Schumann Fund for New Jersey Appoints Four Respected Community Leaders to Board of Trustees

Press Release

Montclair, NJ (September 29, 2023) – Schumann Fund for New Jersey, an independent foundation with deep roots in Essex County, has appointed four esteemed community leaders to their Board of Trustees. Since 1988, the Fund has invested more than $86 million in non-profit organizations serving primarily low-income children and families of color in Essex County and the state of New Jersey. Growing the Board will lend to this important work.

Schumann Fund for New Jersey Board Chair Martha Day noted, “Our new Trustees bring deep non-profit, business, and community expertise that will amplify Schumann Fund’s impact in the communities we serve. We are thrilled about the enhanced opportunities for collaboration and authentic community connection these talented individuals will bring to the Board.”

Barbara Bell Coleman, who led the nominating process on behalf of the Schumann Fund, shared, “Our new Trustees bring a deep commitment to the mission and work of Schumann Fund for New Jersey. They care strongly about our Newark and Essex County communities and seek to advance racial equity and social justice. We are proud to appoint such a talented, diverse cohort of Trustees who – together with our committed and knowledgeable long-serving Trustees – will work to move the mission of the Schumann Fund for New Jersey forward.”

“As Schumann Fund for New Jersey embarks upon a new strategic direction that centers racial equity and advances ideas and opportunities to empower low-income children, families, and communities of color to thrive, it is an honor to welcome this enthusiastic and experienced cohort of Trustees,” added Schumann Fund for New Jersey Executive Director Lucy Vandenberg.

Their new Trustees are:

Marla Higginbotham

Marla Higginbotham is an outstanding leader, lawyer, and active advocate in New Jersey’s nonprofit sector. She has over 25 years of professional experience encompassing corporate engagement, educational excellence, high value donor recruitment, and advocacy for youth in the legal system. Expertise and passion have led Marla to increasing levels of success and executive leadership positions in the nonprofit community. Marla currently serves as Executive Director for CASA’s oldest and most visible program in New Jersey, CASA of Essex County. Under her leadership, CASA has heightened corporate engagement and support while increasing the number of children within the county’s foster care system who benefit from CASA’s advocacy. Marla previously served as a Trustee of The Montclair Kimberley Academy (MKA).

Carlos Lejnieks

Carlos Lejnieks is Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union counties and past chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Jersey. Carlos has helped strengthen and expand the agency in his 15-year tenure. Under his leadership, BBBS received numerous awards, including a formal recognition by President Barack Obama. Carlos harnessed his grassroots experience to advise on state and federal policy related to youth and family support, including service on the New Jersey Governor’s Council to advocate for families most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Carlos also served on Governor Chris Christie, Governor Phil Murphy, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s transition teams.

Joseph Matara

Joseph Matara is the Chief Operating Officer at Unbound Philanthropy. He oversees all aspects of the organization’s finance and operations, human resources, information technology, and grants management. Joseph joined Unbound in May 2023. Most recently, Joseph served as Chief Financial Officer at the Victoria Foundation, a place-based foundation in Newark, N.J. He was previously the Chief Financial Officer/Chief Operating Officer at New Community Corporation in Newark, where he worked for 15 years. Joseph is originally from Kenya. He is the founder of the GRACE Project, a not-for-profit organization that provides opportunities for families in rural Kenya through education, healthcare, and vocational training.

Rhonda Robinson

Rhonda Robinson is the Vice President of Enterprise Risk Management at Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey. She designs relevant strategies to assess, report, and mitigate risks across the organization. Rhonda has been in the health insurance industry for over 25 years holding numerous leadership positions at Horizon and other health plans in risk, vendor, program, and process management. Born, raised, and still a resident of Montclair, Rhonda is active in the community, including the Montclair public schools, and has volunteered with Sister to Sister, a mentoring program for preteen/teen girls in Montclair.

The Trustees will begin their terms of service in January 2024.

About Schumann Fund for New Jersey

Located in Montclair, where Schumann family members were residents and active in their local community, Schumann Fund for New Jersey traces its roots to the Florence and John Schumann Foundation, created in 1961. In 1988, Florence Schumann and her children created the Schumann Fund for New Jersey to continue the lifelong philanthropy of Mrs. Schumann and her husband, John, with a focus on giving in the state.

Today, Schumann Fund for New Jersey advances ideas and opportunities to empower low-income children, families, and communities of color to thrive. The Schumann Fund invests in non-profit organizations rooted in Essex County and statewide that work to advance racial and economic equity. Their vision is for children, youth, and families in Essex County and the State of New Jersey to have equitable access to high quality education, affordable housing, economic opportunity, and healthy communities so they can reach their full potential.