Blog interview series: Hannah Coots

Hannah CHannah Coots, lead farmer for Growing Places Indy, was born and raised in central Indiana. She moved around quite a bit with her parents, so there were some big challenges like regular change, often being "the new girl," losing friends because of moving away, and feeling like she never "belonged."

A love of hiking, tree-climbing and snake-catching was a constant, though. Her mom raised her and my siblings with a deep love of nature, and her dad made sure they were never glued to a TV or any other mindless thing, which, she's sure, contributed to the fact that she tends to embrace change, go crazy indoors and not conform.

After high school, Hannah went to Indiana University where she studied biology and french, but she left before receiving her degree. She felt like she was just spinning her wheels, treading water and wasting her time. She did not at all feel like she was living in a way that met her values, so she left and almost immediately started volunteering on a farm, which within a month turned into a job.

When she was in high school, Hannah took one of those career assessment tests that help guide you in your studies and goals, and remembers more than once receiving "farmer" as the result. She thought that was a little ridiculous, because at that time her knowledge of what a farmer was was severely limited. But her first day on the farm, she knew she'd found something that aligned with all of her values. She'd found work worth doing. 

She's had the pleasure of working with Harvestland Farm, Full Hand Farm, South Circle and Big City Farms, as well as a few others. She currently lives on the Eastside of Indianapolis with her husband, a lovely dog they're fostering, and - at least for the moment - a farm cat turned house cat. All of her immediate family members still live in Indiana and she feels fortunate that they are close and supportive of one another.

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Blog interview series: Greg Stowers

LI-Greg-Stowers-2-200x300.jpgGreg Stowers serves as program director for Leadership Indianapolis, where he oversees programs and events with aims of cultivating the next generation of leaders in the city. In his previous role, he served as special assistant to Mayor Joe Hogsett handling a variety of special projects on behalf of citizens around Indianapolis. He also worked on the John Gregg for Governor Campaign as Special Assistant, gaining invaluable experience and developing relationships with a wide variety of people around the state of Indiana.

He is also the executive director for Hashtag Lunchbag Indy, an initiative aimed at combating hunger among the less fortunate. This national grassroots idea has spread around Indianapolis with partnerships with major corporations and local community groups. The model of “Pop-Up Philanthropy” works twofold, as the group is able to help those in need while empowering volunteers with a sense of engagement and purpose.

Born in Indianapolis, Greg has a vested interest in public service and community engagement. He currently serves on the board of directors for ProAct and League of Ivy: A Young Professionals Council (Ivy Tech Young Professionals Board). He also serves as a facilitator for the Center for Leadership Development, working with providing teenagers with life skills training. Greg is a graduate of Indiana State University with a B.S. in political science and government. While a student, his work as a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and the Student Government Association bolstered his commitment to serve.

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Blog interview series: Leah Nahmias

LKN_headshot_outdoors.pngAs director of programs and community engagement at Indiana Humanities, Leah Nahmias works to hit the sweet spot of designing smart yet fun programs that get Hoosiers to explore big ideas and take part in meaningful conversations. Since joining the team in late 2014, Leah’s been focused on scaling Indiana Humanities programs across the state—she’s a self-described process person—while also creating one-of-a-kind special events in Indianapolis. There’s nothing she loves more than sitting down with a partner to imagine a new program and figure out how to make it happen.

Leah believes deeply in the importance of the humanities and the power of teaching and understanding to enrich the lives and open the imaginations of ordinary people. This faith has guided her career in the broad, eclectic and emerging field of public humanities, including as a program officer with the New York Council for the Humanities and as resident history educator with the American Social History Project based at the City University of New York.

Leah started her career as a high school U.S. History teacher with Teach For America in Charlotte, North Carolina. Originally from Greensburg, Indiana, Leah holds an MA in public humanities from Brown University and a BA in history and East Asian Studies from Indiana University. She loves big trees, Peruvian textiles, old buildings and people and experiences that don’t fit neatly into categories. You can friend her on Goodreads to see what she’s been reading lately.

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Blog interview series: Sharvonne Williams

20431591_10155650232303760_4911152998212615297_n.jpgSharvonne Williams, a Harlem native, is both professionally and personally committed to providing communities a voice for advocacy. She relocated to Indy in 2011 to complete a graduate degree in nonprofit management and a certificate in public management at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

During her studies at IUPUI, a service learning-minded institution, Sharvonne was very active in a number of service organizations such as AmeriCorps (member for The Julian Center); board member for the Neal-Marshall Alumni Association-Indianapolis Chapter (advocate for global and domestic poverty issues with RESULTS Indianapolis Chapter); executive board member for The Exchange at The Indianapolis Urban League; and recipient of three RESULTS scholarships to support advocacy education and efforts on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. As a result of these and other efforts, Sharvonne received the prestigious Medal for Service Learning, the first-year medal awarded to a graduate student at IUPUI.

Prior to joining the Martin Luther King Center as director of operations, Sharvonne was a program director and communications liaison at Serve Indiana, a service organization to advance volunteerism in Indiana. Sharvonne earned a bachelor of arts in journalism/creative studies from Buffalo State College in Buffalo, NY.

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Blog interview series: Katherin Chi

Chi_horizontal_1.jpgKatherin Chi is the strategic communications executive at Kiwanis International where she focuses on promoting the organization’s brand and message to its global audience. Her previous role was with the Gregg for Governor campaign, where she managed lieutenant governor candidate Christina Hale’s campaign, working on everything from fundraising to voter outreach.

