The Unconditional Freedom team is composed of a diverse group of volunteers, business executives, and instructors to ensure the operational success of our mission to engage in projects and research which contribute to the advancement, healing, and flourishing of marginalized communities. From meditation and yoga instructors, lawyers to chefs, gardeners and nutritionists, we are blessed to be supported by a great group of human beings.
Co-Director Prison Program – The former Restorative Justice Manager at Mendocino County Jail, Kate became a licensed addictions counselor through the state of California in 2006 and provided substance abuse treatment for incarcerated and justice-involved people with dual diagnoses for 17 years before moving on to become a licensed clinical social worker.
Kate’s expertise in both mental health and addiction disorders led her to be offered the Faculty Chair position in the Addiction Studies department at Mendocino College in 2019, where she also teaches.
Board Member – Shawn is a 27-year executive who served as CEO of Evolution Fresh, a California-based fresh juice business acquired in November 2011 by Starbucks.
In this role, Sugarman secured private equity financing to install and successfully commercialize the first large-scale high-pressure processed juice facility in the US. Prior roles include CEO of Sonance, a leader in custom whole-home audio solutions; OneTaste Inc, President of Odwalla, Inc; and President of Minute Maid Canada.
Executive Director – Marcus is an entrepreneur and owner of Soulmaker Press, currently overseeing the publishing of new books in the global arena of spiritual and religious thought. Marcus spent ten years in the tech industry, serving in various roles, his career taking him all over the world prior to becoming an affiliate owner of the wellness company OneTaste.
His passion lies in bringing forward teachings critical to the advancement of human flourishing. Marcus was instrumental in the completion and publication of The Art of Soulmaking, and the rapid expansion of Unconditional Freedom’s prison program.
Creative Director – Raised in the South, Courtney searched for a sense of freedom at a young age. This search took her in many different directions, reading and studying – particularly of different cultures, food and spiritualities, travel, what the body and mind can do through other practices – meditation, high-level, and extreme sports.
She received her BA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of California and an MPhil in Sociology with a concentration in Race, Ethnicity and Conflict from Trinity College, Dublin. After studying the atrocities of human rights violations in places like the Congo, the Middle East and Bosnia and Herzegovina, she began to look more at how humans treat each other and how changing the world and the world around us starts from within us.
Prison Monastery Advisor – Jason is a peace advocate, author, poet, gang specialist, mental health advocate and father. Jason grew up in gangs in Harlem, NY, rising to become a high-ranking shot caller. He has since converted his entire set to nonviolence while using his leadership and his set as a force of positivity in his community.
He travels around the country, speaking in prisons and jails about how to make time spent in prison purposeful. At the same time, he runs his community-led nonprofit, which brokers peace negotiations in Patterson, NJ and Harlem, NY. In his prison work, he works with the most violent offenders, gang leaders, and Corrections staff to bridge the gap between cultures and further peace and understanding. Jason has presented to Valley State Prison and Unit 509 at CCWF.
Co-Director Prison Program – Bob spent six years developing and operating the Land Retreat Center in Philo, CA and is an entrepreneur instrumental in the launch and success of COUP DETAT – San Francisco, and The NWBLK, an applied arts gallery and events venue. With guidance from ecologist and filmmaker John D. Liu, soil scientist Ray Archuleta and Water Institute Co-Founder Brock Dolman, Bob took a crash course in ecosystem restoration, developing Unconditional Freedom’s Earth Program.
Bob has a BA from the University of California, Davis, and has studied Vipassana Meditation, yoga, and Qi Gong.
Prison Monastery Advisor – Ira Silverberg is an American editor and consultant to writers, artists, publishers, funders, and non-profit arts organizations. Currently at Soulmaker Press, Ira is also a member of the Columbia University School of the Arts adjunct faculty, MFA Writing Program, and the former Literature Director of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ira has a storied career in publishing, starting at The Overlook Press and continuing with High-Risk Books. Ira has been offering the Herstory curriculum to the ladies in unit 509 at CCWF since February of this year as part of the Prison Monastery Program.
