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About Us

We invest in the lives of Chicago's youth through Christ-centered, Life-on-Life relationships.

Our Mission & Vision

At GRIP Outreach For Youth, our mission is to invest in the lives of Chicago’s youth through Christ-centered, Life-on-Life relationships. We have a vision for thousands upon thousands of kids to grow into solid Christian adults who will positively impact and contribute to society, their communities, their churches, and their families.


Sharing the Life-Changing Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

The Gospel is the cornerstone of everything we do at GRIP. Our goal is to do ministry just as Jesus did, serving with love, compassion, humility, and an unrelenting commitment to spreading the Gospel of Truth. It is our hope that this commitment will help lead many of our youth into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20)


Building Life-on-Life, God-Glorifying, Disciple-Making Relationships

Building biblical relationships based on honesty, trust, and love is vitally important to accomplishing our mission. We believe that the real impact of GRIP’s ministry takes place outside the walls of our programs, when our youth and adult volunteers are walking life together. We know it is essential for our youth to hear what the Scripture teaches about how God wants them to live, but we also believe they need to see firsthand what living a gospel-centered life looks like. This is why we are committed to equipping our staff and volunteers with the training they need to be godly examples to our youth. (1 Corinthians 4:15, Philippians 3:17)


Plugging Youth into the Word of God & into the Community of God

We believe that the Word of God is essential for the sustenance and growth of our faith and the faith of our youth. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

In addition, plugging young believers into local churches is another vital component of our ministry. We aspire to see our youth become vibrant, growing participants within the local church body, where solid teaching and the support of many God-honoring men and women will surround them. We believe that immersion and participation in the local church is an essential step in the transformational process of learning to serve God and others. (Hebrews 10:24-25)


Preparing Youth for Their Future

We desire to provide our youth with practical life-skills they will need as adults. GRIP is committed to providing programs that will teach our youth how to work, communicate, and lead so they can be effective contributors to their communities, jobs, churches, and families. (Proverbs 12:14)

Our Pillars

Each letter in the word GRIP represents one of our pillars:

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Meet Our Staff

Anwar Smith

Executive Director

Anwar Smith was named the Executive Director of GRIP Outreach For Youth effective April 4, 2022. In this role, he is responsible for the organization’s strategy, development and operations, reporting to the Board of Directors.

Prior to joining GRIP, Anwar was Managing Director of Program Operations for By The Hand Club for Kids, a Christian ministry in Chicago. He has also served in leadership roles at the Salvation Army and Rawhide Boys Ranch. Anwar has also been serving as an Associate Pastor at Living Word Church in Lansing, Il for the past 12 years, 9 of which he was been the youth pastor. He has spent more than 20 years communicating God’s love and hope in urban, suburban and rural settings both in the U.S. and abroad. Anwar holds a Masters of Education in Educational Psychology from the University of Illinois, Chicago and a Bachelors of Arts in Christian Ministry from Taylor University. He loves watching football, and going fishing and camping with his kids. Anwar currently resides in Lansing, IL with his wife Michelle and their two biological children. Anwar and his wife have been actively involved in foster care and have housed many children over the past 11 years.

Sue Lee

Senior Director, Operations and Programming

Sue Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to the U.S. at the age of 6. She grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago but has lived in the city since 2000. A graduate of the University of Illinois, she previously worked as a Process Management Consultant with Accenture. Sue has been with GRIP since 2007 and is passionate about the impact that Christ-centered mentorship can have on a young person’s life. As the Senior Director, Operations and Programming at GRIP, she supports and encourages staff in their roles in order to see more youth impacted by Life-on-Life relationships.

Sue currently lives in Logan Square with her husband, son, and daughter. She considers Chicago to be the greatest city on the planet and is a die-hard Chicago sports fan.

Aric Diaz

Men's Mentorship Manager

Aric Diaz joins GRIP staff as a Texas native, but he and his wife and two kids have endured the Chicago winters to invest in teens here in the city! As a Men’s Mentorship Manager at GRIP, Aric equips and trains our volunteer mentors to walk Life-on-Life with youth. Settling in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, he loves exploring different cultures and communities of the city, and when he’s not spending time with his wife and kids, you can find him breakdancing or creating beautiful graffiti art pieces. Aric shares, “My favorite thing about my role at GRIP is that I get to enjoy meeting students who have become new believers as well as walk with brothers through life and the call to make disciples.”

