Staff

Irfan Ahmed, Programs and Policy Manager

Irfan Ahmed, Programs and Policy Manager

Irfan joins the Mayor's Fund as the Programs and Policy Associate after serving as the Financial Literacy Coordinator at the Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC), a nonprofit organization that provides culturally competent social services to recently arrived immigrants. Irfan joined AAFSC in 2014 as a Development Assistant, where he composed grant proposals for the Adult Education, Legal, Youth and Anti-Violence programs. He also successfully fundraised and designed the first-ever financial literacy initiative called, the Financial Revitalization through Economic Empowerment project, which provides personal economic planning courses and coaching services for immigrants and survivors of domestic violence. Previously, he worked for a variety of nonprofit organizations that specialize in areas of international education, interfaith relations, and global peace and security. Irfan is a graduate of Manhattan College and currently resides in Manhattan.


Daniele Baierlein, Director of Development

Daniele Baierlein, Director of Development

Daniele serves as the Director of Development at the Mayor's Fund. With over 16 years of fundraising and policy experience in New York, Washington, DC and throughout the country, Daniele builds relationships with some of the nation's most active charitable individuals, corporations and foundations to bring significant dollars to support programmatic work across all 5 boroughs aligned with the administration’s agenda. Her prior experience includes positions with Madison Square Garden Company, the Podesta Group, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She serves on the boards of the Hugh O’Brien Youth Foundation NY Metro Chapter, which develops a global community of youth volunteers who are dedicated to leadership and service and is the Co-Chair of the Jenkins Hill Society New York Chapter, a women’s donor network built to close the donor gap. Daniele has a bachelor's in environmental conservation and political science from the University of New Hampshire. While working full time, she earned a Juris Doctor at the Catholic University of America School of Law. A native of Long Island, she currently lives in Manhattan.


Fred Begley, Director of Finance & Operations

Fred Begley, Director of Finance & Operations

Fred brings over twelve years of experience in non-profit management, with a focus on finance and operations to The Mayor’s Fund. Prior to joining, Fred was the Director of Finance and Administration at the Institute of Play Inc. in New York City; Director of Operations for Animal Haven, a New York City No Kill Animal Shelter. In addition, Fred served as Director of Finance & Administration for The CityKids Foundation and Artists Striving to End Poverty, two internationally-recognized, New York City-based organizations that serve at risk, impoverished and marginalized youth. He received his BA from Purchase College and Master’s in Public Affairs from Baruch College.


Darren Bloch, Executive Director

Darren Bloch, Executive Director

Darren Bloch currently serves as the Executive Director of The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City and Counsel to the Mayor's Office of Strategic Partnerships. In directing the Mayor's Fund, Darren oversees the overall management of the Fund and leads the Fund's effort to foster public-private partnerships between City agencies, the private sector and philanthropy. Darren brings over two decades of experience building partnerships and advancing programs and policies across government, the private sector and civic spaces, including positions with the New York City Council, Con Edison, New York City Public Advocate's Office, Capitol Publishing, and the Empire State Development Corporation. Bloch graduated with a BA from Middlebury College and received his JD from New York Law School. He is a native New Yorker and resides in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters.


Donté Donald, Director of Public Affairs

Donté Donald, Director of Public Affairs

Donté Donald joined the Mayor's Fund to Advance NYC in 2017 as the Director of Public Affairs. In his role, he provides strategic planning and oversight for communications and public affairs, with a particular focus on efforts intersecting with city partners, including the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships and the First Lady Chirlane McCray. He previously worked as a national spokesperson for Hillary for America, where he focused on promoting and engaging the media on Secretary Clinton’s economic and domestic policy agenda. Prior to this, Donté helped lead communications at Demos and the Economic Policy Institute, two of the most respected economic policy think tanks in the nation.


YooRae Choi, Development Associate

YooRae Choi, Development Associate

YooRae Choi serves as the Development Associate for the Mayor’s Fund. She was born in South Korea and immigrated to the United States at a young age and grew up in New Jersey. She graduated from Montclair State University, where she received a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in African American Studies and Studio Art. Prior to joining the Mayor's Fund, she served in both the arts and the non-profit sector by serving in institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Rubin Museum and the Foundation Center.