Board Member – After a 17-year career at a New York Law firm, she turned toward a life of deep personal practice, self-development and spiritual exploration. She supports others in their journey to self-love through writing, teaching, speaking, coaching and creating community.
Jenny especially enjoys sharing the message of innate value with children through book readings and art projects. In December 2021, she published Duma’s Song, based on the African tradition, which holds that the genesis for a healthy community is nurturing and celebrating unique expressions. Jenny is also a certified Bikram Yoga Instructor.
Guards to Guardians Mentor – In addition to working in the Wisconsin prison system for 39 years, during 23 of which he also served as a police officer (something that he still does today), Keith has written four books, two of which, No Place Like Home and Morning will Come, are based on his experiences as a Correctional Officer.
Teacher – Rhodessa Jones is the Director of the award-winning Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women / HIV Circle.
Rhodessa has been widely recognized for her work using performance art as a method for personal and social transformation with incarcerated women and women with HIV/AIDS, including the Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth University, the Frank Rhodes Chair at Cornell University, an Artist-In-Residency at the University of Wisconsin, the Mayor’s Art Award in San Francisco, and in 2012 selected by the United States Department of State as an ARTS ENVOY! to South Africa.
AoS Program Manager, Exercise Rehabilitation Specialist – Nancy holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology and is a Certified Master-level life coach. She specializes in addiction recovery and assists and empowers clients to make health- and life-promoting changes.
She is also a master-level pilates instructor and studio owner for 35 years, focusing on the relationship between the brain, mind and body connection. She teaches how to release physical and emotional pain by understanding the internal mechanisms using simple guided instructions and exercises.
Guards to Guardians Mentor – Gary has served as a correctional officer for 30 years in Florida State Corrections after serving in the Army for ten years. He worked in the Hillsborough Correctional Institution in Florida and then the Polk Correctional Institution, where he spent 12 years as an investigator for the Tallahassee Central Office.
He authored the books Corruption Behind Bars, Inside The Inner Circle, and The Toughest Job and is currently a columnist for Corrections1.com
Guards to Guardians Program Manager –Hesham, entrepreneur, coach and program manager for Guard to Guardian program, works with correctional officers around the country on how to flourish in their profession.
He coordinates a group of 20 veteran CO mentors for mentorship and on-site workshops for officers in facilities nationwide. His speciality is in working with officers to turn the focus from surviving the profession to thriving
Director Yoga and Practice – A 500-hour yoga instructor, massage therapist, and Ayurvedic bodyworker, Marla has been studying healing arts in some form for more than twenty years. Marla earned her BA from Rice University in French and studio art/art history and MAs from NYU in Teaching French as a Foreign Language and Teaching English as a Second Language.
She’s taught yoga at the Embassy of France in Washington, DC, New York University in Paris, and the largest women’s prison in the US. A mover her whole life, Marla is happiest when practicing yoga, chanting, or dancing.
Free Food Program Director – Caryn started working with nonprofits and food from a young age, raising money for the American Cancer Society when a close friend was diagnosed with cancer by organizing a massive bake sale with her friends. She started Challah for Hunger at UCLA and has been heavily involved in her nonprofit and professional work focused on food access, nutrition, health and data science.
Caryn holds a master’s degree in Public Health and Biomedical informatics, and she leads the Free Food program of Unconditional Freedom, as well as finances.
Teacher – Lay ordained in the Zen Buddhist tradition, Margot Koch has been meditating for nearly forty years. She has been a teacher for twenty-five and worked with developmentally disabled learners for more than a dozen years.
She taught art and public speaking in the schools and has recently facilitated speaking groups for adults, focusing on relational presence.
Teacher – Romy Phillips, MFA, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, is an avid Ashtanga practitioner, meditation instructor and yoga therapist who began teaching yoga in 2001 in Los Angeles. She leads workshops, trainings and retreats in the US and Asia.