Bill Ferrell

Community Relations & Development Director

Bill Ferrell grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is a graduate of Coronado High School, Arizona State University, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has lived in Chicago for 28 years and loves the culture, diversity, food, and weather (seriously). He has served as a campus pastor, local church pastor, Executive Director of a nonprofit ministry, and a marriage and family counselor. At GRIP, he serves as Community Relations and Development Director, presenting the mission and vision of GRIP to individuals, groups, and churches for the opportunity of partnership. Bill currently resides in Northbrook with his family; he enjoys biking, swimming, running, and skiing.

Darry Cooks

Men's Mentorship Manager

Growing up in Chicago, Darry has grown to love the diversity of cultures, people, and food found in our city. When he's not playing basketball or creating online content, you'll find him spending time with his wife, Tawatha, and their five kids. Although working as a mentorship manager at GRIP was a big transition from driving semi trucks, Darry is excited to use his experience working with church youth to impact the youth he connects with through GRIP

Emily Ostdiek

Women’s Mentorship Manager

Raised in a small town in Nebraska, Emily attended Indiana University studying Contemporary Dance and Public Relations. After serving for two years as a mentor at SLAM Central, she joined full time staff as Women’s Mentorship Manager where she is eager to encourage and support women as they walk Life-on-Life with students. She currently lives in Ukranian Village where she loves to take a good walk on the 606 or go Latin dancing with friends. Emily shares, “Mentorship has changed my life, and I have learned to love and know God more deeply through mentors who have poured into me. In my role, I love getting a front row seat in what God is doing in the city of Chicago through mentorship and eager to see lives change because of it.”

Emily Ruiz

Multimedia Coordinator

Originally from South Carolina, Emily came to Chicago in 2018 and studied Communications at Moody Bible Institute. When she’s not drawing or painting, Emily likes to keep active with hiking, ice skating, and exploring Chicago. She serves on staff at GRIP as the Multimedia Coordinator doing videography, graphic design, and event production. Her favorite part of working with GRIP is seeing the students’ smiles at SLAM every Monday night! Emily believes in the power of the arts for connection, healing, and change in individuals and communities and she loves getting to support the work of mentorship at GRIP through the media arts.

Erick Correa

SLAM Program Director

Erick Correa is a Chicago native, and Gordon Technical High School alumni. He attended Southern Illinois University for college and is a certified personal trainer. He is a professional mixed martial artist and he likes to exercise. He and his family live in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. Erick enjoys watching Cubs games, and at one point in his life, he enjoyed singing. He has a strong passion for discipleship and joins GRIP as the SLAM Program Director to invest in the lives of youth in Chicago.

"My favorite part of living in Chicago is waiting to see which happens first: Jesus coming back, or Cubbies winning the World Series," Erick shares. The Cubs won!

Hannah Gaffner

Marketing and Communications Manager

Growing up on a farm in Southern Illinois, Hannah attended the University of Illinois in Champaign, studying Marketing and Social Work. She moved to Chicago after beginning her career in corporate consulting. Now, she is serving as GRIP’s Marketing & Communications Manager where she loves connecting with others through storytelling. Hannah loves time outdoors, preferably around pine trees and mountains. She loves reading memoirs, singing karaoke and laughing with her family. She lives in Humboldt Park with four of her best friends. Hannah shares, “My role with GRIP has been an unexpected answer to prayers. Being able to work closely with believers who have dedicated their lives to investing into the next generation is a true gift. I laugh more than ever and love this city more than ever.”

Jasmine Shah

Office Administrator

Originally from Ohio, Jasmine came to Chicago to attend college in 2010, loving the city so much that she has stayed ever since. Jasmine loves bike riding on Lakeshore drive, comedy shows, and watching the NBA (specifically any team LeBron James is on!). Jasmine is passionate about youth, specifically foster youth, and is active in leading a student leadership program at her church. She lives in the Uptown area with her husband, and cat named Leah. Jasmine says that she enjoys her role as Office Administrator because, “I love that we get to support students in a holistic approach; developing students spiritually, giving vision for their future careers, and giving them emotional encouragement through their Life-on-Life mentors. Personally, this role is a perfect marrying of my call to the next generation and administrative giftings."

Kiel Russell

SLAM Program Director

Hailing from Washington State, and graduating from Duke University, Kiel joins GRIP staff as the SLAM Program Director, having previously been on staff with Intervarsity and most recently Moody Bible Institute. When he’s not playing basketball, he’s probably watching it, but it’s not just his love for sports, but his passion for Chicago’s youth that makes him an outstanding person to coordinate our weekly SLAM outreach program. Kiel shares, “I enjoy my role at GRIP because I loved being a GRIP volunteer for 5 years—investing in teens and serving alongside other volunteers. I’m so grateful to be able to do that full-time now.”

