Past VISTA Cohorts


2018-2019 VISTA Team Alumni

Kasi Muthu–Catholic Charities

At Catholic Charities, Kasi created economic opportunity for low-income community members by building the capacity of the Save First Financial Wellness program. During his VISTA year, Kasi developed an Annual Volunteer Recruitment Plan to increase the number of volunteer financial coaches to meet the long-term demand for coaching services, designed volunteer training materials, and he developed an Annual Community Outreach Plan to guide how the program engages with partner organizations.

Austin Brady–NeighborImpact

Austin built NeighborImpact’s capacity to serve low-income Central Oregonians by integrating the intake processes for NeighborImpact’s various Community Services programs, streamlining the intake process and improving access to services. In addition, he developed and implemented creative multimedia outreach strategies to reach underserved audiences and engage donor support.

Mallory Smith–Warm Springs Community Action Team (WSCAT)

During her VISTA year, Mallory served the Warm Springs Community Action Team (WSCAT) by building community and financial support for programs that facilitate entrepreneurship for low-income individuals on the Warm Springs Reservation. These programs included the Individual Development Account (IDA) Program for youth education, the Tananáwit artisans’ cooperative, and the Outdoor Market, and Mallory supported these programs by developing strategies for outreach, recruitment, and fundraising.

Angie Stapleton–Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon

At Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, Angie increased access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for low-income college students across Oregon, improving their education, job, and health outcomes. In her role, she coordinated with on-campus resource centers at Oregon community colleges and universities to provide SNAP outreach and application assistance. She provided outreach and application assistance training to student advocates, staff, and faculty, and she developed outreach and training materials to support the sustainability of the project model.

Nick Price–Meals on Wheels People

During his year of service at Meals on Wheels People, Nick built upon and further developed their programs for volunteer recruitment, training, and retention. He expanded outreach to community partners, increased engagement among the Community Connector volunteers, and developed materials for online and in-person volunteer trainings. In addition, he developed resources for Meals on Wheels People’s nutrition education activities.

Yvonne Chung–Community Vision

As a VISTA member, Yvonne supported the development of Community Vision’s affordable housing program for low-income people with disabilities. Yvonne’s role included conducting research on the housing need of people with disabilities in the Portland Metro, piloting a database tool for information on housing availability, and implementing tenant education for individuals with disabilities.

Hannah Cotter–Mercy Corps NW, Seattle Office

During her VISTA service, Hannah built the capacity of the Mercy Corps NW Seattle office to serve low-income individuals in the Seattle metro area through programs supporting microenterprise. Hannah’s role included building a network of partners to holistically serve aspiring low-income entrepreneurs, developing outreach campaigns to reach new clients for Mercy Corps NW’s microenterprise programs, and developing tools to help the MCNW Seattle office apply for grant funding in a more efficient, systematic way.

Hayley Kassay–IMPACT Beaverton & Mercy Corps NW, LIFE Program

As a VISTA member at IMPACT Beaverton, Hayley supported self-sufficiency through micro-enterprise development, coordinating services to low-income aspiring entrepreneurs by organizing resource fairs, convening service providers for business education and technical assistance, and developing a network of community partners for referring low-income community members to micro-enterprise services.

With the Lifelong Information For Entrepreneurs (LIFE) Program, Hayley increased the program’s capacity to support incarcerated women and women returning to the community from incarceration by assisting with quality improvement and partnership development, helping to influence systemic change and provide incarcerated women with the tools and resources necessary for self-sufficiency and economic stability as they transition from prison to Life Outside.

Tesia Eisenberg–Mercy Corps, Cascadia PAR Initiative

While serving as part of the Cascadia team at Mercy Corps, Tesia built the capacity of low-income members of community organizations to prepare for emergencies by developing an economic recovery emergency response plan, creating training and presentation materials, and designing a communications strategy.

