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 Senior 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!
Gabbie is a sophomore biochemistry major and psychology minor. Her favorite foods are those with which you can eat buffalo sauce. She believes buffalo sauce is actually a food group in and of itself and any food on which it is placed is actually just an instrument with which to eat buffalo sauce. She is passionate about art, science, and literature, and believes firmly in the importance of social justice and community involvement. Gabbie was the Operations Manager for CK last year, and is involved this year as the Volunteer Coordinator.
Nathan Johnson, a Senior 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.
Meg Schrafft, a Senior 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!
Sarah Blaida, is a Senior Dietetics Major at the College of Saint Benedict, with a psychology minor. Her favorite foods include any type of fruit and all forms of sushi and seafood. She loves to try new and unique foods and learn the history behind food and its culture. A fun fact about Sarah is that she loves to travel and actually enjoys airports. She is also an avid yogi and enjoys running to release the stress from classes. Sarah joined Community Kitchen because she wants to reduce food waste in her own backyard and be able to help provide meals to those who are food insecure. She is looking forward to seeing this program expand and help more people every day!
Ellie Vanasse, a Senior 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!
Jackie Kemnic, a Senior at the College of Saint Benedict, is a Nutrition Dietetics major. She enjoys cheese, or any type of food made with cheese. Jackie loves spending time outdoors, running and rollerblading, playing with her nieces, and grocery shopping. She joined Community Kitchen after hearing about the program from one of her nutrition professors, and decided to get involved as soon as she could. Jackie found Community Kitchen to be right up her alley of interest, and she also wanted to be a part of an effort to reduce food waste on campus as well as addressing and raising awareness of the food insecurity within the community. "It has been a great volunteer opportunity, where I have been able to build relationships with people throughout the community as well as with students on campus".
Skylar Peyton, a Sophmore 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.
Jamie McCarthy is a Sophmore English major excited to finally be on campus! Her favorite food is the glamorous potato, especially curly fries. She is a hopeless Netflix devotee, and not overly bothered by the amount of shows she's watched. Okay, maybe a little bothered. Besides spending her time watching Tangled for the millionth time, there is nothing she loves to do more than meet people. She picked Community Kitchen as a way to connect with people who both share her love of service and who each have an incredibly interesting story that she would like to hear.
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).