Kylie Stores

Women's Mentorship Manager

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kylie comes to GRIP with experience as a Registered Nurse, and now serves as the Women’s Mentorship Manager on staff at GRIP where she equips mentors to invest in Chicago’s youth! When Kylie is not pouring into mentors, you can typically find her exploring one of Chicago’s neighborhoods or spending time with friends in her home in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. Kylie shares, “I enjoy my role at GRIP because I’m able to connect with the mentors and students on deeper levels.”

Mark Banach

Finance Manager

Growing up in Elk Grove Village, Mark joins GRIP staff as a Chicagoland native after working for 30 years in the marketplace as an investment consultant and then the Director of Operations and Client Service for a benefit consulting firm. In addition to his love for his wife of 27 years, and 3 daughters, he enjoys playing the guitar and he may be one of the only people you ever meet who discusses investing and budgeting for fun. These are just some of the many reasons he’s a great fit as GRIP’s Finance Manager. Mark shares, “A few of the things I enjoy about my role at GRIP are the people we serve and the people I get to work alongside.”

Michael Spataro

Multimedia Manager

A jack of many trades, Mike worked at a production company for 12 years as a sound engineer, video editor, graphic designer, and production manager. He has been the production manager for the Legacy Conference since 2009, and joined GRIP's staff in August 2011 with the desire to use his creative talent in full-time ministry. Born and raised in Chicago, Mike is an avid Chicago sports fan. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Diane, and they have two handsome sons, Michael and Noah.

Raymond Woods

Programming Production Coordinator

Raymond was born in Matteson, Illinois and attended school in nearby Olivet Nazarene University and Prairie State College. Prior to GRIP, he was a Shipping Coordinator/Production Assistant. Raymond enjoys talking about Jesus, discussing cinema (allegory, filmmakers, how people connect to art), listening to and discussing good music, and laughing at things people probably shouldn't be laughing at. His favorite thing about living in Chicago is the changing of the seasons. Raymond enjoys being part of the GRIP team and working specifically with the Programming Team to execute events like SLAM and training retreats. Raymond is currently taking classes at The College of DuPage to earn a certificate in Motion Picture Television and lives in Forest Park with his wife.

Shannon Yeomans

Events Manager

Shannon grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and loves her Kansas City Chiefs! She has quickly come to love life in Chicago, however, and enjoys living in the Humboldt Park neighborhood with her roommate and her dog, Dewey. During her free time, Shannon enjoys riding her bike, playing board games, watching documentaries, and swimming in Lake Michigan. Shannon has a background working with youth and was a volunteer mentor at SLAM before joining the staff. She enjoys her role as Events Manager because it gives her the opportunity to create spaces for people to connect with one another as well as connect to the mission of GRIP.

Shawn Procter

Future Steps Director

Shawn, who has been part of the GRIP family since 2011, is the Program Director of GRIP’s Future Steps initiative, which leverages the strength of our Life-on-Life relationships and network to offer a community of support for our youth and young adults as they learn important life skills and pursue internships, jobs, and college and/or career goals. Originally from Florida, he worked as an actor and youth pastor prior to attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Shawn also worked as an educator and director for What’s Good – a character-based abstinence, education program in Chicago schools. He lives in the northwest side of Chicago and is married to his best friend, Pamela. They have been blessed with two beautiful daughters and other spiritual sons.

Will Wagner

SLAM Program Director

A Walter Payton College Prep, Moody Bible Institute, and Moody Theological Seminary grad, Will calls the Austin neighborhood his home. His range of experience - from child care worker, to campus police officer, to management at Enterprise - and love for Chicago inform his role at GRIP. Getting to serve as SLAM Director is exciting to him because it gives him the freedom and opportunity to make disciples in the city that he grew up in. Although he wishes there was less snow, he has a deep affection for Chicago, and shares: “Just about every good thing grabs me about our city, from the food, CTA, festivals, neighborhood cultures, and how all the streets are on a grid. Even some of the stuff I don't like, I have immense nostalgia for.” In his free time, Will enjoys studying the Bible, preaching, sports, movies, and spending time with his wife, Leah.

Board of Directors

Dave Lew, Chair

Senior Vice President,
Strategic Marketing at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – ALSAC

Steve Coble

Teaching Pastor,
Renewal Church of Chicago

Jonathan Lavinier

Real Estate Broker,
Baird & Warner

Kent Steiner

Associate Pastor,
Chicago West Bible Church

Shane Summers

Summers Trading Company

Kelsey Kruzel

VP Social and PR Director,

David Pickens III

PhD, Research and Development Engineer,

Austin Smit

VP Capital Markets,
Shore Capital Partners

Dr. Felecia Thompson

Adjunct Professor,
Fuller Theological Seminary

Nate Anderson

Access Search, Inc

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