Meet Our Team

Heather Benham joined Athens Land Trust in 2002 as a summer intern, and after graduating from UGA in 2003 with her joint Masters of Historic Preservation and Juris Doctorate, she was hired on as ALT’s first full-time employee. Since that time she has filled many roles: Project Coordinator, overseeing construction on ALT’s affordable housing program; Housing Director, building relationships with the families while helping them achieve their dreams of homeownership; and Director of Operations, growing ALT’s community agriculture program while managing the organization’s operations. Now she serves as Executive Director. ALT’s impact has grown significantly during her tenure, the organization has grown from three employees to 25, the annual operating budget has grown from $60,000 to nearly $1 million.

Lorinda Crane, Director of OperationsLorinda Crane is a UGA graduate with a BBA in Accounting. She has worked in the accounting field for 25 years, holding positions that range from staff auditor in a public accounting firm to CFO for a local, privately held company. She has called Athens her home for over 20 years and became ALT’s Director of Operations in 2015. She is excited to put her years of accounting and finance experience to further the financial health and stewardship of ALT  in our local community and across Georgia.

Musa Hasan joined Athens Land Trust in 2017 as a Farm Business Manager. He was raised on a farm and graduated from Tuskegee University with his Bachelors in Animal and Poultry Science. His focus is to assists socially disadvantaged, underserved, and beginning farmers by ensuring they have access to FSA resources. He is committed to ensuring that the community at large have access to adequate housing, food and have an understanding of economic development.

 

Christina Hylton, Farmer Outreach Coordinator

As ALT’s Farmer Outreach SpecialistChristina Hylton assists underserved and beginner farmers access NRCS and USDA resources and expand their farm businesses. She is committed to principles of sustainable development, education and community development. Christina also runs her own family farm.

 

 

 Angel McCoy, Housing CounselorAngel McCoy began working with Athens Land Trust in 2015 as a Housing Counselor. In addition to her position at ALT, Angel also provides  financial literacy education at the Athens Area Homeless Shelter as the  financial literacy coordinator. She holds an NCHEC Certification in financial capability from NeighborWorks America, certification in housing counseling from Georgia Department of Community Affairs, a BA in social work from Coker College, and a Masters Degree in Postsecondary Education with an specialization in adult education from Capella university. She has over six years of experience in the nonprofit sector.
 Originally from Texas and South Carolina, Bexx Merck moved to Athens in September 2015 to join ALT as a FoodCorps Service Member. With a degree in Systems Thinking, Design, and Urban Agriculture from Hampshire College, Bexx brings a framework of food justice and food system knowledge, a love for cooking, understanding, and sharing food, and eclectic farming and greenhousing experiences to educate youth in Clarke County schools. Bexx has experience across the board from ecological and horticultural sciences, to environmental design and solar energy fabrication, to leading community driven courses for peers and youth, and running an LGBTQ after-school group. 

Erin O’Brien moved from Colorado to Georgia in 2000, and is proud to now call Athens home. Beginning in 2014, she served at ALT as an Americorps VISTA for a year and a half before leaving to start a family. Erin returned in July 2016 as the Outreach and Development Coordinator, and is eager to find new ways to share ALT’s mission with the community and to grow the organization and its impact.

Kamilah Roberts joined the Athens Land Trust as an Americorp VISTA Housing Assistant in August 2016. She graduated from the University of Georgia where she majored in advertising, and received her Bachelors in journalism. She is excited to apply her skills in mass communications towards building capacity for ALT through marketing and outreach efforts.

 

 

Deb Sheppard headshotDeborah Sheppard joined ALT as Farmland Protection Specialist in November 2015. She holds a BS in Horticulture from UGA and a MS in Public and Urban Affairs from Georgia State University. As a Georgia native whose career includes founding and directing non-profit organizations dedicated to water quality protection, clean energy policy and implementation, and environmental education, she brings over 30 years of statewide conservation advocacy experience and contacts to ALT’s land conservation program. She also creates and maintains coastal gardens featuring native plants and organic vegetables grown from seed in her home-based nursery. Residing on the Georgia coast, she will focus on expanding ALT’s farmland protection program in South Georgia.

20160916_113439-2Krisztian Varsa joined Athens Land Trust in 2016 as the Conservation Director. Krisztian has an MRP in urban planning from Cornell University and a BA in Geography from the University of Delaware. His background is in outreach, education, program development, and implementing conservation practices at the local level. Krisztian’s passions for conservation and outreach led him to Athens Land Trust where he will develop partnerships and increase conservation opportunities to protect and improve lands for agricultural production, wildlife habitat, and natural resource management.

