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Origami Works Foundation seeks to help Chicagoland's most impoverished citizens overcome barriers to earning a living. We remove obstacles to employment and make opportunities more visible. We work with community-based organizations, educational institutions, employers, and government agencies to identify opportunities to enable people to work. Then we partner with appropriate organizations, and fund and often staff and execute projects to meet our mutual goals. 

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Dani Houchin
Executive Director

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Dani's commitment to addressing workforce issues across Chicagoland is palpable and it inspires the people around her.

January Miller, Embarc

Dani (she/her) is the Executive Director and Managing Trustee of Origami Works Foundation. Dani spent most of her career as a management consultant, helping organizations of all kinds and sizes enhance the performance of their employees, through learning initiatives, change management efforts, and process improvements. Now she applies those skills to enhancing opportunity for Chicagoans seeking to overcome barriers to employment, opportunity youth, and first generation college students. 

A first-generation college graduate herself, Dani has a degree in Public & International Affairs from Princeton University, and a Masters in Instructional Technology from Columbia University. She also completed doctoral level coursework at Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy.

Tami (she/her) is the Program Officer at Origami Works Foundation providing support and direction on a variety of projects both past and present. She has spent her career in a diverse set of roles and sectors, including Office Management, Human Resources, and was the creator and proprietor of a small online crafts business for several years. Tami's unique career path has given her an ability to adapt and innovate, and she now uses that skill to help Origami Works Foundation succeed in its partnerships with Chicagoland workforce organizations.

Tami is a first-generation college graduate with a BA in Theatre & Dance from The University of Texas at Austin. In addition to her work with Origami Works Foundation she is a writer, performer, and advocate for the empowerment of girls and women.

Tami Hillberry
Program Officer

Allison Pearls

Allison Harju
Operations Manager

Allison (she/her) is the Operations Manager for Origami Works Foundation. Allison is responsible for many critical tasks that, when done well,  often go unnoticed. Her responsibilities include human resources, bookkeeping, payroll, benefits, compliance, grants administration, website maintenance and general operations. Allison is both a people person and a numbers person; she is creative and consistent, reliable and thorough.  

Allison earned her Associate in Arts from William Rainey Harper College and completed additional coursework in psychology, sociology & criminal justice. Allison has years of experience working behind the scenes making sure organizations run smoothly for employees, clients, and business partners. Allison is also a certified yoga instructor.


As Director of Operations, Ann (she/her) helps to foster a positive and productive culture at Origami Works Foundation. She works with individual employees and project teams to help incorporate our vision, mission, and beliefs into everything we do. 

Early in her career, Ann was a counselor at a group home for justice-involved teenagers. There she saw the many barriers they faced in education, (trying to enter) the workforce, and life in general. Ann returned to school to study how people and groups learn and develop. For over 25 years, Ann applied her knowledge and experience to software programs and more recently to workforce development programs.  Ann is a steadfast advocate for accessibility, inclusion, and equity for all - especially people who face barriers.

Ann B. Brownell
Director of Operations


Austin Morales-Sanchez
Project Management Fellow

Austin (he/him) is the Project Management Fellow at Origami Works Foundation and is engaging and assisting with several strategic projects over the next year, including the blog, a new contact management system, the 2023 Workforce Development Symposium and others.

As a first generation student, Austin received a BA in Chemistry from Princeton University and conducted research on microtubules. He is also a rock climbing enthusiast, a film fanatic, and a sneakerhead. His favorite movie is Te Llevo Conmigo and plans to continue developing his rock climbing expertise and expanding his sneaker collection.

Austin volunteered as an ESL instructor at El Centro in Trenton, New Jersey and worked as a Rock Climbing Wall Coordinator for Princeton University’s Climbing Wall. Both of these experiences have contributed to Austin's professional skills and cultivated his passion for the empowerment of marginalized communities.

Lizzie (she/her) is the Summer 2024 Public Relations Intern for the Origami Works Foundation. She is responsible for compiling a social media and general publicity proposal for the workforce development book that Origami Works is writing. Previously, she has worked in sales, social media management, banking, education, and recently was a peer mentor to college students with Autism. Lizzie’s diverse work experience has equipped her with the perfect skillset to support Origami Works and its publicity efforts.


As a first-generation student, Lizzie is pursuing a BA in General Studies at Aurora University. In her professional life, she is interested in community building and helping to develop connections between different groups of people. Outside of work, Lizzie enjoys travel, backpacking, yoga, and fiber arts. Lizzie looks forward to learning more about the nonprofit world while expanding her knowledge on the benefits of workforce development at Origami Works Foundation this summer.

Lizzie Heick
Public Relations Intern


Janat Iman Nakawungu
Project Management Intern

Janat (she/her) is the Project Management Intern at Origami Works Foundation, where she supports the planning and management of projects, such as Origami Works’ upcoming workforce development book. In school, she recently had the opportunity to participate in a transformative Academic Service Learning (ASL) project, where her team helped to enhance a company's operational efficiencies and online presence; she looks forward to applying the skills she’s learned in the classroom to some of Origami Works’ ongoing projects. 


Janat is a first-generation student, currently pursuing a degree in Information Technology from DePaul University. She is particularly interested in how technology can streamline everyday processes. Outside of her academic life, Janat loves to engage in diverse activities; she sings in a choir, enjoys embarking on adventurous trips, and is always eager to try new experiences that broaden her perspective and skills. As Janat continues her journey at the foundation, she is looking forward to developing her project management and collaboration skills.

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