Chris Kelsaw, Finance Manager

Chris Kelsaw, Finance Manager

Chris joins the Mayor's Fund as Finance Manager, bringing over 15 years' experience in Finance and Operations in the non-profit, public and private sectors. Her prior employment includes serving as the Finance Manager at Women Make Movies for five years, as well as tenures at the International Center of Photography, Standard Insurance and the City of Lake Oswego. Chris is a graduate of Virginia Union University and is originally from Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in Brooklyn since moving to New York in 2005.


Cynthia Olson, Senior Advisor - Communications

Cynthia Olson, Senior Advisor - Communications

Cynthia advises on messaging and promotion for the Mayor’s Fund in a range of program areas, including youth employment and workforce development, mental health awareness, and addressing inequities to improve community health outcomes for underserved communities. Cynthia brings over 15 years of communications experience to this role, with expertise in message development, crisis communications, and media and digital strategy working with leading national nonprofits and foundations. Prior to joining the Mayor’s Fund, Cynthia was Chief Communications Officer for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She has held leadership positions with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Planned Parenthood of New York City and the Nike Foundation for Girls. Active in her community in Brooklyn, Cynthia volunteers with the elderly and was a founding board member of Minds Matter, NYC. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Edinburgh, UK, and a Bachelor’s degree from George Mason University.


Sophie Pauze, Programs and Policy Manager

Sophie Pauze, Programs and Policy Manager

Sophie joins the Mayor's Fund as a Programs and Policy Manager. Prior to joining the Mayor's Fund, Sophie worked at the Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), within the Mayor's Office of Operations, where she supported a portfolio focused on youth employment and education. In line with her focus at CEO, Sophie held multiple leadership roles at Cambridge Coaching, a tutoring company that employs fair labor practices while supporting a pipeline of future educators. She led the expansion of the business, multiplying the size of its client base and tutoring team, and initiated its first ever non-profit partnerships. Previously, she worked as a fundraiser for Citizen Schools, a national non-profit focused on expanding the learning day for underserved youth. Outside of work, Sophie is a board member for the New York City chapter of the international organization, Amigos de Las Americas. Sophie graduated with honors from Dartmouth College, and completed a Master's in Public Administration at the NYU Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. She moved to Brooklyn from France at aged seven, and has called the borough home ever since.


Cesaryna Pena, Special Assistant

Cesaryna Pena, Special Assistant

Cesaryna Pena is the Special Assistant at the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. Prior to joining the Mayor's Fund, Cesaryana was an Administrative Assistant at a small middle-market investment banking firm while completing a full-time course load at Medgar Evers College. Cesaryna graduated with a Bachelor's in Public Administration in May 2015. She has also interned with the Fiscal Operations department at the Mayor's Office as well as with the public relations department at Bloomberg LP. Cesaryna was born in New York City and lives in upper Manhattan with her parents and three younger brothers.


Leah Prestamo, Senior Programs and Policy Manager

Leah Prestamo, Senior Programs and Policy Manager

Leah Prestamo joins the Mayor’s Fund as the Senior Programs and Policy Manager. Prior to joining the Mayor’s Fund, Leah worked as in-house legal counsel for the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA), a national nonprofit. At NACA, Leah focused on regulatory compliance, contracts, and litigation for the organization’s loan brokerage and housing counseling programs. Leah has worked for a wide range of local, national, and international nonprofits in New York, Boston, India, and Hong Kong, focusing primarily on food policy and access to legal and social services. She received a BA in philosophy from Adelphi University in 2008, a JD from Boston University in 2012, and a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Hong Kong in 2008-2009. Leah currently lives in upper Manhattan.


Toya Williford, Director of Programs and Policy

Toya Williford, Director of Programs and Policy

Toya leads the Programs and Policy division of the Mayor's Fund with over 15 years of experience in philanthropic services, program and organizational development, and community organizing. Prior to joining the Mayor's Fund, Toya served as the Program Director at the Brooklyn Community Foundation, the first and only foundation solely dedicated to Brooklyn's charitable community. Committed to the advancement of her community, Toya takes special interest in policy related to education and youth development, environmental sustainability, economic development, health and human services, and workforce development. She received a Master's degree in Urban Studies from Cleveland State University and a Bachelor's degree in Rural Sociology from Cornell University. She currently lives in Bedford Stuyvesant with her two children.