Executive Director &
Board Member

JEFF PARNESS serves as Executive Director and Board Member of New York Says Thank You Foundation. Over 600,000 people of all ages have volunteered in NYSTY’s various programs including its signature  9/11 Anniversary “barn-raising” program; historic 50-state restoration of The National 9/11 Flag; Hurricane Sandy First Responder Rebuilding Fund;  9/12 Generation citizenship education initiative; Build for LIFE rebuilding program for cancer victims in disaster areas; and its growing Stars of HOPE therapeutic community arts program which has accelerated the healing process of tens of millions of disaster survivors in 187 communities in 26 countries. Jeff also co-founded CJ’s Bus Foundation which provided emergency child care services for children in the immediate aftermath of disasters, and Tony’s Room Foundation which built “clean-rooms” for kids with Leukemia.

A former technology corporate finance professional and venture capitalist, Jeff helped to raise over $150 million for every stage company in all market cycles. Jeff is a graduate of the University of Michigan and served in the White House Office of Public Liaison for Defense and Foreign Policy under President Reagan.

Jeff has received numerous awards for his public service with New York Says Thank You Foundation including The Melvin Jones Fellow for Humanitarian Service from Lions Club International Foundation, The New York Post Liberty Medal Ambassador Award, The Champion of the Community Award from The New York Mets, the 1010WINS Tomorrow’s Newsmakers Award for Public Service, The Daughters of American Revolution Founder’s Medal for Patriotism, and National Independent Flag Dealers Association George Washington Award.  Jeff was also a CNN Hero in 2011.

Jeff lives in New York City with his wife Sandra Hauser, an attorney at DENTONS, and his two sons Evan and Josh who were the inspiration behind the creation of New York Says Thank You Foundation.

“I personally believe we were all given Divine abilities to do good in the world, to express love and compassion and to lift others up in times of need. Stars of HOPE is simply one way to carry out that mission. And, the more people that create hope, the more our broken world is healed.

Director of Operations & Programs

JOSH GARCIA  joined the Stars of HOPE® program first as a volunteer, demonstrating a tremendous compassion for our mission. He officially joined the team as the Program Manager in 2017 and was recently promoted to Director of Operations & Programs in early 2018. Josh utilizes his previous experience as a digital media manager, researcher, manager, operator, marketer, and strategist… but more importantly as a survivor of a human-caused mass gun shooting and recipient of SOH… to take the Stars of HOPE program across the globe.

“My goal is to transform tragedy into Hope by empowering individuals, of all backgrounds, to create messages of Hope and healing through community, service, home, school, and corporate programs, volunteer engagement, and Hope awareness. Having worn many different hats in my career, I have the ability to manage multiple projects and uniquely understand survival of tragedy and transformation that embodies the Stars of HOPE® Program.”

Director of Finance & Administration

Following retirement from an extensive career in nursing, CAROLYN DETERS became involved with New York Says Thank You as a volunteer for the Anniversary Build at Little Sioux Scout Ranch in 2009.  When Jeff Parness asked her husband, Denny, to be in charge of flag protocol for the National 9/11 Flag restoration, she offered to help create a procedure for stitching patches made of ready-to-be retired flags to repair the 20’ by 30’ Flag.  At the first ceremony at the State Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas, she helped with the stitching and refined the procedure.  Through Denny’s suggestion to Jeff, as she describes it, she was “voluntold” that she was going to manage the 50-state tour for the completion of the restoration.  This was October 2010 and the goal was to have the Flag completed by the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.  After a year of intense planning, coordination of resources, extensive travel and successful execution and completion, she found herself bored with inactivity.  Consequently, she  assumed the role of Director of Finance and Administration for NYSTY in November 2011 and currently remains in that role.

Carolyn has been an advocate for Stars of Hope since her introduction to it in 2009.  It was such a simple project but so meaningful to those who benefitted from the thoughtful expressions of support they conveyed.  Designed to engage children in helping their devastated communities, it soon became apparent that it wasn’t that limited when the beneficiaries of the program were eager to be involved in the project to pay it forward to the next disaster survivors. It was then she told Jeff that the stars should be come as ubiquitous as Japan’s origami cranes. Although her other duties restrict her active participation, she enjoys helping with events when time permits and continues to believe this project is the essence of the Foundation.

