Our Team

Shamus Toomey, Editor-in-Chief and co-founder

Shamus previously served as Managing Editor of DNAinfo Chicago, the award-winning news site that covered Chicago’s neighborhoods. Before that, he was Metro Editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he supervised the team that won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting.

Shamus started at the Sun-Times as a general assignment reporter. He previously worked at the Daily Herald and the City News Bureau of Chicago.

He graduated from Syracuse University and Evanston Township High School. Email Shamus

Jen Sabella, Director of Strategy and co-founder 

Jen was Deputy Editor and Director of Social Media at DNAinfo Chicago, a site she helped launch in 2012. Before joining DNA, Jen was HuffPost’s Chicago Editor and a breaking news reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times.  Jen also co-hosts The Girl Talk, a monthly conversation series and podcast featuring influential Chicago women.

Jen grew up in Chicago, attending Columbia College Chicago and Mother McAuley High School. Email Jen

Stephanie Lulay, Managing Editor and co-founder

Stephanie previously served as Senior Editor and reporter at DNAinfo Chicago, where she covered the West Loop and Pilsen neighborhoods for the award-winning site. Before joining DNA, Stephanie spent four years at the daily Aurora Beacon-News, covering City Hall, education and housing issues in the state’s second largest city.

Stephanie was born in Milwaukee, Wis., raised in Quincy, Ill. and now lives in Beverly on the city’s South Side. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2008 and completed her Masters degree at the university in 2009. While at U of I, she served as managing editor of The Daily IlliniEmail Stephanie

Maple Walker, Director of Development and Community Engagement

Maple came to Block Club Chicago from the MacArthur Foundation, where she was team coordinator for its Journalism & Media program. Maple is also a weekend news anchor for WGN Radio.

She now works with subscribers, foundations, individual donors and corporations to expand Block Club’s support base. Email Maple

Dawn Rhodes, Senior Editor

Dawn is Senior Editor at Block Club Chicago. She spent almost 10 years at the Chicago Tribune, most recently as the higher education reporter and editor on the Metro desk. She wrote extensively on the financial impacts of the state budget crisis, enrollment trends and leadership changes at the state’s public and private universities.

Originally from Denver, she earned her master’s in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s in French from University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Email Dawn

Kelly Bauer, Breaking News Editor

Kelly is the Breaking News Editor for Block Club Chicago and leads the team’s coronavirus coverage. She previously worked as a breaking news and crime reporter at DNAinfo Chicago, where she won awards for her photography and coverage of crime in the city.

She studied journalism at Northern Illinois University, where she was the editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, the Northern StarEmail Kelly

Hannah Alani, Reporter 

Hannah is a reporter for Block Club Chicago, where she covers Wicker Park, Bucktown and West Town. She previously worked as a reporter at The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C.

She studied journalism at Indiana University, where she was the editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student. Email Hannah

Mina Bloom, Reporter 

Mina covers Logan Square, Humboldt Park and Avondale for Block Club Chicago — the neighborhoods she tirelessly covered previously at DNAinfo Chicago. Her work has also appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Eater, Belt and Chicago magazines.

She studied magazine journalism at Columbia College Chicago. Email Mina

Jamie Nesbitt Golden, Reporter

Jamie covers Englewood, Chatham and Auburn Gresham for Block Club Chicago.

A lifelong South Sider currently living in Hyde Park, Jamie’s work has appeared in TimeSalonxoJane and Ebony. When she isn’t chasing stories, she co-hosts the Elevated Podcast, where she interviews Chicago people doing Chicago things. Email Jamie

Maxwell Evans, Reporter

Maxwell covers Hyde Park, Woodlawn and South Shore for Block Club Chicago. Hpreviously wrote for Gongwer News ServiceCapital News Service and City Pulse, all in Lansing, Mich.

Hailing from Kalamazoo, Mich., Maxwell studied journalism at Michigan State University and served as city desk editor for the student newspaper The State News. Email Maxwell

Alex V. Hernandez, Reporter

Alex V. Hernandez covers Lincoln Square, North Center and Irving Park for Block Club Chicago.  The Chicago native has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Chicago magazine, City Bureau, In These Times and is one of the founders of 90 Days, 90 Voices.

Alex was a 2016 Peter Lisagor Watchdog Award finalist for his work on an interactive Chicago Reporter database that shows where, how and when police misconduct happens in the city of Chicago and a 2017 Peter Lisagor Award winner for Best Start-Up for his work with 90 Days, 90 Voices. When not reporting he’s either riding his Vespa or camping. Email Alex

Mauricio Pena, Reporter 

Mauricio Peña covers Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop and Back of the Yards. Before joining Block Club Chicago, Peña was an Associate Digital Editor at Chicago magazine. He previously worked as a breaking news reporter at DNAinfo, and an investigative reporter covering immigration and equality at the Desert Sun for the USA Today Network. His investigative, data-driven series on heat deaths and illnesses among farm workers won state and regional awards for highlighting the plight of California farmworkers.

Peña was a Staff Research Associate at the UCLA School of Nursing where he managed a research laboratory before getting his master’s from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Email Mauricio 

Pascal Sabino, Reporter

Pascal Sabino covers North Lawndale and Austin. He was previously the Environment, Health & Wellness Editor for the Real Chi, a West Side local news lab with a mission of providing equitable, accountable news coverage for Chicago communities misrepresented by traditional media narratives.

