Elena serves as the Communications Director for Faith in Place. Her passion for environmental justice grew from her time working in community public health in Latin American and the Middle East and from own her story as a daughter of a Cuban refugee. She recognizes how deeply environmental health issues are tied to social injustices and is excited to support Faith in Place as they tackle both.

She also grew up in an interfaith home with as her father was a practicing Buddhist and mother was Christian. Elena uses this interfaith background to communicate across faith traditions and is passionate about utilizing her skills in messaging, digital media strategy, and graphic design to advocate for community health and just climate solutions.  

After growing up in Tennessee, Elena got her B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Tennessee, a Master of Arts from North Park Theological Seminary, and a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Environmental and Occupational Health from the George Washington University. Her MPH thesis research focused on how to build climate resilience among Latinx youth through climate communications. She also serves on American Public Health Association's Center for Climate, Health and Equity Advisory Board as well as the Environmental Health and the Health and Climate Change Committees.

Sal Valli,
Social Media and Press Coordinator

Growing up roaming the ponderosa pine forests of Páha Sápa on Lakota land, Sal came to understand how connection to land, spirituality, and the relationships humans have to one another are all a part of the same conversation.  

As a proud queer, mixed-race Chicanx, Sal views the world through a critical lens and works to use storytelling as a way to shift the narratives that larger, oppressive systems use to keep communities from gaining power. Sal leads with their curiosity and spends time reimagining resilient realities through their art and through conversations with close loved ones. 

Sal graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a Bachelor’s of Individualized Studies in Journalism, Art, and Global Studies. In Minneapolis, Sal co-facilitated social justice-based storytelling workshops with Line Break Media and worked as the Documentation Coordinator for Pangea World Theater’s Lake Street Arts! initiative. 

Sal was hired in 2020 as the Social Media and Press Coordinator for the Faith in Place Action Fund. They are eager to use their communication skills, reverence of the spiritual, and ways of developing intentional relationships to enhance the work of Faith in Place. 

Pastor Onqué currently serves as Pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, a 98 year old historic church on the south side of Chicago. He has served in this capacity for 12 years.  Under his leadership the church has grown tremendously both spiritual and numerically. Pastor Onque’ has a passion for teaching and preaching the Word of God. Pastor Onque’ is very civically and socially conscious. He serves on several community boards and commissions and realizes that volunteering his time in community efforts is an integral part of his ministry. He is currently the President of the Congress of Christian Education Department of the Salem Baptist District Association of Chicago and Vicinity. He currently serves as the Treasurer of Baptist General State Convention of Illinois. Pastor Onque’ also serves as a commissioner for African American Families Commission for the State of Illinois.

Rev. Brian Sauder is President and Executive Director of Faith in Place and Faith in Place Action Fund. His passion for environmental justice motivates his work fundraising to grow the vision of Faith in Place. Rev. Sauder received his B.S. from the University of Illinois in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, M.A. in Religion from Urbana Theological Seminary, and M.B.A. from the University of Illinois. Rev. Sauder is ordained by the Mennonite Church U.S.A. and worships with Chicago Community Mennonite Church in East Garfield Park.

Our Staff

Elena Bettis,
Communications Director
Rev. Brian Sauder,
Executive Director
Rev. Scott Onqué,
Policy Director

All Faith in Place staff support the Faith in Place Action Fund as needed. The five staff listed below serve in leadership in for the Faith in Place Action Fund to provide direction for advancing our mission.

Celeste Flores,
lake county outreach director

Celeste Flores was born and raised in Lake County, Illinois and has been a lifelong member of Most Blessed Trinity Parish in Waukegan.

While a student at Bellarmine University in Kentucky, Celeste saw the devastation of Mountaintop removal and became involved in environmental justice. After graduation, she spent a year as an Americorps volunteer in Appalachia then returned to Lake County, where she discovered local opportunities for environmental work.

Celeste began as a volunteer with Clean Power Lake County working to develop a transition plan for the coal fired electric generating plant in Waukegan along the shore of Lake Michigan. Her commitment to this work led her to become the lead organizer for CPLC. In that capacity, Celeste’s work with front line community members has drawn national attention to the environmental injustices associated with a fossil fuel economy. She has built strong relationships with varied coalition partners and elected officials, and has continually championed the need for a sensible transition plan to move Waukegan toward a clean and sustainable energy future. 

Contact Us

Faith in Place Action Fund

70 E Lake St. Suite 920

Chicago, IL 60601



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About us

People of Faith and Conscience Promoting Political Action for Environmental Justice in Illinois.

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