Before joining the campaign she was the language and project specialist at Kiwanis International, managing marketing projects in eight languages. She went to Pike High School in Indianapolis and has a B.A. in political science and Spanish from Indiana University Bloomington.

Born in Bloomington, IN, Katherin spent close to 10 years in Hong Kong as a child and into her early teens. After graduating from IU, she spent six months at Shenzhen University studying business Chinese. She is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese and is conversational in Spanish. She speaks just enough Japanese to get around in Tokyo without using a different language.

Katherin continues stay active in civic engagement. She is currently the vice president of Marion County Young Democrats. On the weekends, you might find her registering voters at various events in Indianapolis or canvassing for political candidates she supports.

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Blog interview series: David O'Rourke

david2.JPGDavid O’Rourke is from Evansville, Indiana. He attended Franklin College, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in journalism/public relations and played football for four years. David was captain in his junior and senior years, and helped lead the team to two conference championships and two playoff appearances.

Currently, David is the communications manager at the Indianapolis Parks Foundation, where he is responsible for daily media communication, internal design and connecting people with resources. He serves as a member of the Great Places Livability Committee and is a graduate of IndyHub’s 1828 Project. He also heads the Park Foundation Engagement Committee.

In his spare time, you can find David either in a park, on a trail, at Epic Climbing and Fitness, or at one of Indy’s many restaurants or breweries. He's only been climbing recreationally for about a year now, but it has become one of David's real passions and he looks forward to embracing the opportunity to experience outdoors in a new way.

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Blog interview series: Kait Baffoe

IMG_7904.JPGKait Baffoe is the director of real estate development for Partners In Housing. She manages the development portfolio for PIH which includes writing and administering capital grants, securing development financing, underwriting developments, building acquisition, overseeing the rehabilitation and/or construction of the properties, as well as working with property management to create a scope of work that is appropriate for the population served by the building.

Prior to her time with Partners In Housing she worked for the State with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority working with housing policy and administering grant funds as a Real Estate Production Analyst. She received her undergraduate degree from Indiana University and her Master’s in Urban Planning, with a concentration on affordable housing, from the University of Illinois-Chicago. She is doing exactly what she wants to be doing.

Kait lives in the Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood with her fiancé Derek and her two pups. She is originally from the City of Chicago and is the oldest of six kids. She grew up spending a lot of time outside camping and continues that tradition today. Her hobbies include traveling, camping, hiking, reading, spending time with friends and being socially engaged in her community. Kait currently sits on the boards of Earth Charter Indiana and the Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood Association, is an active member of the Junior League of Indianapolis and volunteers with several Indianapolis organizations.

Kait has a passion for helping those less fortunate than herself and has found her calling in the affordable housing arena. She also considers herself a social activist and is very outspoken about politics.

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Blog interview series: Brandon Randall

20170716_234706.jpgBrandon Randall is an Eastside resident of Indianapolis, originally from Joplin, Missouri. He attended Pike School and attended a year of Purdue University. That didn't quite work out, so he attended Ivy Tech and then IUPUI.

Brandon holds an Associate's degree and a Bachelor's degree in criminal justice, focusing on the juvenile justice system and youth advocacy. He currently serves as the program manager for VOICES Corp Day Reporting program. He is responsible for oversight of daily programming, researching behavior management approaches and building capacity as an alternatives to detention program. His previous role was as the Parent Involvement Educator for an Indianapolis Public School (IPS) elementary school.

Brandon has been consistent in youth advocacy and working to find opportunities for young people to display and implement their leadership abilities. Brandon also serves in multiple community-based organizations. He serves as the program director for the Bloom Project and the Community Liaison for DON'T SLEEP.

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Blog interview series: Ceceily Brickley

Ceceily-Brickley-_Plater_Medallion.jpgCeceily Brickley is originally from South Bend, Indiana. Ceceily moved to Indianapolis shortly after graduating from Indiana University in Bloomington to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Marion County Commission on Youth. She is currently a Program Officer with United Way of Central Indiana, specifically working on the Great Families 2020 initiative and just recently graduated from the IU School of Public and Environmental affairs with a Master’s in Public Affairs.

In her prior role, Ceceily was a Program Officer with Serve Indiana, the Indiana Commission for Community Service and Volunteerism, where she also managed funding through the Corporation for National and Community Service as well as TANF funding through the Family and Social Services Administration.

Service is an integral part of who Ceceily is. She has stayed heavily involved with AmeriCorps programming and national service since serving as a VISTA, is a member of The Exchange, the Indianapolis Urban League’s Young Professionals auxiliary, vice president of the Neal Marshall Alumni Club and volunteers regularly at Holy Family Shelter teaching life skills.

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Blog interview series: Marissa Nielsen

Marissa_CICF_Development_Team_x.jpgMarissa is passionate about local philanthropy and the power of community foundations to be a positive change agent in their communities. “I enjoy engaging with compassionate people to assist in creating positive community change. Nothing is more rewarding than helping others achieve their philanthropic goals.”

Marissa holds a M.A. in Philanthropic Studies from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and a B.S. in Advertising and Public Relations from Spring Arbor University.

Prior to joining Central Indiana Community Foundation, Marissa was the Interim Director of the Smithville Charitable Foundation and interned at the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation. Before making the move to Indiana from Michigan, Marissa’s previous professional experiences include serving as the Executive Director of the Homer Area Community Foundation and working with the Community Foundation Alliance of Calhoun County.

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