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Linda Novick O'Keefe
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Linda Novick O’Keefe is the Founding Chief Executive Officer of Common Threads. Her experience, desire to develop innovative solutions to social problems combined with her passion for food led her to start Common Threads with chef Art Smith and artist Jesus Salgueiro in May 2003. Their vision was for a non-profit organization committed to educating youth about cultural diversity, the culinary arts and the importance of nutrition. Common Threads reverses the trend of generations of non-cookers who have been raised on over-processed food. Linda believes that food access is not only a key indicator of larger social justice issues, but also a concern with the potential to strengthen individuals and fortify entire communities. The program helps to combat the childhood obesity epidemic that is ravaging underserved communities while honoring families’ diverse cultures. Under Linda's leadership, Common Threads has grown from the basement of a humble church in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood to more than 500 schools and community partner sites nationwide in 2015, and has broadened its curricular focus to include after-school, summer programs, parent outreach and teacher training programs.

Prior to launching Common Threads, Linda worked in pharmaceutical advertising; however, a desire to make a difference in the community led her to an internship with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and later to a position with the community-development savvy ShoreBank. Linda has an M.S. in Public Service Administration from DePaul University; was a 2009 Scholarship recipient and attendant of Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management; has been a Kellogg School of Management Board Governance Fellowship Mentor; served on the Building a Healthier Chicago Task Force; is a Babson College Social Innovation Fellow; and currently is a Kitchen Cabinet Member for the Smithsonian Institute. She is the 2010 recipient of the Anti-Defamation League’s Rising Star Award and was featured by Today's Chicago Woman as one of 100 Women Making a Difference in 2011. She, her husband Nick, their two children, Zachary and Julia, and Leo, a pit-sharpei rescue, live in Austin.

Entries by Linda Novick O'Keefe

The Art of Revitalization

(0) Comments | Posted May 17, 2016 | 4:46 PM

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." - Pablo Picasso

Beauty has the ability to change a life and redeem a soul. From the fresh flowers, to the fountain out front, the abundant light and world-class art inside, every detail about the design of the...

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Make Your Health a Priority

(0) Comments | Posted May 10, 2016 | 9:34 AM

The World Health Organization lists cancer, reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections, violence against women, and mental health among the top 10 biggest women's health issues. National Women's Health Week is an observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health...

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Combating Latino Health Disparities Through Nutrition Education & Cooking

(0) Comments | Posted April 29, 2016 | 8:11 AM

Social determinants of health (SDOH), as identified by the CDC, are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes. Access to healthy foods, education, safe neighborhoods, and quality relationships are just a few of the...

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Heart Health -- Love, Happiness, Gratitude, and Learning

(0) Comments | Posted February 19, 2016 | 5:02 PM

"Money is of no value to me. Love gives you more. You can't get rid of love, when you give more, you get more." --Warren Buffett

My friend Emily Sachs Wong texted me these words after having dinner with Warren Buffett, I have no idea what they were eating and...

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Beyond Bono: Music and Philanthropy

(2) Comments | Posted December 28, 2015 | 9:19 AM

I wish I could sing, and belt out every feeling like Nina Simone or sing a love letter to my daughter like Paul Simon. I love music and have long been impressed with the artists that enrich our world in so many ways. A while back I started exploring the...

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Nutrition Panel Tells All: Fueling the Future

(0) Comments | Posted December 19, 2015 | 8:50 AM

According to an article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review, "No single organization has the ability to solve any major social problem at scale by itself. Collective impact is a powerful new approach to cross-sector collaboration that is achieving measurable effects on major social issues." New York City...

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The Business of Volunteerism

(0) Comments | Posted December 8, 2015 | 10:57 AM

"You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give." - Winston Churchill

All of the volunteers I have crossed paths with in my role at Common Threads, the nonprofit organization that I co-founded, have one thing in common -- passion. When individuals...

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My Foodie Friends Dish On The Ingredients That Make Up Their Food Memories

(0) Comments | Posted October 8, 2015 | 6:04 PM

"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." - Pericles

This quote was left by our server at our regular Sunday morning spot known to my family as our daughter's happy place, because she loves nothing more...