Victoria Freitag–Mercy Corps, Community Investment Trust

During her year of VISTA service, Victoria contributed to the development of the Community Investment Trust (CIT), a first-of-its-kind project that unites neighborhood-based family asset development and community development through the sale of equity in a commercial office space to neighborhood investors who are lower-income, low-asset renters. Victoria helped low-income families build wealth by generating awareness of the CIT projects goals and services to facilitate community involvement, investment, and training.

2017-2018 VISTA Team Alumni

Anissa Pemberton–Community Vision Inc.

During their two years of VISTA service with Community Vision Inc, Anissa built capacity in programs that support low-income persons with disabilities by increasing volunteer reach and building community partnerships with culturally-specific organizations, writing grants and fundraising, and spearheading the creation of an Equity Action Committee that started the intentional conversation on diversity, equity and inclusion through an Equity Action Plan within Community Vision.  Read more about Anissa’s Story of Service here

Emilio Cantu-Gil–Meals on Wheels People

While serving at Meals on Wheels People, Emilio helped to increase access to nutritional food for low-income families and seniors by developing and improving the volunteer recruitment and training process and building several community partnerships that expand the reach of Meals on Wheels People services. Read more about Emilio’s Story of Service here

Eric McGarity–Transition Projects Inc.

As a VISTA at Transition Projects Inc., Eric increased the capacity of the Rent Well Tenant Education program to support people with barriers to housing or people experiencing homelessness. Eric supported the expansion of the Rent Well program to the rest of the State of Oregon, developed and performed a system of auditing classes to ensure quality, and created partnerships with youth-centered organizations to assist him in developing a youth-centered Rent Well curriculum.

Lindy Shelton–Human Solutions

While serving at Human Solutions, Lindy helped increase access to resources/services for homeless families living at the Human Solutions Family Center Shelter by creating resource binders and materials and streamlining data systems.

Gabby Robinson–Warm Springs Community Action Team (WSCAT)

Gabby increased WSCAT’s capacity to serve the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs community/tribal members through intentional outreach to youth and Warm Springs community members, grant writing and reporting, and supporting the development of a local artisan collective and a small business incubator program on the Warm Springs Reservation.

Emily Vincent—Marion Polk Food Share

As a VISTA member at Marion-Polk Food Share, Emily helped under-served individuals gain access to healthy and affordable food through various programs.  She lent her support by developing program materials for a Veggie Voucher program, a senior food box program and by developing SNAP Outreach & Education plans. Read more about Emily’s Story of Service here


2016-2017 VISTA Team Alumni

Olivia Rasmussen—Mercy Corps NW, Reentry Transition Center

As a VISTA member at the MCNW Reentry Transition Center, Olivia served by supporting a program that connects formerly incarcerated individuals with wrap around supportive services. Much of her project revolved around designing, monitoring and evaluating the RTC’s donation database, conducting outreach to solicit in-kind donations from partnering organizations and developing the RTC volunteer program capabilities to be able to serve more clients. She also worked on grant writing projects to help sustain funding in order to keep the RTC operational.


Nancy Winter—Mercy Corps NW, Community Investment Trust

As the CIT program VISTA, Nancy assisted in supporting the launch of a community-driven real estate investment trust that is the first of its kind. Part of her role with the CIT project was to generate awareness of CIT’s project goals and services among low-income residents of Portland’s 122nd neighborhood and facilitate community involvement, investment and training.


Alyssa Vitale—Bienestar

Alyssa served as the Volunteer Coordinator at Bienestar, a housing nonprofit, located in Hillsboro, OR. Their primary mission is to provide affordable housing and educational programs to farm workers and their families. Alyssa dedicated herself to introducing innovative ways to manage and market volunteer opportunities at Bienestar in an effort to engage the community. Read more about Alyssa’s Story of Service here


Surabhi Mahajan—Marion Polk Food Share

As a VISTA member at the Marion-Polk Food Share, Surabhi’s program focus is around providing subsidized Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) from the Youth Farm to low-income individuals managing chronic, diet-related illnesses. She has been partnering with area Title I schools to bring local fifth graders to the farm for gardening and nutrition education and built capacity in this MPFS program by developing educational materials, training volunteers, and further establishing local partnerships with schools and care providers. Read more about Surabhi’s Story of Service here


Joanie Barnard—Catholic Charities

As a VISTA at Catholic Charities, Joanie helped increase access for low income people to emergency assistance fund administration, financial education, financial coaching, and matched savings plans. She assisted in the development of a business plan, a market analysis of potential business clients, a scalability plan, online implementation curriculum and volunteer development services, a marketing strategy, and development of the marketing materials for outreach.


