Sacred Heart Community Services is a non-denominational, non-profit organization that provides integrated services on site, free of charge, to all in need. The VISTA member works specifically with Sacred Heart’s La Mesa Verde program (LMV) as a Volunteer Network Coordinator. La Mesa Verde’s goal is to improve healthy eating and well-being of low-income families and increase self-sufficiency through home-organic vegetable gardens. The VISTA works to improve volunteer retention and volunteer coordination systems for La Mesa Verde by improving volunteer training curricula and training volunteers to implement LMV’s first year gardening course. Additionally, the VISTA helps to improve existing outreach methods to recruit more volunteers and beneficiaries for the program by creating a mapping process to identify more clients and developing more effective communication procedures through in-person outreach, email newsletters, and social media. The VISTA continually works to create a sustainable network of organizational support for the LMV program by leveraging relationships with community organizations, supporting grassroot fundraising efforts, and soliciting in kind donations.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties is a trusted leader dedicated to ending local hunger. Second Harvest Food Bank’s VISTA serves as a Volunteer and Resource Coordinator. The VISTA is responsible for strengthening the current volunteer and support network for the Produce Mobile program, which distributes produce to over 3,000 clients in underserved areas of Santa Clara County. The VISTA assesses current sites and develops ongoing best practices to alleviate drop-off among Produce Mobile site participation. The VISTA also works to improve current outreach strategies to recruit more Produce Mobile volunteers, food bank beneficiaries, and leaders for the Community Ambassadors program. The VISTA builds capacity by cultivating relationships with community organizations to serve as outreach partners, refines tracking systems to track new Produce Mobile clients, develops volunteer training curricula, and trains volunteers for the Produce Mobile and Community Ambassadors programs.
The Health Trust is an operating foundation founded in 1996. Since then, it has been a catalyst for community partnerships that identify health challenges and work together to find innovative solutions. The Health Trust provides grants, engages in policy and education and continues its legacy of providing health services to make Silicon Valley healthier for everyone. The Health Trust’s VISTA works with The Health Trust’s Meals on Wheels program as a Resource Coordinator. The VISTA is responsible for volunteer coordination and management by creating better volunteer training curricula, training Meals on Wheels volunteers, and creating a Train-the-Trainer model for volunteer leaders and staff. The VISTA also works to improve current client outreach systems used to link clients to Meals on Wheels services. The VISTA supports work to build a better client outreach plan and will pilot the plan among health fairs and among community events. Additionally, the VISTA is in charge of creating new tracking systems to track new clients that are CalFresh beneficiaries and those who are in need of additional services.
Veggielution seeks to create equity between people and the environment in San Jose by bringing sustainable urban farming to the community. Veggielution’s VISTA serves as the Veggielution Volunteer Coordinator at Emma Prusch Park Farm. The VISTA works to strengthen the current system for recruiting and engaging residents in surrounding low-income areas to serve as volunteers and leaders to help with workday activities such as construction, planting, weeding, composting, and harvesting at the farm. Additionally, the VISTA is responsible for managing new volunteers by developing volunteer training curricula and orientation tools for Veggielution’s Sponsored Group Workday Program and for general farm workdays. The VISTA will build a Train-the-Trainer model by recruiting and training volunteer leaders confident and skilled at facilitating future orientations for new volunteers.
Azra Caus, Sacred Heart, La Mesa Verde (Volunteer Network Coordinator)
I’m Azra Caus and I will be the Volunteer Network Coordinator for La Mesa Verde Sacred Heart Community Services. I am an avid world traveler, learner and teacher. For the past few years, I have taught abroad in Italy, Spain and South Korea. I have also taught children with special needs in the United States. Helping people, exploring new cultures and lifestyles are what I love to do the most. As an undergrad, I studied public health and always wanted to serve and I’m glad that I’m doing so now. I’m proud and excited that I will be serving to promote accessible and affordable healthy food to the community of San Jose.
