Meet our leadership team
President & CEO
David Gaskin joined Seamen’s Society for Children and Families as President and CEO in 2017. David brings a unique blend of corporate and nonprofit leadership experience to the role. His background in the corporate sector includes 17 years with Vanguard, where he was a Principal in the firm’s Strategy & Finance, Human Resources, and Institutional Asset Management Divisions. He also held positions of increasing responsibility with leading Fortune 500 companies, including American Express, JPMorgan Chase, and Johnson & Johnson.
In the nonprofit realm, David is the co-founder and trustee of the Success Through Education and Preparation Fund (S.T.E.P.), a private nonprofit foundation that commits grants to high-potential and economically disadvantaged youth to help finance their private high school education. He is also the former Chair of the Board of Trustees for Oaks Integrated Care, Inc., one of the largest nonprofit organizations in New Jersey. David serves on the boards of The Velocity BioGroup, Inc., and the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA).
David can attest to the influence that one person can have in transforming and empowering the life of a child. He grew up on Empire Boulevard, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, and attended P.S. 221. His sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Lois Subotnick, was instrumental in identifying his potential and encouraged his family, despite the considerable financial hurdles, to enroll him in The Dalton School.
David went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in History from Yale University and his MBA in Finance and Strategic Management from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Chief Financial Officer
Philip Zweiger is the Chief Financial Officer for Seamen’s Society for Children and Families. Since joining us in August 2019, he has provided leadership and oversight for the accounting, treasury, budgeting, human resources, and audit functions. Philip joined Seamen’s Society with nearly 40 years of strategic finance experience in nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Most recently, he served as CFO for Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation (now called New York Edge). Prior to that he was the CFO for New Concepts for Living, The AIDS Service Center of Lower Manhattan, Inc. (renamed Alliance for Positive Change), and Amcor.
Philip brings a vast amount of corporate financial experience from his positions in the media/publishing, professional services, consumer electronics and textiles industries. He served as VP-Director of Finance for GFK-NOP, the New York headquarters for a Global Market Research firm. Preceding that, he was CFO/SVP of Finance & Administration (and a Board Director) for publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. Other prior roles include ones with Penguin USA, Am-Law Publishing, and National Spinning Co., Inc.
Philip received his MBA in Finance from Pace University as well as a BS in Accounting from Brooklyn College. He is also a member of the Financial Executives Networking Group (FENG), the Financial Executives International Group (FEI) and the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce (MRCC).
Dan Barckhaus, LMSW
Vice President of Programs
Dan Barckhaus rejoined Seamen’s Society for Children and Families in 2019, where he first began his career 15 years earlier. He serves as Vice President of Programs and leads the organization’s Foster Care, Behavioral Health, Health Services, and Health Home Care Management programs. Dan’s experience includes multiple executive management positions at child welfare organizations in New York, and he has established a track record of developing high-performing programs that support children and families within their communities.
During his tenure at Abbott House, Dan transformed their Foster Care program into one of the preeminent performing organizations in New York City. He also was responsible for procuring Preventive Services and Regional Permanency Center contracts, further enhancing their program offerings.
Since rejoining Seamen’s Society, he has used his expertise and experience to successfully re-structure the Foster Care program utilizing Continuous Quality Improvement and team-based leadership. In the summer of 2020, he was tasked with leading the organization through its transition to Medicaid Managed Care and the expansion of Behavioral Health Services.
Dan received his bachelor’s degree in history from Binghamton University and his master’s in social work from Hunter College.
Felicia Soodeen, MPA
Vice President of Programs
Felicia Soodeen joined Seamen’s Society for Children and Families in 2018 bringing more than 17 years of experience working in physical health, mental health, housing, and other social service programs. She is responsible for core program services, and the programs under her leadership provide a safe and nurturing environment that is inclusive, and where family voice and choice are the primary focus. She oversees Family Support Services (formerly General Prevention), Family Treatment and Rehabilitation, Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence, and Tutoring programs, as well as the organization's information technology functions.
Her previous experience includes, but is not limited to, serving as Compliance Officer for SERV Behavioral Health, Director of Client Responsibility for NYC Department of Homeless Services, the largest shelter system in New York City, Project Manager for NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Associate Staff Analyst for NYC Housing Preservation and Development.
Among her most recent accomplishments, Felicia has designed and implemented evidence-based models and intervention, secured government funding, and implemented program operations and processes that improved the agency’s scorecard performance.
Felicia holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Virginia State University, and her MPA from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (with specializations in Policy and Human Resources). She is a member of the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA).
Chief of Staff
Mary Ponte serves as the Chief of Staff for Seamen’s Society for Children and Families. She has been with the agency since May 2016, and brings more than twenty years of experience in office management, marketing, healthcare compliance, and human resources to the organization.
Her responsibilities include planning and overseeing the administrative, financial, and operational activities for the organization, as well as being the liaison to the Board of Trustees. In her role as Chief of Staff, Mary has also introduced new and innovative ways to enhance and promote staff efficiency. She graduated from the City University, College of Staten Island, cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management.
Mary volunteers for several organizations that support families and veterans, including Operation Homefront, Rolling Thunder Chapter 2, and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. In 2015, she was awarded the United States Army’s Patriotic Civilian Service Commendation Award, the fifth-highest honor the United States Army can bestow upon a civilian, for her charity work for the military.
Chief Development Officer
Nicole Ferris is a nonprofit practitioner with a lifelong dedication to human rights. 20 years of social sector service shaped her philanthropy and development expertise. As a resource mobilizer, Nicole values people as a force of good, and celebrates the joy charitable giving lends recipients and donors alike. She is honored to represent a historic NYC institution as iconic and impactful as Seamen’s Society for Children and Families.
Nicole first advocated for vulnerable populations while serving at The White House, Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. Her commitment to intersectional feminist concerns and causes has remained constant. Prior to SSCF, Nicole directed major gift philanthropy at Global Fund for Women, an NGO combating gender-based violence worldwide. Today, she strives to secure new Seamen’s Society donors and partners who care about children and domestic violence survivors here in our local neighborhoods.
Her career has included Northeastern University’s College of Business, International League for Human Rights, Institute of International Education (Fulbright Scholars), Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, AIChE, and The Language Conservancy, among others. She has led public affairs such as a Human Rights Award Gala featuring the UN Secretary General and 11 Heads of State.
Nicole holds an MA International Administration (Human Rights/Conflict Resolution) from the University of Denver, and BA in Political Science and Women’s Studies from Gettysburg College. She loves volunteering and mentored extensively with The Fellowship Initiative at JPMorgan Chase Foundation.
Nyeesha Boland-Ali, MSW
Director, Enhanced Family Foster Care, Staten Island
Jessica Ghabour, MS, Ed.
Manager, Youth Services
Dyna Price, LMSW
Director, Enhanced Family Foster Care, Brooklyn
Xaviera Romero, LCSW-R, CCM
Senior Director, Health and Wellness Programs
Jacquelyn Sanders, LMSW
Palma Speranza, MSW
Nellie Suarez, MPA
Director, Child Care Programs
Linda Tasher, MSW
Senior Director, Family Treatment/Rehabilitation and Family Support Services Programs
Sheril Franklin, MSW
Director, Family Treatment/Rehabilitation Program
Rena Wilkerson, MSW
Director, Family Support Services Program
Assistant Director, Safe Passage
Karen DeGraaf, LMSW
Director, Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement
Senior Manager, Human Resources
Chief Information Technology Officer