Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, CSJ – Executive Director
Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, the Executive Director of Hour Children, began her work with families impacted by incarceration when she became a foster parent in 1986 to eight children of incarcerated mothers at the convent where she lived. In 1992, she founded Hour Children as a nonprofit organization to offer supportive services to other children of incarcerated mothers and the mothers themselves. Prior to that, she was responsible for New York State curriculum oversight for Catholic elementary schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn and both a school principal and teacher at various Catholic elementary schools. In addition to being an educator, she is a Certified Foster Care Trainer. Sister Tesa has been named a CNN Hero (2012), a White House Champion of Change (2013), the 2014 winner of the Opus Prize, and in 2015 was awarded the Cross Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice. In 2017, she was named to the Irish American Hall-of-Fame.
Alessandra Rose – Deputy Executive Director
Alessandra Rose serves Hour Children as the organization’s Deputy Executive Director. In this role, she provides support to Hour Children’s various programs and services, as well as to the Executive Director. Alessandra’s affiliation with prison programming began more than 12 years ago when she and her family first became a host family for children visiting their mothers at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. Since then, she has served as Director of the Children’s Center at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, as well as Hour Children’s Director of Development and a member of its Board of Directors. She holds a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.B.A. from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.
Linda Manzione – Program Director
Linda Manzione, our Program Director, is responsible to direct Hour Children’s supportive programs for families, including any community outreach services. This includes Hour Mentoring Program (adult mentoring), Hour Friend in Deed (mentoring for children of incarcerated parents), Hour Early Learning Program (daycare), Hour After-School Club, Hour Summer Camp, and Hour Community Food Pantry. She manages on-site programs and the day-to-day activities and supervision of coordinators and staff.
Shamika Vargas, L.C.S.W. – Director of Mental Health
Shamika Vargas is our Director of Mental Health Services at Hour Children and is also an advisor at Columbia University’s School of Social Work. Prior to joining Hour Children’s team, Shamika coordinated all social service practice and programming at Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT). She also provided in-home clinical counseling and case management services as an Aftercare Social Worker and directed family reunification casework practice as a Social Work Supervisor at the Jewish Childcare Association (JCCA). Shamika has facilitated individual and group interventions with adults and families involved in New York City family and criminal courts for the past ten years. She received her B.S.W. from Marist College and her M.S.W from Columbia University.
Rob Zopf – Development Director
Rob Zopf, Development Director, is responsible for the fundraising, marketing, and publicity efforts of the organization. Prior to joining Hour Children, Rob was the Executive Director at The Sharing Community in Yonkers, which provided a variety of services to the homeless and hungry. He has nearly three decades of experience working with non-profit educational organizations that assist children and the less fortunate. Rob has a B.A. from C.W. Post College and an M.A. from Long Island University.
Jane Silfen – Hour Children’s Center of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
Holding positions of increasing responsibility at The Children’s Center at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility over the past eight years, Jane Silfen currently serves as the program’s director. In this capacity, she oversees Hour Children’s family services and nursery programs at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility and supports Hour Children’s work at Taconic Correctional Facility as well. She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of our efforts, including transportation and visitation services, parenting education, advocacy, the Teen/Pre-Teen Program, and the Nursery Program. Serving as liaison between Hour Children and facility administration, Jane also represents the organization to outside sources, including the media, advocacy groups, and community organizations. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and earned a J.D. from the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.
Johanna Flores – Hour Working Women Reentry Program Coordinator
Johanna Flores, Hour Working Women Reentry Program (HWWRP) Coordinator, has worked her way up the ladder at Hour Children. Hired in July 2003 as the Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director, she was promoted to Building Manager in 2006. In November 2007, she was promoted to the position of HWWRP Coordinator. As coordinator, she is responsible for managing the program, including training formerly incarcerated women and connecting them to jobs. She has established partnerships with dozens of community and service organizations to support her program and provide job training and employment to HWWRP clients. The program is also approved by HRA, which now allows women to receive job training instead of sweeping the streets – a major milestone for Hour Children. Johanna is currently working towards a Bachelor of Science with a major in Business Management, attending classes in the evening. She served on the Board from 2009 to 2013.
Kellie Phelan – Hour Friend in Deed Program and Hour Teen Scene Coordinator
Since March 2009, Kellie Phelan has been the Program Coordinator for Hour Children’s Hour Friend in Deed Mentoring Program and Hour Teen Scene Program. Kellie started working for the program in 2007 as the assistant coordinator before being promoted. In May 2008, she received a certificate from NYC/DOHMH Bureau of Maternal Infant and Reproductive Health. She has also attended multiple National MCP Conventions, where she learned about mentoring children of incarcerated parents. In November 2009, Kellie was picked to be a grant reviewer for the Family and Youth Services Bureau. In March 2010, she received a Mentoring Supervision certificate from Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City. For the past nine years, Kellie has worked with hundreds of children whose parents are either incarcerated or formerly incarcerated.