Christine Chow, The Health Trust, Site 2 (Food Access Plan Implementation Coordinator)
My name is Christine Chow, and I recently graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. In college, I was part of Alternative Breaks and was a participant and trip leader for the trip to Cape Cod. Despite Cape Cod being known as a tourist destination, homelessness is a huge problem in the area; with other college students, I worked with the Housing Assistance Corporation on projects geared towards preventing homelessness. At the same time, I learned about the complexities of homelessness and the importance of shelter and basic necessities as a prerequisite for pursuing life goals. Combined with my research experience in public health, this experience motivated me to become involved in service and was a large part of the reason why I decided to apply to be a VISTA at The Health Trust! This year, I hope to work with other organizations to set up or continue projects that help low-income seniors or homeless individuals access healthy food. I also look forward to meeting different people and learning more about the San Jose community so that I can better understand challenges that individuals may face! In my free time, I like to explore different restaurants and enjoy the sights around the Bay Area!
Esther Ng, Veggielution (Harvest Manager)
My name is Esther Ng and I am a recent graduate from the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and a minor in Business. In my free time, I enjoy exploring the NorCal Coast, painting, growing my succulent garden, and drinking coffee.
Growing up in San Jose, I watched the tech industry rise, the housing market expand, and issues of community development become more apparent. As I learned more about social disparities and inequality in all aspects of human development, I decided to invest my time back in my hometown. My hands on experience from working with different nonprofits in this area gave me a passion to learn more about how to build a stronger community in San Jose through education, health, and food. As a SVHC VISTA, I hope to integrate my own experiences and skills with what I can learn through building relationships with volunteers and community members at Veggielution. I look forward to strengthening organizational structures, reaching out to the community, and sharing the experiences that food brings together.
Jessica Jew, Second Harvest Food Bank, Site 1 (Program Analyst)
My position this year will be a Program Analyst for the Produce Mobile at Second Harvest Food Bank, and I look forward to learning about the program and the customer experience and helping it to better serve the needs of the community. Prior to VISTA, I studied nutritional science at UC Berkeley and then combined that with my interest in community health to complete an MPH and dietetic internship at the University of Washington. As part of my studies and practicum experience I worked on various projects related to food and transportation, including analyzing food distribution in Washington State and transportation Seattle residents use for food shopping. As a VISTA, I will get the opportunity again to work on food and transportation access and continue to develop and apply skills in public health. I like to explore cities on foot and advocate for people who walk and also enjoy playing piano and guitar.
Lenae Stevens, The Health Trust, Meals On Wheels (FOODBasket Recruitment Coordinator)
My name is Lenae Stevens and I am the Volunteer and Resource Coordinator at the Health Trusts Jerry Larson Food Basket. I earned a bachelor’s degree in health science at San Jose State University, with a minor in nutrition and food science. I look forward to increasing the amount of volunteers and clients of the food basket, fundraising, and improving the overall volunteer experience!
Madeline Owen, Veggielution (Communication Engagement Coordinator)
As a recent graduate of Santa Clara University, I am thrilled to continue my love for the Bay Area working with Silicon Valley HealthCorps. I enjoyed studying the intricacies of Political Science and Anthropology as my major and interweaving this with my passion for the community. A semester of Service Learning in Cape Town, South Africa solidified my direction in working with community development. From here, I have worked both with children and adult disabilities as a Volunteer Coordinator of the Santa Clara Best Buddies and as a yoga therapy instructor for children with special needs in Bangalore, India. Bringing special needs adults to SCU’s Forge garden, which provided sustainably produced foods and other workshops was a focus of my Senior year and deepened my interest in community development through urban agriculture. I am thrilled to work with Veggielution this next year and continue learning how to be an involved and effective community member focused on change. This experience will hopefully lead to a future in community development. Outside of community development, I love spending time exploring trails, sleeping beneath the stars, working out my down dogs, sending and receiving snail mail, diving through ocean waves, and weaving through farmer’s market stalls and flower stands.
Sue Kim, Second Harvest Food Bank, Site 2 (School Breakfast & Out-of-School Time Meals Coordinator)
My name is Sue Kim and I graduated last year from the University of California, San Diego with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology and a minor in Health Care-Social Issues. My undergraduate education and experience volunteering at a community clinic in Mexico greatly stoked my interest in public health and social justice, and compelled me to serve as an AmeriCorps member during the past year in east San Jose, where I implemented a literacy intervention program for local elementary school students.
As someone born and raised in San Jose, it is particular eye-opening and humbling to be working in the very city I call home. I am incredibly excited about serving as a SVHC VISTA at Second Harvest Food Bank, and look forward to learning more about community engagement, policy work, and partnership building.
In my free time I enjoy reading, hiking and baking. I also appreciate a great cup of coffee and love exploring the different local cafes that this area has to offer!