About The Gilbert
Family Foundation.

Mission & Vision

“Nothing significant has ever happened, without someone believing in it first.”

The Gilbert Family Foundation is driven by the belief that major change is possible when we work together. Inspired by our founders Dan and Jennifer Gilbert, we are committed to accelerating a cure for neurofibromatosis (NF) and building opportunity for Detroiters.

OUR DRIVING VALUES

The Gilbert Family Foundation shares a core set of philosophies with the Rock Family of Companies that informs our work. These include:

  • 01 Obsessed With Finding a Better Way

    We are always trying to find a better way to solve the most complex problems. We are not afraid to take risks and invest in programs that nobody else has tried before.

  • 02 We’ll Figure It Out

    We recognize that we don’t have all the answers, so we collaborate closely with our partners to understand the problem from all angles. Together, we figure out the best way to make a real impact on the communities we serve.

  • 03 We Are The They

    Everything we do is informed by the communities we serve. Through our partners, we stay close to the needs of the community and seek to make transformative investments that fix broken systems.

Our Founders

Dan and Jennifer’s commitment to NF research began when their oldest son, Nick, was born with NF1. They established the Gilbert Family Foundation in 2015 to advance groundbreaking, cutting-edge NF research and are focused on supporting the best ideas, no matter how radical they may seem at first. Nick passed away in May 2023, but his optimism and passion continue to inspire this work each day.

Dan and Jennifer’s commitment to building opportunity and equity for Detroit residents is rooted in their love and longtime passion for their hometown. In 2021, the Rocket Community Fund and Gilbert Family Foundation made a joint 10-year, $500 million commitment to build opportunity in Detroit neighborhoods. The Gilbert Family Foundation’s commitment ($350 million) builds on more than a decade of impactful investments, including the historic decision to relocate the Rock Family of Companies to downtown Detroit in 2010.

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Dan GilbertFounder & Chairman, Rocket Companies
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Jennifer GilbertFounder & CEO, Amber EngineFounder & Creative Director, POPHOUSE

Careers

Innovators
Wanted

The Gilbert Family Foundation believes that big challenges require big solutions. That’s why we’re looking for innovative thinkers to join our team. If you are passionate about making an impact, collaborating with community partners and finding innovative solutions to complex problems, we want to hear from you. Visit MyRocketCareer.com to see current job postings.

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Darnell AdamsVice President - Detroit Community Initiatives

Detroit native Darnell Adams is the Director, Detroit Community Initiatives for the Gilbert Family Foundation. He brings more than 10 years of community development, strategic planning, and thought leadership experience to his role. Throughout his career, Darnell has strived to build and adjust resources that directly affect Detroiters.

Prior to joining the Gilbert Family Foundation, Darnell served as Vice President, Neighborhoods at Invest Detroit where he led equitable investments in the city’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund districts with a special focus on supporting BIPOC developers. Previously, he served as the Director, Inventory for the Detroit Land Bank Authority where he oversaw the strategic disposition of 94,000 publicly owned parcels.

Darnell is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Urban & Regional Planning. Darnell continues to push community development work forward as a board member of several community development organizations across Detroit and shares his work through local, national, and international forums.

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Hanna AndersonAssociate Grants and Operations Manager

Hanna Anderson works on the Grants and Operations team as a support for data and day to day operations. Hanna first joined the Gilbert Family Foundation in 2022 as an intern and returned in 2023 as an Associate Grants and Operations Manager. She works closely with the data of our grants portfolio while managing various grants and sponsorships. Her close attention to detail, adaptability, and eagerness to learn provide a sounding board and a support for various workstreams. Hanna additionally supports our sister organization, NF Forward, in donor relations, data management, and their silent and live auctions. In 2022, Hanna graduated from the University of Michigan with an Elementary Education degree with concentrations in Math and Social Studies as well as a certificate in Trauma Informed Practice.

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Andrea BensonSenior Program Manager

Andrea serves as a Senior Program Manager on the Detroit Community Initiatives team. Her work involves managing a portfolio of investments that reinforce the foundation’s commitment to grow opportunity and equity for Detroit residents and businesses. In addition, she is responsible for supporting the Economic Mobility, Arts and Culture, and Public Space teams as it relates to our North Star Strategy.