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Treating Stress and Trauma With Mindfulness

(1) Comments | Posted September 16, 2015 | 10:02 PM

Mindfulness is a committed, concerted, targeted practice -- a life skill. While pausing for a few deep breaths may make you feel better in the moment, practicing and training regularly will allow you to achieve long lasting results, brain health, and that calmer, less reactive place of being. Just as...

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A Chef's Guide to Cooking at Home

(1) Comments | Posted July 24, 2015 | 2:58 PM

There's nothing quite like a home-cooked meal. Childhood memories of mom's chicken noodle soup or nana's chocolate sheet cake - certain foods, their taste and smell evoke memories and take us back in time. There is something so satisfying about cooking and baking for the people I love, passing on...

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Bridging the Gap Between Summer & Hunger

(3) Comments | Posted June 30, 2015 | 11:00 AM

When we think about summer, many of us think about baseball games, BBQs and family vacations. For some families, summer can also be a time of uncertainty and hunger. Feeding and taking care of the people that need help in our own country, in our own communities, has always been...

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Nutrition Matters: How Miami-Dade Schools Are Leading the Way in Food and Nutrition Literacy

(1) Comments | Posted May 21, 2015 | 11:42 AM

Currently, one in three kids are obese or overweight. If kiddos are obese and overweight at age 10-17 years old, they have an 80% chance of being an overweight or obese adult. Sadly, if current trends continue, by 2030, 86.3 % of adults will be overweight or obese.


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5 Surefire Tips for Being a Healthy Road Warrior

(4) Comments | Posted May 16, 2015 | 9:38 AM

According to the U.S. Travel Association, U.S. residents logged 452 million business trips in 2014 (U.S. Travel Association report). As part of the Road Warrior tribe and as someone who is obsessive about trying to live a healthy life, I know that business trips are not conducive to...

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Collaboration Creates Health-Focused, Healing Menu Options for Oncology Patients

(3) Comments | Posted April 10, 2015 | 2:30 PM

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." -- Hippocrates

It is common knowledge that eating a well-balanced diet, low in sugar, fat, and processed foods, is good for you. However, it is never more important than when someone has been diagnosed with cancer, is undergoing chemotherapy, or...

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5 Surefire Tips for Eating Healthy

(3) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 12:24 PM

It can be next to impossible to keep up with and sort through all of the healthy eating trends these days. The low-fat, low-carb, sugar-free, paleo eating plans are confusing, and it is hard to know which to trust because they change so quickly. At any given time there is...

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Former CEO Inspires Change and Gives Back in Retirement

(0) Comments | Posted February 13, 2015 | 3:18 PM

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."

- Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of General Electric

Last summer, I received a call asking if I would be interested in being mentored by a...

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Can Nonprofit Organizations Compete in the War for Talent?

(0) Comments | Posted January 22, 2015 | 10:43 AM

As the leader of a nonprofit organization that is experiencing rapid growth, I have strived to create a culture of accountability in order to improve our performance to achieve the organization's mission. It is an ongoing process that never ends. It all begins with the right leadership team and refusing...

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Doing Good Is Good for Business -- Corporate Social Responsibility in 2015

(5) Comments | Posted December 22, 2014 | 10:19 PM

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer an obligation that corporations feel they need to take on, but has become central to the operations of many of the best companies today. In 2012, I explored the way businesses thought about philanthropy and today I will provide an update on new...

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Prevent Kids From 'Sliding' Over the Summer

(0) Comments | Posted October 30, 2014 | 1:21 PM

Just the other day my neighbor casually mentioned an upcoming camp registration deadline for her kids. For next summer! I was completely caught off guard. Can it really be time to start planning for NEXT summer? I don't even have my Halloween decorations out yet; I don't have child-care plans...

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Dinner Co-Ops! An Easy Way to Keep Your Family Eating Together!

(0) Comments | Posted May 7, 2014 | 5:22 PM

Cooking dinner and sitting down to share a meal with my family is my favorite part of the day. Nothing fills my bucket like knowing that I am feeding my kids something healthy; seeing my littles gobble their food and comment, "This is really good, Mom" (which certainly doesn't happen...

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