Café Momentum PIttsburgh

Board of Directors

Kirk is a Managing Director with Merrill in Pittsburgh and has been in the financial services business since 2000.  He is a graduate of Purdue University, holds CFP® and CRPC® designations and co-manages a 10-person, $1B+ financial advisory practice in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

He was born and raised in California, graduated from Lake Forest High School in Illinois, college in Indiana and then moved to Pittsburgh.  He currently lives with his husband in Pittsburgh’s historic Highland Park area.

Kirk’s other charitable activities begin with being a trustee for The Pittsburgh Promise (which provides four-year scholarships to qualifying graduates of the City of Pittsburgh schools) and a Trustee of the Frick Art & Historical Center.

Julie Strickland-Gilliard is a community-focused change agent with over a decade of cross-functional organizational development experience within the social impact sector through planning, targeted communication, partnerships, and resource optimization. Julie identified her passion for supporting Pittsburgh-based non-profits and strengthening their ties to the local community while working in the office of Institutional Advancement at the University of Pittsburgh as a student.  Early in her career, she worked for the Allegheny Link under the Office of Community Relations at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services where she was the first point of contact, providing counseling, resources, and referrals to individuals in need. Julie went on to become the Program Manager of the Community Partner’s Program at Global Links, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit dedicated to improving health in communities in need by sharing and distributing surplus supplies rescued from the US healthcare system. Within Julie’s first year running the program, 30 partnerships with nonprofits and health centers were established to directly distribute supplies to the community or use supplies to increase their capacity to serve patients and clients throughout Western PA. She later became the Director of Domestic Medical Aid which included management of the Community Partners Program, working with government officials, healthcare professionals, community organizations and community leaders to develop projects that support public health goals by improving access to quality healthcare and needed materials, internationally and domestically. 

Julie was appointed to serve as Western Pennsylvania Director for Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman in January of 2019.  She managed the 26 western counties in the Commonwealth for his Office, interacting with elected officials and their offices as well as constituents, businesses, and advocacy groups to address their concerns.  Julie worked closely with Pennsylvania’s Second Lady, Gisele Fetterman, on her initiatives to make Pennsylvania a kinder, healthier, and safer place. During COVID-19, she worked collaboratively with the PA Department of Health, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and the Allegheny Department of Health to assist with the pandemic response.  Additionally, she served as Pardons Liaison for the Lt. Governor’s Office working with Board of Pardons applicants, the community, elected officials, and briefing the Lt. Governor on cases and applicants scheduled to appear before the board requesting a pardon or commutation. Julie served on several task forces during her time in her position including the nation’s first City-Wide Task Force on Employee Ownership (Pittsburgh), The Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force on Health Disparities, and The Governor’s Task Force on Dismantling Systemic Racism. 

Julie is also a member of the Board of Directors at the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation which focuses on improving the health of the HIV+ and LGBTQ+ communities. She will be entering the next board cycle at The Midwife Center of Greater Pittsburgh in the Fall of 2022.  

Julie is a proud lifelong Pittsburgher and resides on Pittsburgh’s Northside with her family.

Rachael Heisler is the Deputy Controller for the City of Pittsburgh where she oversees the daily operation of the City Controller’s office. She spent seven years as a senior advisor at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the country’s leading federal fiscal policy think-tank, running the organization’s external affairs efforts.  She served on the staff of Congressman Jason Altmire for six years and worked on the inaugural Senate campaign for U.S. Senator Bob Casey.  

She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s degree from Penn State University.  Rachael is also on the board of the Northside Food Pantry Advisors, the Allegheny YMCA, and the Allegheny City Central Association.  She serves as the Pennsylvania representative with the United States Navy’s Community Ambassador Program and is the chair of the City of Pittsburgh’s 22nd Ward Democratic Committee.

Jennifer Gabler has more than 20 years of professional experience in non-profit organizations including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Cornell University, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and Winchester-Thurston School. She currently serves at the University of Pittsburgh as Assistant Vice Chancellor, Health Sciences Strategic Programs. At Pitt, she oversees fundraising for the School of Medicine, raising funds for education, scholarships, medical research, and other related health sciences initiatives.              

Jennifer believes that each member of our community has a right to education, healthcare, and a chance to be a productive and valued member of society. She sees Café Momentum and the organization’s mission as an innovative and impactful model to provide young people of Pittsburgh with a clear path and the necessary support services for personal growth and professional success.

Jennifer received her BA from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts and her JD from Penn State Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, PA.

Always one to add a little levity to the conversation, Chad often describes Café Momentum as “taking kids out of jail and teaching them to play with knives and fire.” But levity aside, it’s this charisma and passion to teach life, social and employment skills to Dallas’ most at-risk youth that makes Houser a hit with everyone from philanthropists and dinner-goers to the young people participating in the program. 

After 17 years as a chef, Chad sold his partnership of Parigi Restaurant to devote his full attention to the role of Executive Director of Café Momentum in 2012. Since it’s opening in January 2015, Cafe Momentum Dallas continues to be recognized as one of the top restaurants in Dallas while also continuing to expand programming to include mental health and services and launching its own high school. In 2020, Chad co-founded Momentum Advisory Collective, a non-profit organization built to scale Café Momentum and a new model for youth justice across the country. Momentum Advisory Collective is currently expanding the Cafe Momentum program into Pittsburgh, Nashville, Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Boston and Baltimore with a goal of launching 30 restaurants and programs in the next 10 years.

In the Dallas community, where he resides, Chad is a member of the El Centro College Food and Hospitality Institute “Hall of Fame” and currently serves on the Dallas College Foundation Board of Directors.

In 2017, Chad and Café Momentum were  featured in the Starbucks production of Upstanders Season 2, a series created to shine a light on stories of everyday Americans who are doing extraordinarily courageous things. In March of 2018, Houser was named a CNN Hero.

He has also appeared on The Rachael Ray Show, The Chew, The Hero Effect,  and Pickler & Ben, The Steve Harvey Show and Good Morning America.

Additionally, Chad has received multiple nominations from D Magazine for “Best Up-And-Coming Chef” (2010) and “Best Chef” (2011 and 2012). In 2011, he received the Edible Dallas/Fort Worth “Local Hero – Chef” award. From 2015-2023 Chad was named one of the Best 500 Business Leaders in Dallas by D CEO.

Chad was also selected as Dallas Business Journal’s “40 Under 40,” and as one of the United States Junior Chamber’s (Jaycee) 2015 Ten Outstanding Young Americans. He has been named to the “Top 50 Under 40” by the Social Enterprise Alliance, an “Urban Innovator to Watch” by the New Cities Foundation, as one of “30 Most Interesting People in the Metro Area” by the Dallas Observer, and one of Good Magazine’s “Good 100,” individuals at the cutting edge of creative impact across the globe and in 2021 was the recipient of the UN Day Global Leadership Award for ‘No Poverty’. In 2022, Houser was awarded the International Association of Culinary Professionals Trailblazer Award.

Giles Davidson, a Philanthropist and Social Impact Leader, began his career in Information Systems and Project Management. However, in 2010, after moving to Dallas, he decided to pursue a different path. This began as he was accepted into Leadership DISD (Dallas Independent School District), which expanded his knowledge of the challenges within the current education system. 

Following this impactful program, Giles has taken his 30 years of experience in Information Systems and Project Management at companies such as Verizon, MCI/Worldcom, and Discovery Communications and joined other leaders to tackle pressing educational issues at the local, state and national level.

Giles joined and continues to serve on several local and national non-profit boards and committees, and his expanded reach and impact includes other critical issues facing communities such as mental health, equity, and social justice.

Bio coming soon.