A native Detroiter, Andrea began her career in the non-profit sector creating and delivering products and services to support housing stabilization, economic mobility, and environmentally sustainable practices in Detroit. Prior to joining the Gilbert Family Foundation, she worked at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation where she managed business retention and expansion projects throughout Wayne County.

Andrea is a graduate of the University of Michigan and New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service where she received a degree in Urban Planning.

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Brandi BrownProgram Manager

Brandi Brown is an Associate Program Manager on the Economic Mobility Team with the Gilbert Family Foundation. Through the lens of community and family development, Brandi focuses on building strategies that remove economic hardships and lack of financial opportunities across generations.

Brandi began her service career as a AmeriCorps member with City Year Detroit, where she spring-boarded learning partnerships with Detroit Public School Community District. Brandi’s equitable collaborations with Youth on the Edge of Greatness, Matrix Human Services and College for Creative Studies helped to launch Detroit Neighborhoods Arts Workshops, the first Detroit joint initiative aimed at creating entrepreneurship pathways for young artists. With dual background in holistic health, Brandi’s professional principles are founded in supporting Detroiters through trauma-informed practices and partnerships.

Brandi’s work with the Gilbert Family Foundation’s Economic Mobility Team fosters co-designed initiatives that helps Detroit households reimagine their ability to grow and maintain their income through increased wages, skills attainment, and pathways to entrepreneurship. Prior to joining Gilbert Family Foundation, Brandi programmed the over-arching Rocket Family of Companies’ team member-facing initiatives at Rock Connections. Brandi attends Wayne State University, where she is earning a degree in Psychology and Urban Education & Equality Studies.

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Cayla ChamberlinSenior Program Manager

Cayla Chamberlin is a Senior Program Manager with the Gilbert Family Foundation. A passionate public space professional, she works to create safe, inclusive, and active parks and public spaces in Detroit. In her role on the Public Spaces team, she works with neighborhood organizations, non-profits, and government entities to invest in public spaces throughout the city.

She has experience working on a variety of projects in Detroit including the building of the Esplanade in downtown Detroit, the redevelopment of McDuffy Park in the Piety Hill neighborhood, and has been leading the Downtown Detroit Markets in Cadillac Square since their creation in 2017. Chamberlin is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in English and an additional degree in Communications.

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Laura GrannemannExecutive Director

Laura Grannemann is the Executive Director of the Rocket Community Fund and Executive Director of the Gilbert Family Foundation. Laura joined the Rock Family of Companies in May of 2014 after graduating from Georgetown University with a degree in International Development.

In her dual roles, Laura focuses on breaking down complex systems related to economic development and neighborhood stabilization, including Detroit’s tax foreclosure crisis, the mortgage market in the city, and creating education programs that prepare students for 21st century jobs in Detroit. She also oversees all volunteer engagement and giving initiatives for the Rock Family of Companies via the Rocket Community Fund.

Throughout her time with the Rock Family of Companies, Laura has led projects that bring together community, public and private partners such as Rehabbed & Ready, Motor City Mapping, Neighbor to Neighbor, the Make It Home program, and the Detroit Tax Relief Fund. This work has affected tens of thousands of Detroit residents, allowing families to stay in their homes, become homeowners, and build equity and opportunity.

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Efrén MuñozScientific Analyst

Efrén Muñoz is a Scientific Analyst for the Gilbert Family Foundation. In his role, he will support the Scientific Officer to advance projects and research that further the goal of curing neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). He has a background in physics and molecular engineering and has spent the past several years applying his skills to develop technologies that better analyze and characterize biological systems.
Growing up in the city of Detroit, Efrén spent his extra time participating in organizations whose goals were to alleviate the pains that many people felt within the city, both economically and medically. He has learned so much from his time spent investing in the communities of Detroit, and it has substantially informed the trajectory of his career.
Efrén holds degrees from Wayne State University (B.S., Biomedical Physics) and The University of Chicago (M.S., Molecular Engineering).