Since 2012, Romy has led teacher trainings in Japan, China and Vietnam for YogaWorks, as well as Yoga Forma® workshops and intensives in the US and for First Ship Yoga School in Tokyo.
Teacher – Lynne has been working with individuals and groups professionally since 1973. Starting as a “Personal Growth Counselor” with a Chattanooga, TN HMO, much of her work in the early days revolved around addiction, co-dependency issues and “family-of-origin” cultural dynamics.
Rev Joanne Coleman
Teacher – Reverend Joanne Coleman has been a staff Minister at Agape International Spiritual Center for four decades. Director of Agape Vision Core, an expert in Aramaic Studies, artist and Shamanism, her unique gift lies in her ability to teach and speak honestly, joyously and intimately of her own spiritual experience and that of ancient Semitic cultures.
She offers eloquent insight and wise humor that energize the imagination and satisfy soulish aspirations for fulfillment.
Head Chef Free Food Harlem Chef Michael comes to Free Food Harlem with a diverse background in engineering, teaching, non-traditional handyman, film production and as a classically trained chef.
He brings with him his passion for the culinary arts , love of all types of food, sharing techniques to create quality signature farm to table meals and a memorable dining experience for our Free Food Patrons.
Teacher – Sheira Kahn, MFT, teaches people how to love themselves through transforming the inner critic and eating in peace. Her clients learn to embrace the body as the channel for the most humble and the most exalted parts of ourselves.
She is co-author of a book on disordered eating for clinicians and offers retreats and workshops (now online).
Guest Chef – Janelle is the co-owner and chef at the Bewildered Pig in Philo, CA. Her food is exquisite, utilizing what is most in season and every part of each vegetable or cut of meat. Janelle was our first ever partner restaurant chef for Love to Table, designing and helping us cook a meal for the homeless.
Gardener – A shamanic landscaper, Jose Camara works with plants and forms that communicate. His landscapes and gardens invite nature in by using indigenous plants to draw in the elements, bugs and birds.
Farmer – Ryan Potts manages food production at the 10 Mile Farm on the Mendocino Coast. He hopes to make the world a better place by implementing organic regenerative agricultural practices.
He holds an environmental studies degree from UC Santa Barbara. He is trained in bio-intensive farm practices. He is an avid surfer and, in the past, has been a commercial salmon fisherman, working in Alaska and California.
Volunteer – Wiggs, an experienced art therapist and a doctoral candidate in Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif. Wiggs first became internationally known as the inspiration for her father’s phenomenon Polly Pocket toy doll accessories in the 1980s and 1990s. Wiggs began training as a therapist in 2011, and has dedicated her life to helping people who are incarcerated.
Guest Chef – Aref has been an integral part of our nonprofit since the start of Love to Table when we first hosted our sit-down restaurant in his Sudanese restaurant in the tenderloin, Z Zoul. Aref was an immediate yes to collaborating, and over the years, he has supported our vision of a farm-to-table restaurant for those in need, offering his space and his heart to support our work.
Aref cooks and serves authentic Sudanese food in his restaurant, which overflows with love and connection with his family and regular customers who come for the food and love.
Guest Chef – Ed is a Dharma heir who studied under Suzuki-Roshi and ran the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center kitchen. He is famous for his cookbooks, including The Tassajara Bread Book. From our start as Love to Table, Ed has infused his love of cooking into our meals, guiding us in using ingredients and combining flavors.
Brown helped to found Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. He and founding chef Deborah Madison wrote The Greens Cookbook in 1987. He is the subject of the documentary, How to Cook Your Life.
“The acquisition of food for self and family can be a dehumanizing cycle of low quality to borderline edible items and “leftovers.” The food in Free Food meals offers something very different. Not only do they provide sustenance necessary for physical survival, but they give temporary reprieve from potential risks of harm and sickness, and the feeling of being cared for and human.”
Nicole, Staff at Partner Shelter