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CHP Welcomes New AmeriCorps VISTA Members

Christiansburg, Va. – As school around the country welcome students to their classrooms, CHP also extends a hearty greeting to its newest “class” of AmeriCorps VISTA members. The six individuals will work for one year out of the Christiansburg office, helping to
revitalize and stabilize neighborhoods suffering from the negative effects of a difficult economy.

AmeriCorps VISTA is the national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. Founded as Volunteers in Service to
America in 1965 and 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 40 years.

“VISTA members are a valuable component of our team as we work together to develop and strengthen communities,” said CHP
President and CEO Janaka Casper. “We are forunate to have such a passionate group sharing their talents and skills with us,”
added Casper.

With quite literally a world of experience, Scott Smith recently returned to the United States after spending over two decades facilitating community development in South Asia, including Bangladesh, Nepal, and India. Scott explained that he has changed from being more technically oriented to being, “more interested in interpersonal and organizational development as critical pieces in poverty alleviation. I have been, and will be, part of efforts that empower or enable people in poverty to create a better life for themselves.” Upon returning stateside, Scott determined that working for a nonprofit would help him continue to do just that. “The VISTA program allows me to spend a year working for CHP while I get oriented to the nonprofit world in the New River Valley,” he stated. When not at CHP, Blacksburg residents may spot the father of four grown children jogging, though he admits to exercising “in places and times unlikely to draw pitiful glances from more fit people!”

Kyle Rogers comes to us from Raleigh, North Carolina with a bachelor’s in environmental design from North Carolina State University. Committed to “ending social injustice and creating truly equal opportunities for all families,” Kyle aspires to volunteer in the Peace Corps one day soon. He has professional experience in the design field, but also enjoys gardening, brewing beer, and biking in his free time.

Springfield, Virginia native Jessica Elwood graduated from Virginia Tech this past spring with a bachelor of arts degree in political science and a minor in urban affairs and planning. A fan of soccer, photography, and, of course, Hokie football, Jessica ultimately would like to “work on a global scale doing international development and humanitarian work with nonprofits.” This passion for service work attracted Jessica to the VISTA program, which she recognized as a “unique opportunity to serve my local community and be a part of a wide-scale effort to end poverty in America.”

After serving as a VISTA member with CHP’s homeownership department this summer, Annie Carlin decided to extend her length of service with us for an additional year. She hails from Los Angeles and is a graduate student at California State University of Northridge where she has been pursuing a degree in English while also working part-time as a tutor at a local community college. This Cali girl has a great time hiking and taking scenic drives, as well as indulging her new-found obsession with minor home repairs. Annie chose to be a VISTA member because of her love for community service projects and the sense of satisfaction that comes from helping others in need. In the future, she hopes to teach college students that come from underprivileged backgrounds.

Cassidy Langlais comes to us from Carlsbad, California with a degree in Religious Studies from Occidental College. She has worked as a Forestry Technician with the Student Conservation Association in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and served a two-year stint as a Community Health Volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps in Namibia. For fun, she practices yoga, participates in outdoor activities, exercises, and reads. Cassidy decided to become a VISTA member because she believes in focusing her energy on an organization that places an importance on community. Said Cassidy, “As a VISTA member, I am continually revising my role within the community, taking time to reflect and, hopefully, reach meaningful conclusions. I am thrilled to be a part of Community Housing Partners and receiving the opportunity to collaborate and have some fun in the process.”

A recent graduate of Virginia Tech with a degree in Architecture, Marisa Brown is already an AmeriCorps VISTA program veteran. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania native and LEED Accredited Professional worked as a VISTA member in New Orleans, helping to rebuild the community after Hurricane Katrina. Marisa says she decided to extend her VISTA experience with CHP, “because it seemed like the perfect way for me to give back to a deserving cause while developing my architecture career.” Down-time for Marisa usually involves hiking, running, knitting, and searching out good jokes.