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Elwy OkazSenior Scientific Program Manager
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Kinnus PaulProgram Manager

Kinnus Paul is a lifelong Detroiter and graduate of Detroit Northwestern Highschool. Kinnus has over 13 years of experience in talent pipelining, small business support and program management specific to skilled trades. Supporting Detroiters as an ecosystem partner is his mission and fuels his appetite to be the change he wants to see in the community he loves.

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Caroline PooleAssociate Grants and Operations Manager

Caroline Poole oversees the logistics and behind-the-scenes work of the grantmaking process at the Gilbert Family Foundation. As the Associate Grants & Operations Manager, she supports the Economic Mobility team in executing projects that create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in the city, invest in small businesses and skills training, and build economic opportunity for Detroit residents. Her work is also directed towards Curing NF where she collaborates with scientists to manage research projects for the foundation’s Vision Restoration Initiative. Caroline comes to the Gilbert Family Foundation with years of experience in the nonprofit industry. In her previous role as the Communications & Strategic Initiatives Manager at Global Ties Detroit, she was responsible for leading projects to improve the organization’s infrastructure and outreach. Caroline received her B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University and her M.A. in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University.

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Kayleigh RoyDirector - Grants and Operations

Kayleigh Roy manages the day-to-day and long-term operational planning of the Gilbert Family Foundation’s grants across pillars as well as for NF Forward, a nonprofit founded by the Gilberts. Acting as Director of Grants and Operations, she interfaces with all members of the Foundation’s team and grantees to cultivate and maintain strong partnerships across the Curing NF and Building Opportunity and Equity pillars of the Foundation. Kayleigh previously worked in an operations and grants management role at the Quicken Loans Community Fund, and prior to joining the Family of Companies, she supported urban development research at the Virginia Department of Transportation. Kayleigh graduated from the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture with a degree in Urban and Environmental Planning.

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Andrea ScobieSenior Program Manager
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Dorienne SherrodAssociate Grants and Operations Manager

Dorienne Sherrod is the grant and operation manager for Art & Culture and Gene Therapy initiatives for the Gilbert Family Foundation. She will be handling all aspects of grants and sponsorships from the organization. Additionally, she will be supporting NF Forward, the sister organization to the foundation. Prior to joining the team in 2022, Dorienne has worked in nonprofits and program management in Detroit. Dorienne graduated from Arizona State University in 2016 with a degree in Public Policy and Public Service with a concentration in Business and Global Health.

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Julia SommersAssociate Grants and Operations Manager

Julia works passionately on the Grants and Operations team to ensure the daily and long-term success of the Gilbert Family Foundation and NF Forward. She manages the Public Spaces pillar of the Building Opportunity and Equity initiative, as well as scientific research grants on Neurofibromatosis (NF) brain tumors. Julia has a professional background in the nonprofit sector, working in volunteer management, donor relations, and fundraising; she has a degree in Philosophy from Oakland University and a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management from Eastern Michigan University.

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Mar Paricio SunyerSenior Grants and Operations Manager

Mar Paricio Sunyer works hand in hand with the Grants and Operations team to manage the day-to-day operations of the Gilbert Family Foundation and its sister nonprofit, NF Forward. As Grants and Operations Manager, Mar has experience working in all aspects of the organization: from managing grants, coding a website, managing Salesforce instances, to executing a silent and live auction. Mar joined the Gilbert Family Foundation in 2019, shortly after graduating from Clemson University with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Nonprofit Leadership.

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JJ VelezDirector - Public Spaces

JJ is the Director of Public Space for the Gilbert Family Foundation. JJ joined Rock Family of Companies in February of 2022 after serving as the Deputy Director of the City of Detroit’s Parks & Recreation Department.

In his role, JJ comes to his work and volunteer activities with unbridled enthusiasm and positive energy to unlock inclusive and equitable access through community engagement and robust (and sometimes atypical) partnerships. He has an appreciative grasp of the critical role that quality programming – especially sports and after school – has had on his own life’s trajectory. He remains committed to giving back and creating opportunities for everyone, no matter their ability, race, gender, or socio-economic status.

