used Challenges services to package our manuals and CDs into boxes that would be shipped to customers around the world. The Challenge staff was always upbeat and professional. Currently I manage GORGES, Inc, a custom software development company located here in Ithaca.
I believe that Challenge is an important resource to Tompkins County, and I am excited to be part of the Board and to help Challenge be a strong and vibrant organization.
Principal and Cofounder, Empowerment by Design
My wife Cristin and I came to Ithaca 16 years ago to raise our family and enjoy the wonderful lifestyle upstate NY has to offer.
As an Occupational Therapist and ergonomics consultant I understand the disability employment issues facing our community.
Every day I interact with so many who have benefited from Challenge. The best part… I almost never know who they are! It is for that reason — because Challenge is such an integral part of our community, making our workforce and economy stronger I want to do my part to ensure that Challenge Workforce Solutions continues to deliver its services.
Director of Special Education at Ithaca City School District
I came to Ithaca in 1988 because of my husband; he was pursuing graduate work at Cornell. We ultimately decided to make Ithaca our home since we loved living here and decided it would be a great place to raise a family. 28 years later we’re still here and couldn’t be happier with our decision! I was honored to be asked to join the Challenge Board, as I’ve been involved in special education since before I came to Ithaca, first as a teacher and then as an administrator. As Director of Special Education for the Ithaca City School District for the past 12 years, I see my involvement with Challenge as an extension of what I do everyday on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families.
Hilton Garden Inn – Ithaca
Growing up just outside of Ithaca and living locally most of my life has afforded me the opportunity to embrace and discover all Ithaca and the Finger Lakes Region has to offer. Personally, my family and I enjoy the diverse culture and regional beauty of what we claim to be our own backyard, while professionally I welcome thousands of visitors from around the globe who travel here to see and enjoy what I am fortunate to call home daily! Working in the hospitality industry my entire career, I really appreciate the vibrant and eclectic culture our small city offers each visitor.
I started working with Challenge early in my career, as a resource to help support staffing needs within my hotel, Challenge is a vital resource for our community and it is a great honor to grow my relationship and continue to support Challenge’s mission now as a member of the board.