Aurora’s socially conscious cafe. Pay it forward with food, service, sustainability and kindness.
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Our Team

Director of Communications

Nicholas Richard- Thompson

Nicholas Richard-Thompson, is a Communications Coordinator for the City of Aurora, serves on the Board as a member and is a civically engaged individual in the Aurora community. 


He possesses experience in digital marketing, public and internal communications, and video production. He wishes to support the Cafe in its growth and messaging to the community. Nick believes in being a person of service to others and working alongside the most marginalized and vulnerable, and the Goldfinch Cafe reflects these beliefs. Nick strives to ensure Aurora is a place of generosity, inclusion, and unity by supporting local advocacy groups that share in this goal and work towards this aim. The Goldfinch Cafe is a manifestation of these values with their mission of sustainable community, food, and kindness-creating a place where people can gather, eat, and share a meal as One Aurora.


John Bell

John Bell, M.Div. is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church where he has served for over 25 years and is a faculty member for the Center for Family Consultation. 


After completing a masters of divinity from Duke University, John finished a three-year post-graduate program in Bowen Family Systems Theory and Its Applications at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family.  In addition to his work in his local church, John’s efforts focus on research, writing, blogging, teaching, conferences and coaching individuals, congregations and organizations. John is married with three children and is currently serving Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora, Illinois.

Executive Director

Sheli Massie

Sheli Massie is a twenty-two year resident of downtown Aurora after graduating from Aurora University. She grew up food insecure most of her childhood in western Michigan.


She began working for a nonprofit and in social services immediately and continues and continues to spend  her life serving people living on the margins. Sheli has a passion to build a longer table where dignity is restored and relationships are healed.  She has a heart to serve, a desire to always be inclusive, and a passion for loving people. She is ready to see relationships forged and community being created around the table. Sheli believes within her core that we belong to each other, sometimes we just forget.

Board Director

Jennifer Smith

Wife and mom of four children Jennifer Smith brings 30 years of business experience spanning sales, marketing, operations, learning & development and customer service.


In her current role as Vice President Global Services Operations at a leading SAAS company, Jennifer’s team focuses on driving operational efficiency, service delivery, and customer satisfaction within Global Services. 

With a degree in Communications and a passion for people Jennifer brings to the table a unique ability to lead teams through change, implementation of new processes and procedures and Leadership Development. 

Jennifer also serves as a Session Elder at Fox Valley Presbyterian Church as a board committee leader of The Growing Place Preschool and has a passion for youth ministries serving as a leader on high school youth group service trips. Additionally Jennifer serves on the service trip committee for Love Takes Root, whose mission is “The charitable, education and humanitarian support of children of the developing world for a sustainable future”. 

Jennifer believes everyone should have access to quality meals while having the opportunity to have a place to dine where they can build a community of support. No one should be excluded from the table.

Regional Director

Travis Christopherson

From as far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to run a great restaurant. 24 years ago, my passion for hospitality and service came to life in a small, family owned bar and grill


in Iowa City, Iowa. Over the years, I have had the privilege of opening multiple restaurants with a few different companies. A consistent occurrence in those restaurants was “family meal” before service. Family meal created sense of community that came from cooks, servers, hosts, and managers sitting together, breaking bread, telling stories from their lives both in and out of the restaurant. For some, this was the best quality and possibly only meal of the day. I am proud to support and advance the vision of The Goldfinch Cafe to bring this same sense of community, dignity, and inclusion to those in search for a seat at the table in Aurora.


Julian Prendi

Julian Prendi, finance director for the Village of Skokie, serves as the cafe’s treasurer. He brings over 15 years of experience from public sector finance and organization management. 


His personal goal and the reason he has joined our cause, is the belief that in today’s world (our community included), most people suffer in silence from some form of starvation, be it for physical sustenance or relational connection. He believes The Goldfinch Cafe has the potential to treat both these human conditions by offering a safe and dignified experience at an open community table, where anyone can come, eat, take, give, and be filled alongside their fellow neighbor.

Board Member

Thew Elliott

Thew Elliott is a musician and story-maker who has worked to build connections through song and story in west Michigan, Washington DC, and midcoast Maine. Since family ties

brought him to Aurora in 2018, he has been active as a music director and pianist for music theater classes at Aurora University and the Paramount School of the Arts, as well as for a local church (Wesley UMC). He believes in the power of live performance to change lives, and he believes that spaces where we can see and listen to each other in real time—spaces like the Goldfinch—are essential for creating community.

Gandi Falcon
Board Member

Gandi Falcon

Gandi has been a resident of Aurora for 30 years. He loves the city and is a firm believer of human rights and is an activist for social justice and equity. He enjoys volunteering


for AFS, an organization that promotes peace and inclusion by hosting exchange students from all over the world. He grew up in the restaurant business and has been part of it for the majority of his adult life. Gandi is the owner and operator of Gandi the Juice Guru and Holy Pierogi! He has a passion for world travel and building cardboard boats and racing them is his hobby of choice. His favorite quote is from Mahatma Gandhi “You must be the change you want to see in the world” and he tries to live by it.

Colette Rozanski
Board Member

Colette Rozanski

Colette Rozanski, born and raised in Aurora and now working for her families Aurora based construction company. Colette is the Business Development Director for R.C. Wegman


and 3rd generation of the family business. Colette is passionate about helping others and being a connector. She is excited to bring her lifelong Aurora network together in supporting the mission and concept of the Goldfinch Café.

An alumnus of Illinois State University, Colette received a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a master’s degree in Communications.

In addition to her role at R. C. Wegman, Colette currently serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors for the Chicagoland Association of General Contractors and volunteers for the Fox Valley Park District. Outside of work Colette enjoys spending her time with her husband and son and traveling.

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