Zac Mauldin—Meals on Wheels People

In his year of service, Zac developed a volunteer recruitment and training program for the “Meals for Kids” program at Meals on Wheels People, working on volunteer outreach, training, retention, and marketing to build program capacity.


Adrian Canilho-Burke—Food Roots

Adrian’s main role was to increase low-income participation in gardening, and to increase their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, grown locally. Adrian worked with staff and community partners to facilitate a SNAP at Farmers Market Outreach Campaign to increase low-income participation at markets.


Sharlene Chiong—Marion-Polk Food Share

As the nutrition specialist at the Marion-Polk Food Share, Sharlene worked to increase food security among low income clientele by expanding educational programming, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) awareness campaigns and improving MPFS’s ability to distribute fresh produce.


Sydney Herbst— Community Partners for Affordable Housing

Sydney worked on the PROMPT3 Initiative, which engages CPAH residents in the long-term sustainability of affordable housing through training, tracking and technology mechanisms emphasizing financial literacy and resource conservation. Sydney supported this project by providing capacity building support to CPAH residents with an emphasis on financial literacy.

2015-2016 VISTA Team Alumni

Hillary Harris—Bienestar

As the Social Enterprise Program Specialist at Bienestar, Hillary worked to implements a job training and social enterprise program, Vida Verde, with the goal of providing participants with living wage employment opportunities and reducing poverty in the community. Through her capacity building work with this program, Hillary was able to help participants improve their job skills through hands-on experience, training and employment, helping them become more competitive for higher paying jobs.


Michael Gendernalik—Mercy Corps NW, Community Investment Trust

Over his year with the Mercy corps Northwest CIT team, Michael helped generate awareness of the REIT project’s goals and services among low-income residents of the 122nd neighborhood in order to facilitate community involvement, investment and training.


Gimena Olguin—Hacienda CDC

During her year with Hacienda, Gimena supported the expansion of a culturally specific microenterprise program, Micro Mercantes, to help increase economic opportunities for low income entrepreneurs. Micro Mercantes works with low income, primarily Spanish-speaking micro-entrepreneurs as they transition from the informal to the formal economy.


Joseph Sewall—NeighborImpact

Joseph served his year as a VISTA with NeighborImpact in Bend, Oregon to help expand NeighborImpact’s HomeSource Program. The HomeSource Program aids low-income Central Oregonians in obtaining financial education and coaching as strategies for building assets and reducing poverty. His project focused on expanding community knowledge of NeighborImpact asset building services and refining the referral systems to begin removing barriers low income populations have in accessing those services.


Leah Guliasi—Warm Springs Community Action Team

During her year, Leah increased WSCAT’s capacity to serve Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS) community/tribal members through building capacity in programs supporting small business. These programs included, but were not limited to, WSCAT’s IDA program, outdoor market, business education programs, and efforts to support/build a small business network on the reservation. Primarily, Leah helped build community and financial support for WSCAT’s programs that support entrepreneurship for low-income individuals on the Warm Springs Reservation.


Angelica Perez—Mercy Corps Northwest

Angelica supported programs that reduce high rates of unbanked individuals among low-income Hispanic populations through implementation of “Financial Beginnings Hispanic Programming”. She helped build several newly-developed curricula that were translated and culturally appropriate. Additionally, she supported the program through marketing and partner building, volunteer recruitment and training, and development of volunteer evaluation protocols.


Colette Willard—Catholic Charities

Colette served with Catholic Charities’ Financial Wellness program to expand and implement a volunteer-based service delivery model of financial literacy classes and coaching. Additionally, she assisted with the development of their newly formed IDA program and directed her efforts to low income African American, Latino, and refugee groups.


