Our Board of Directors
Paul Baffico, Founder and President, Army, 1LT 1969-1971, served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne in 1970-1971 as a combat communications platoon leader. He flew 206 Combat Assaults, earned the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, the Army Commendation Medal, eight Air Medals, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry. He is a monthly docent for the National Park Service at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC since 2006; a certified Veteran Peer Support Specialist, the 2012 Chicago Red Cross Military Hero of the Year, Chairman of the Governing Council of the Lake-McHenry Veterans and Family Services Federal Grant and founder and president of the Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation. His book Last Mission for a Reluctant Patriot was published in 2014. Mr. Baffico spent 34 years at Sears Roebuck where he was the President of the Automotive Group and CEO of Western Auto. He holds a B.A. from the University of San Francisco.
Judge Christopher R. Stride, Vice President, is Circuit Court Judge of the 19th Judicial Circuit of the State of Illinois appointed in 2016 by a unanimous vote of the Illinois Supreme Court. He is the Presiding Judge of Problem Solving Courts (Mental Health Court, Drug Court, Veteran’s Treatment and Assistance Court). Judge Stride holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Valparaiso University and a Juris Doctor of Law from Valparaiso University School of Law. He is active member of the Board of Directors of the Lake County Bar Association, the Board of Directors of Lake Forest Hospital, a member of the Community Youth Network, Grayslake, Illinois, and a Commissioner of the Lake Bluff Fire and Police Commission, Village of Lake Bluff, Illinois. His additional extra-judicial activities include the Judicial Education Faculty for the statewide Judicial Education Conference, member of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts Committee on Judicial Excellence, and winner of the Vanguard of the Year Award from the Lake County Coalition to Reduce Recidivism.
Ron Bruner, Treasurer, LCVFSF Volunteer Veteran Peer Specialist, United States Army, Illinois National Guard, is a retired bank executive and Chicago native. He is a graduate of Lane Tech, Roosevelt University, and holds an MBA from the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. After serving in the Illinois National Guard for six years where he saw duty during the Sixties, Ron went into the banking and trust business where he enjoyed forty years of success. Since his retirement, Ron has always made it a habit to spend the majority of his free time volunteering. At Lake Forest Hospital, he was recognized as the volunteer of the year. He also trains his champion dog and finds ways to make other contributions to his community. LCVFSF is fortunate to have Ron turn his attention to the business administration needs of the Foundation. Ron has completed DBSA Peer Training and has been certified by the state of Illinois as a Veteran Peer Specialist.
M.J. Hodgins, Secretary, Director of Community Development is the retired Project Coordinator for the Lake-McHenry Veterans and Family Services SAMHSA grant at the Lake County Health Department. She was a LCHD Assistant Clinical Coordinator for substance abuse, a counselor with Alexian Brothers and Rush Behavioral Health Programs. She also developed and coordinated a satellite DUI treatment and services program in Lake Villa for The Counseling Center of Crystal Lake. Ms. Hodgins holds an Associate’s Degree in substance abuse counseling from the College of Lake County, a Bachelors’s degree in Counseling from DePaul University, and is a registered CADC (Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor). Her dedication comes from being a former Vietnam-era Navy wife and daughter of a WWII Army veteran.
Jack Meierhoff, Board Member, Marketing Committee. Retired Lake Forest Bank and Trust CEO and Vietnam Veteran Jack Meierhoff was elected to the Lake County Veterans and Family Services Foundation Board of Directors, March 2018. The Highland Park native attended Northern Illinois University where he received his Bachelor of Science degree before going into the United States Army, and his Masters of Business Administration degree after he returned from Vietnam. He worked for 40+ years in financial services at Northern Trust and Lake Forest Bank and Trust, the flagship of the Wintrust Banking Group, Meierhoff served with the 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, two Air Medals, two Bronze Stars for valor and the Purple Heart. He is also a member of Lake Forest Open Lands.
Stanley G. McCracken, Ph.D., LCSW, RDDP, Board Member, Army, Interpreter, and Legal Clerk, is Lecturer in the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration. He has written about psychiatric rehabilitation, addiction, behavioral pharmacology, behavioral medicine, aging, motivational interviewing, and staff training. He is co-author of Interactive Staff Training and Practice Guidelines for Extended Psychiatric Residential Care and co-editor of From Task-Centered Social Work to Evidence-Based and Integrative Practice: Reflections on History and Implementation. He has forty years’ experience as a clinician, educator, and consultant. His practice interests include mental health, drug, and medical problems; aging; addressing cross-cultural and spirituality in direct practice; and veterans’ issues. He served as a linguist in the US Army in Vietnam.
Debra D. Lewis, LPN, MA, BS, Military Family Advocate, is the current Event Coordinator for the Recruit Training Command at Naval Station Great Lakes. Debra Lewis is a 17-year Navy Veteran where she was an integral part of the Navy healthcare command over her entire career. She was elected to the Board of Directors May 16, 2021. Among her many accomplishments, Debra worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse and earned bachelor’s degrees in human resource management and Business Administration. She also earned a Master of Art in Human Resource Development from Webster University, all while on active duty in the Navy. Debra’s volunteer activities include serving as Secretary of the NAACP Lake County Branch, and as Program Manager, Northern Illinois Recovery Community Organization. Her son is currently serving in the Navy.