As part of the City Bureau Reporting Fellowship, Pascal reported on the impact of Section 8 vouchers on affordable housing in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side. Before returning to his hometown, Pascal worked as an editor for international business publications in Turkey, the UAE, Oman and Indonesia. Pascal is a 2015 graduate of Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. Email Pascal

Joe Ward, Reporter

Joe covers Uptown, Rogers Park, Edgewater and Andersonville for Block Club Chicago. Prior to joining the team at Block Club, Joe worked at DNAinfo Chicago as a breaking news reporter and later as the Bridgeport reporter. His work has also appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, Belt Magazine and elsewhere. He studied journalism at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 

Joe is a native of the Mt. Greenwood neighborhood. Despite his South Side roots, Joe has come to love the North Side. In fact, his (and his dog, Scout’s) favorite place in the city is the Montrose Dog Beach and his favorite place to grab a bite, Chicago Joe’s, is in North Center. Email Joe

Jake Wittich, Reporter

Jake Wittich covers Lakeview, Boystown and Lincoln Park for Block Club Chicago. He previously was the weekend general assignment reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times, specializing in LGBTQ news. Jake has also spent time freelancing for Block Club Chicago, the Windy City Times and various queer indie magazines.

As a Report for America fellow, Jake aims to better engage LGBTQ people in local news and empower readers to participate in their communities. He attended Columbia College Chicago, where he was managing editor of the student-run Columbia Chronicle. Email Jake

Hannah Boufford, Newsletter and Hotline Manager

Hannah Boufford is the Newsletter and Hotline Manager for Block Club Chicago.

She previously interned at The Oregonian/OregonLive and CBS News in London. Hannah studies journalism at Indiana University where she also works for the college newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student.

Alexandra Chaidez, Intern

Alexandra Chaidez is an intern for Block Club Chicago. 

She previously interned at CBS News in Washington D.C. Alexandra studies history and literature at Harvard University, where she serves as the Associate Managing Editor for the college newspaper, The Harvard Crimson. 

Siri Chilukuri, Intern

Siri Chilukuri is an intern for Block Club Chicago.

Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, The Chicago Reader, South Side Weekly, and Catapult Magazine. Siri studies Interdisciplinary Science and Journalism + Design at The New School. She has also served as News Editor and Deputy News Editor of her campus newspaper, The New School Free Press

Bob Chiarito, Contributor

Bob Chiarito is a contributing reporter at Block Club Chicago.

A resident of the Northwest Side, Bob’s work has appeared in DNAinfo Chicago, Chicago Magazine, Reuters, the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, NME, Vice, Daily Beast and the Daily Herald. In addition, Bob runs The Chicago Ambassador which earned a 2017 Peter Lisagor Award for best continuing blog.

He previously worked at the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and the City News Bureau of Chicago.

Justin Laurence, Contributor

Justin is a freelance journalist who has led Block Club’s coverage of cannabis legalization in Illinois as well as contributing stories on city politics, development and the characters that enliven our neighborhoods.

He moved to Chicago from Cincinnati in 2018 and now lives in River West. His work has also been featured in The Daily Line and he has live-tweeted government meetings throughout Chicago as part of City Bureau’s “Documenters” program.

Colin Boyle, Photographer/Reporter

Colin Boyle is a contributing reporter and photographer at Block Club Chicago.

A resident of the North Side, Colin’s work has appeared in USA Today, the New York TimesChicago TribuneThe Atlantic, and publications across the country via the Associated Press. Colin has interned at The Chicago Sun-Times, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Infobae in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is the world’s most-read Spanish news. His work focuses on visual storytelling, breaking news, investigative, Spanish and social justice reporting. He currently is a freelance multimedia journalist in Chicago and tells visual stories for My Block, My Hood, My City.

Colin completed his bachelor’s studies in Journalism and Spanish at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where he was photo editor for The Daily Northwestern for six quarters, and he is currently pursuing a master’s in video journalism at Medill. Email Colin

Ariel Parrella-Aureli, Contributor

Ariel is a contributing reporter at Block Club and covers mostly Logan Square with a focus on arts, culture and business. She is a freelance journalist who has been published in the Chicago TribuneChicago ReaderChicago MagazineCurbed ChicagoWindy City TimesStreetsblog Chicago, Chicago Defender and various national publications. 

She is also a digital content producer at WBBM Newsradio and the editor-in-chief of LoganSquarist, a hyperlocal, volunteer-run news site dedicated to Logan Square that has been serving the community since 2011. Originally from New Mexico, Ariel is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where she was the arts editor for the student-run Columbia Chronicle. Email Ariel

Jonathan Ballew, Contributor

Jonathan formerly covered Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park full-time for Block Club Chicago. He’s previously written for South Side Weekly and 22ndCentury Media and interned at NBC 5 Chicago and the Chicago Justice Project.

He studied journalism at DePaul University where he was the News Editor of the student-run paper, The DePaulia.

Jonathan lives in Uptown and is a Marine Corps veteran (Sgt.) and a proud citizen of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. Email Jonathan