Karlene Kuhn—Families Forward

Karlene helped build pathways out of poverty through economic opportunity by laying the foundation for programs that assist low income persons attain the assets and education necessary to achieve financial wellness. Karlene evaluated resident service needs, made recommendations to improve service delivery, and helped create a sustainable service provision model by expanding relationships with service partners and identifying revenue sources to fund service programs.


Katie Gardner—Food Roots

Katie helped to reduce poverty among low-income Latinos and veterans by working with community stakeholders to understand barriers to developing food system small businesses, and by creating micro-enterprise outreach programming and procedures for recruitment/engagement, and volunteer programming. During her year, Katie increased Food Roots ability to provide micro-enterprise and healthy food access programming, thereby increasing economic stability and encouraging better quality of life for participants and their families.


Thomas Lundy—Community Outreach, INC.

During his year, Thomas worked to reduce poverty by increasing the resources needed to be housed for homeless persons and those with unstable housing. To do so, he revitalized their volunteer program by developing community partnerships and raising awareness of poverty and homelessness in our community. The primary goal of his project was to connect clients with the resources of community members and thereby promote stability in their lives.


William Blackford—Community Partners for Affordable Housing

Through his service, William helped to establish stronger housing opportunities and wraparound services for low income persons. Specifically, he helped launch the P.R.O.MPT3 Initiative, which engages CPAH property residents and others in the long-term sustainability of affordable housing through training, tracking and technology mechanisms emphasizing financial literacy, resource conservation and building systems.


2014-2015 VISTA Team Alumni

Kali Bose—Bienestar

Kali worked to create a job training and networking program for Bienestar’s residents in order to better prepare them for living wage employment opportunities and reduce poverty rates. Her project initially focused on establishing a network of training partners and facilities where residents could improve or upgrade their job skills to more easily obtain family wage jobs. Through upgrading their job skills, residents can move up the economic ladder into higher paying jobs that will more easily enable them to move out of low income housing and into home ownership or market rate rental housing.


Karen Fryefield—Reentry Transition Center

Karen worked to reduce poverty by assisting in the development of a volunteer recruitment and management initiative at Mercy Corps NW’s Reentry Transition Center. During her year, Karen helped recruit additional volunteers, fill service gaps, and create a sustainable and robust volunteer program at the RTC. Karen’s efforts helped to increase the number of volunteer mentors and service providers who assist formerly incarcerated people successfully transition back into the community.


Nina Kulander—Marion-Polk Food Share

Nina helped develop educational programming, awareness campaigns and improvement in MPFS’s ability to distribute fresh produce that will help low income families reduce medical and food costs while encouraging better quality of life, providing more resources for upward mobility.


Rachel Eaton—Community Vision, Inc

Rachel served low-income individuals with disabilities in the Portland area by supporting programs that built financial assets and economic literacy skills, allowing clients to develop long-term assets and economic stability. Rachel supported CVI’s Asset Building programs, (including the Home Ownership program, the IDA program, and the Dream Builders program), all of which helped secure stronger futures for low-income persons.


Sara Geonczy—Columbia Cascade Housing Corp.

Sara built the capacity of low income residents of affordable housing by implementing a sustainable peer-to-peer volunteer project, connecting residents to essential information and local social services, strengthening the availability of social services and learning opportunities to residents, and submitting grant proposals to increase program resources.


Stephanie Haynes—Marion-Polk Food Share

Stephanie collaborated with Marion-Polk Food Share’s Farm and Garden initiatives to alleviate poverty through employment skill training, educational programming and providing resources that increase nutritional food security for low income individuals and families.

Stories of Service

In “Stories of Service” we profile our VISTAs and their projects. We are proud to have assembled a team of AmeriCorps VISTA members with diverse backgrounds and personal histories, and these columns highlights their achievements and goals. We hope that each story helps illuminate the significance of community service as we explore the question “Why do you serve your community?”