Director of Development

JESSICA CERMACK  is Stars of HOPE’s Director of Development. Jessica joined Stars of HOPE after being inspired by the connectivity and resiliency of the human spirit following the Sonoma wildfires. Jessica is an accomplished fundraiser, earning multiple recognitions and awards during her time serving the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“While I knew what Stars of HOPE was, I was unaware of the magnitude of the impact a Star can have. I was overwhelmed. I was uplifted. I was empowered. Watching the community come together in such a simple way, with such a big result was unlike anything I had experienced before. The healing that comes with the connectivity of survivor to survivor paid forward from Star to Star, mirroring the resiliency of the human spirit, were simple acts of compassion that can change the course of someone’s day… even life. I walked away from Santa Rosa with a brighter outlook on the world and a new calling.”

Jessica holds both Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees from Texas Christian University. She completely embraces the Stars ability to positively impact a human spirit through the simple act of creating a small piece of art. With a background in fundraising and a degree in the Arts, the Stars of HOPE program and mission encompasses all of Jessica’s passions.

Jessica and her husband, Kyle, share two daughters and future global citizens. Lucy, age 9, is a French Immersion student; and Penny Lane, age 8 is a Spanish Immersion student. When the family is not out trying to change the world, they are enjoying their three golden retrievers: June, Cash & Rigby; and 3 cats: Mr. Stilton, Dodger & Oliver.

LEANN DILBECK Director of Communications & Media Partnerships

LEANN DILBECK is the Director of Communications & Media Partnerships. She is a former small business owner, marketer, journalist, and multi-media manager who says that one of the highlights of her career was covering the New York Says Thank You Foundation and Stars of HOPE events when her hometown of Mena, Ark. was selected as a “barn-raising” event in 2010 following a devastating EF3 tornado that destroyed much of the downtown.

“I fell in love with everything that the Foundation embodies and watched first-hand as hundreds of volunteers poured into my small rural community bringing with them such incredibly needed HOPE and healing to families and businesses who had lost so much. To now be part of that effort is both an incredible honor and privilege.” LeAnn joined the team in March of 2018.

LeAnn is a graduate of Henderson State University and the ABA School of Bank Marketing & Management. She has served as an officer of the Arkansas Bank Marketers Association, Arkansas Festival and Events Association, Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce, Mena Regional Support Foundation and was the recipient of the Citizen of the Year Award in 2005 by the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks as well as recognized by the Southeast Tourism Association as one of the region’s Top 10 Festival/Event Planners in 2006. She currently serves on the Board of the Court Appointed Special Advocates, serving children in the foster system, as well as the Polk County Single Parent Scholarship Board, and on the council of The Crossing Church.

LeAnn considers her greatest success to be that of her family – husband of 23 years, David, and two teenagers, Dustin & Lexi.

FRAN SHEFF-MAUER Branding Consultant

Combining Fran’s love of New York, design, and a deep rooted personal desire to ‘Pay-It-Forward,’ FRAN SHEFF-MAUER serves as a consultant for marketing and branding for the New York Says Thank You (NYSTY) Foundation, a growing national and global ‘Pay-It-Forward’ service movement. NYSTY has completed projects in all 50 states and around the world.

“I’ve had the privilege to design and launch Stars of HOPE® Box of HOPE. The very first service project that can be done at home or in office. I have designed all materials and packaging for this project. We have developed a social campaign, “LOVE is Stronger than Hate®“. Love is Stronger than Hate  merchandise is in production and is the number one seller at the 9/11 Memorial Museum Store as well as well as sold at the Love Is Stronger than Hate website.”

Fran grew up in New York, graduated from Newhouse School of Communications and the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. She continues to take design classes at SVA and has lectured at Syracuse University, Newhouse School, College of VPA and at Johns Hopkins University on advertising and design.

“Creating a Star of HOPE is a wonderful therapeutic experience, to sit with friends, and family holding a paint brush instead of a cell phone and thinking what message would make someone smile is great joy. The real magic is meeting the people who get the stars, it makes my heart so happy.”