Our Leadership Team
Ashley LaLiberte is a College of Saint Benedict alum, who recently graduated with her undergraduate degree in Communication. She hails from Duluth, MN where she has grown and fostered her love for food, community, and the outdoors. Recently this summer, Ashley spent her time living and working on an organic farm in the Bayfield, WI area. Through this work Ashley has furthered her love and understanding for agriculture, food, and found a greater understanding of the importance of community building through those two passions. While at CSB Ashley was a member of Extending the Link and studied abroad in Guatemala; both experiences sparked her passion for social justice and service. Ashley is very excited to start her AmeriCorps VISTA position in these coming weeks and cannot wait to meet and work alongside everyone who makes this program possible!
Bailey Weirens, a Junior at the College of Saint Benedict, is a Nutrition-Dietetics major and a Psychology minor. Her favorite foods include anything with potatoes and chicken, along with fresh fruit and vegetables! Some of her hobbies include spending time outdoors, singing, traveling and going on adventures with her friends. Bailey joined Community Kitchen first as a volunteer and then a Operations Leader before becoming the Volunteer Coordinator for the program. She felt that this program was a great aid to the hunger issue in the Saint Joseph area and rural communities, and wanted to help however she could to eliminate the hunger problem and reduce food waste at the same time. She enjoys the growth the program has had this past academic year, and looks forward to the progress that is up and coming. If you see Bailey around campus, don't hesitate to ask her how to become involved with the program, she is always looking for more wonderful volunteers on campus!
Steven Oczak, a Senior at Saint John's University, is a Biology major and Pre-Physical Therapy minor. His favorite foods include Pho or other traditional Vietnamese dishes, along with other various Eastern cuisines. Some of his hobbies include playing for the St. John's Rugby Club, traveling, swimming, and spending time with friends and family. Steven joined Community Kitchen recently, first as a volunteer but quickly chose to become an Operations Leader. He felt this program was a great aid to the significant food waste and hunger issue that exists in the Saint Joseph area and rural communities, and wanted to help in whatever way he could. He is excited to continue to help the community and watch the program grow.
Briana Traut, a Senior at the College of Saint Benedict, is a Nutrition-Dietetics major and a double minor in Psychology and Exercise Science and Sports Studies. Her favorite foods are pasta, seafood and anything chocolate. Some of her hobbies include running, playing volleyball, reading, going to my cabin, and spending time with family and friends. She first got involved with Community Kitchen as a volunteer and decided to become an Operations Leader after seeing first-hand what a positive impact this program had on the local community. She wants to help those in the community that are in need of a nutritious meal, while at the same time reducing food waste.
Nathan Johnson, a Junior at Saint John's University, is a Nutrition and Hispanic Studies double major. His favorite food is beef/chicken tacos! His hobbies include camping, hiking, rock climbing, and canoeing. Nate chose to become a part of Community Kitchen because he wanted to help reduce the food waste that occurs at Saint Ben's, as well as help provide nutritious meals for fellow community members. In addition, this program fits well with both of his majors, and he hopes to continue on with work like this once he graduates from SJU.
Kathy Hohmann, a Junior at the College of Saint Benedict, is a Nursing major. She does not have a favorite food because she is always willing to try something new, but if she had to choose it would probably be potatoes. Some of her hobbies include snowboarding, rollerblading, fishing, and playing the occasional game of pond ice hockey. She also recently started doing some knitting as well. Her supervisor for the summer, S. Sharon Nohner, recommended Community Kitchen as a volunteer opportunity. Kathy had not heard a lot about the program before, but after learning more about the program, she was even more excited in helping to provide to those who are food insecure and to help reduce food waste.
Meg Schrafft, a Junior at the College of Saint Benedict, studies Biology and French. She constantly looks for new adventures, whether it's traveling to Central America for a week, or trying out a new Indian restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. Her passion to get involved with the community is fueled by lots of coffee, tea, and Diet Coke. She chose to volunteer with Community Kitchen because food is a human need and everyone should have access to this. Besides helping with Community Kitchen, Meg is involved with the Bonner Leader Program, the national Bonner Advisory Board, Global Health Affairs, and works in the office of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement. She hopes that this year is filled with yoga, cooking, and new friends!
Hannah Gurbada, is a Junior Nursing Major at the College of Saint Benedict, with a Psychology minor. Her favorite foods are chips/salsa, pickles and ice cream (not together, that would be an interesting combo). Picking one favorite food is just to tough she loves them all! She enjoys trying to cook new recipes found on Pinterest. Her hobbies include enjoying the outdoors by rollerblading, running, biking, and walking the trails around the St. Joseph area. Hannah loves traveling and spending time with family and friends. She is involved in CSB/SJU Nursing Club and the Up til Dawn St. Jude's Executive Board. While attending school, Hannah is a tour guide for the Admissions office. She joined Community Kitchen because she feels that many people take for granted the luxury of having food available without second thought and would like to be involved in a organization that provides food to ease that worry for those who don't have that luxury.
Ellie Vanasse, a Junior Nursing major at the Colllege of Saint Benedict, is excited to start the second half of her undergrad career. She is excited to be in an apartment this year, because she loves to bake and cook. Her other hobbies include watching baseball and football (go Brewers and Packers!), crafting, reading, and playing volleyball and basketball. There is very little that she wouldn't eat; in fact, she would love to be able to travel and eat like Andrew Zimmern! This appreciation of food and her interest in social justice propelled her to work with Community Kitchen this year. Not only does food nourish the body, but it does so much to build relationships, serve others, and nourish the soul as well!
Ally Fishbach, a Sophomore at the College of Saint Benedict, is a Communication major, pre-law. Her favorite food is chinese food and a funny skill she has is the ability to "make a million difference faces". Allison joined Community Kitchen because she enjoys meeting new people and sharing in conversation. She has loved getting to know members of the community and fostering realtionships all over a very delicious meal.
Skylar Peyton, a First-Year at the College of Saint Benedict, is beyond excited for college, though a little worried about space since she tends to over pack. Besides trying to jam all her movies into one suitcase, she is determined to figure out how to smuggle her two dogs into the dorms. There's nothing she loves more than Patches and Zoey, but her car and baking come in a close second. She is a closet HGTV junkie with a constant hankering for ice cream who currently does not have a major- and yes, is trying to fix all three of those things. Finally, she chose to volunteer with Community Kitchen for the obvious reason of helping those in need, but also because food seems to be a great gathering device. She feels this is an awesome opportunity to meet and connect with people from all walks of life.
AmeriCorps VISTA is the national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. Authorized in 1964 and founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993. VISTA has been on the front lines in the fight against poverty in America for more than 45 years (Corporation for National & Community Service).
VISTA members commit to serve full-time for a year at a nonprofit organization or local government agency, working to fight illiteracy, improve health services, create businesses, strengthen community groups, and much more. With passion, commitment, and hard work, VISTA members both create and expand programs designed to bring individuals and communities out of poverty (Corporation for National & Community Service).
The Initiative Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Little Falls that aims to improve the quality of life in central Minnesota. At the core of their work is the belief that local people possess the talent, passion and ability to achieve a brighter future. Their programs and investments strive to give every person an opportunity to contribute to a shared vision and plan of action that strengthens community character and relationships (Initiave Foundation).
As an AmeriCorps VISTA sponsoring organization, the Initiative Foundation oversees the recruiting, placement, training and supervision of 20 VISTA members across central MN. Host sites interview and select their own VISTAs from a pool of local and national candidates. In 2012, the College of Saint Benedict became one of these lucky VISTA host sites for the first time in its history, a new tradition that the Office of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement hopes to continue (Initiave Foundation).