Cheryl Lawrence, JD, Named Open Communities CEO

  • Cheryl Lawrence, JD, Open Communities CEOJessie Hearn Photography

    Cheryl Lawrence, JD, Open Communities CEOJessie Hearn Photography

Updated 12/23/2021 8:46 AM

Open Communities, the fair housing nonprofit serving Chicago's North and Northwest communities, is thrilled to announce that Cheryl Lawrence, JD, is joining the organization as CEO. She assumed the role on Dec. 1. Lawrence replaced Mary Ellen Ball, who is left to pursue her coaching career.

Lawrence comes to Open Communities with executive-level experience in both the nonprofit and business sectors. She served for many years as the executive director at Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing, one of Illinois's preeminent housing and legal-aid organizations. Her many years of leadership experience will help Open Communities expand its efforts to provide fair and better housing opportunities for all families on the North Shore.


Says Lawrence, "To live in housing free of discrimination is a human right. To live in a community where this is possible is transformative. I am honored to be named the next CEO of Open Communities. I look forward to working with their dedicated team of advocates to continue the fight for housing in our communities to be accessible, equitable, and welcoming to all."

As CEO, Lawrence will lead Open Communities at a time when demand for fair housing and housing counseling is at a high point. The organization has seen a record number of requests for services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Open Communities anticipates landlord-tenant mediation and rental and mortgage assistance requests to continue to grow in 2022.

"The Open Communities board looks forward to having Cheryl lead the organization. Her leadership and legal experience are exactly what we need at this time to continue to protect families from unfair housing practices, eviction, and foreclosure. We know her passion will strengthen the organization and allow us to do even more housing justice and advocacy work," says Carol Golder, Open Communities' board president.

Lawrence graduated from DePaul University and received her JD from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law. She lives in Evanston.

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