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Poornima VenkatScientific Program Manager
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Kalyan Vinnakota, PhDDirector - Curing NF

Kalyan Vinnakota manages the grants funded by the Gilbert Family Foundation’s Vision Restoration Initiative. Dr. Vinnakota is a bioengineer with over a decade of post-PhD experience in academia, military medical research, and the biomedical research industry. His major scientific contributions are in the areas of computational modeling of biochemical pathways and cellular transport processes. He has developed computational and experimental approaches to study a wide range of problems including regulation of mitochondrial metabolism, localization and mobility of Ras proteins, and pharmacokinetics of small molecule therapeutics in translational animal models. He is passionate about applying his interdisciplinary research experience towards advancing therapeutics for patients with unmet needs.

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Dan GilbertFounder & Chairman, Rocket Companies

Dan Gilbert is Founder and Chairman of Rocket Companies, which went public on August 6, 2020. He is also Founder and Chairman of Rocket Mortgage (formerly Quicken Loans), the nation’s largest mortgage lender; Founder and Chairman of the Rock Family of Companies, a portfolio of technology businesses and real estate investments; and Chairman of the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship. The Rock Family of Companies and its more than 100 affiliated companies across the country employ more than 30,000 team members, including more than 17,000 in Detroit’s urban core.

From 2013 through 2018, Detroit-based Quicken Loans closed nearly half a trillion dollars in home loan volume across all 50 states, and in 2019, for the tenth consecutive year, earned J.D. Power’s highest rating for client satisfaction among all U.S. mortgage lenders.

Dan is also an active investor in fintech, sports-related and consumer direct companies. Dan is a Founder and Principal of Detroit Venture Partners (DVP), a venture capital firm that funds startup and early-stage technology companies and a Founding Partner of Detroit-based private equity group Rockbridge Growth Equity.

In February 2016, Dan co-founded Detroit-based StockX, the world’s first ‘stock market of things’, combining the visible, liquid, anonymous, and transparent benefits of a stock market with the online consumer secondary market.

Dan began moving his Family of Companies to Detroit’s central business district in 2010 in an effort to help lead the transformation of a great American city. In 2011, Dan co-founded Detroit-based Bedrock, a full-service real estate firm specializing in acquiring, leasing, financing, and managing commercial and residential space. Since its founding, Bedrock and its affiliates have invested and committed more than $5.6 billion to acquiring and developing more than 100 properties, including new construction of ground up developments in downtown Detroit and Cleveland, totaling more than 18 million square feet.

Dan serves on the boards of the Cleveland Clinic and the Children’s Tumor Foundation. In 2015, Dan and Jennifer Gilbert established the Gilbert Family Foundation and in 2017, formed NF Forward to fund cutting-edge research dedicated to finding a cure for neurofibromatosis (NF).

Dan earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and his law degree from Wayne State University.

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Jennifer GilbertFounder & CEO, Amber EngineFounder & Creative Director, POPHOUSE

Jennifer Gilbert is Director and Board Member of Rocket Companies (NYSE: RKT). She is also Founder of Detroit-based design studio POPHOUSE.

With more than 20 years of experience in interior design, Jennifer brings her expertise in leading the commercial design firm that specializes in utilizing data and industry research to provide strategic, unconventional, and human-centric design for clients across a broad spectrum of industries.

In 2015, Jennifer founded Amber Engine, a home furnishings services and solutions technology company which was sold to Material Bank in 2022. Prior to Amber Engine, Jennifer founded Doodle Home, a digital platform for residential interior designers. Doodle Home was sold to Dering Hall in 2015.

In addition to her business interests, Jennifer is an active member of a number of nonprofits focused on the arts and finding a cure for Neurofibromatosis (also known as NF). In 2015, she and her husband Dan established the Gilbert Family Foundation and, in 2017, formed NF Forward, to fund cutting-edge research dedicated to finding a cure for neurofibromatosis, where Jennifer serves as President.

In addition to the Gilbert Family Foundation’s work with NF, they are also committed to building opportunity for Detroit residents who face systemic barriers to economic and social mobility.

In 2015, Jennifer founded the Detroit Art Collection to beautify and inspire public spaces and structures in downtown Detroit with sculptural and mixed media works from both local and national artists, galleries, and dealers. Jennifer is also a board member of BasBlue Detroit and serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum.

Jennifer earned her Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design and holds an honorary doctorate in Business from Michigan State University. The Gilberts reside in the Detroit area. They have five children.

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