Connie Roberts has a bachelors degree in psychology from Georgia State University. She knows that health is not confined to just one area, but is a collective expression and dialogue of mind, body and community. She serves as Athens Land Trust’s YUF Program Coordinator which aligns with her passion for helping youth connect to themselves and their communities through food. She has worked as an educator with various sustainable farms, community gardens, food-access non-profits and public/private schools in Athens, Atlanta and California. She believes that youth are not only our future, but with guidance and support are the most powerful leaders and advocates for community empowerment and health right now.

George Wright, Project OversightGeorge Wright has lived in Athens and operated his own residential construction and remodeling business since 1975. He was a member of ALT’s board from 1999 through 2005, and has continued to be involved in our affordable housing program ever since, In August of 2014, he was hired as Project Oversight to supervise construction for us and is pleased to be able to put more effort into permanently affordable housing in our community.

 

 

 

Julia Connell joined Athens Land Trust as an AmeriCorps VISTA Development Assistant in May 2017 shortly after earning her Bachelors in Geography from University of Georgia. As an undergraduate, Julia worked as a research assistant with two community-oriented research collectives housed in UGA’s Geography Department. Julia also has a certificate in Geographic Information Science (GIS) and comes to ALT with three years of experience as a GIS Technician. She is excited to use her background in qualitative research and geographic data analysis to help ALT build capacity through grant-writing and fundraising.

Briane Davis first joined ALT in 2010 as an Affordable Housing intern before graduating from UGA with her B.S in Financial Planning. She recently completed her Masters in Public Administration from UGA and has returned to ALT now serving as a Project Support Coordinator, supporting the program operations of Housing and West Broad neighborhood revitalization initiatives. Her passion for public service started with the Georgia College Advising Corps, an AmeriCorps-funded outreach program within UGA Institute of Higher Education. A native of Athens, she is proud to be a part of building community and economic development opportunities for Athens and the ALT’s community partners.


Rebecca Ennis, West Broad Garden ManagerRebecca Ennis is a graduate of the University of Georgia from which she obtained a BS in Speech Communication. She has learned and worked on organic and community farms and gardens since 2007. As the West Broad Garden Manager she combines her passion for sustainable farming with her love for Athens by bringing the community together around accessible, healthful, and natural food. Rebecca and her husband, Patrick, have lived in Athens since 2003.

 Dyan Holt, Conservation CoordinatorDyan Holt began working with Athens Land Trust in 2008, after many years as a lawyer in the public service. She holds an LL.M from Georgetown University Law Center, and now is Conservation Coordinator, involved in all aspects of the Conservation Program.

West Broad Farmers Market Manager, Sallay Jabbie recently graduated from Georgia State University with her Bachelors of Science in Nutrition. Before ALT, Sallay worked with many nonprofit agencies in Atlanta dedicated to relieving food insecurity for low-income Georgians, including Open Hand and Atlanta Community Food Bank. She  is excited to be back in Athens and have the opportunity to use her background in nutrition and community programming to enrich the West Broad Farmers Market.

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Originally from Decatur, Georgia, Kana Miller recently returned to Georgia after living in New York and North Carolina for the past six years. Joining ALT as a FoodCorps Service Member, Kana brings an excitement for growing, cooking, eating and sharing food to Athens. She graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies and concentration in Intergroup Relations from Skidmore College. Kana joins the land trust full of excitement and readiness to engage with people through the Clarke County Schools, West Broad Garden and Market, and the Young Urban Farmers Program, sharing knowledge and, of course, food.

Seth Nivens, Farm Programs AssistantSeth Nivens has been working with small organic farms, school gardens and community agriculture projects for the past 12 years. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy, and a M.S. in Environmental Studies. His current position as Williams Farm Manager provides him the opportunity to share his passion for sustainable agriculture with Athens-area youth.

 

 

 David Ogunsanya, Housing DirectorDavid Ogunsanya, has more than five years of experience in affordable housing for low- to moderate-income communities. As Housing Director, Mr. Ogunsanya identifies and develops affordable housing projects and oversees their contracts, procurement and construction. Additionally, he works with local lenders to help secure mortgages for low- to moderate-income homebuyers and works to educate the community about affordable housing opportunities. He continues to lead the effort for more affordable housing in Athens, GA and educate about how inclusionary zoning can help those efforts.

Jen Reid joined the Athens Land Trust in January 2016 as an Event Planning Intern for the West Broad Farmers Market, shortly after moving to Athens from Atlanta. In August 2016, she became the new AmeriCorps VISTA Public Relations Coordinator, eager to further community development by cultivating partnerships with Athens community members and to promote the mission of Athens Land Trust through social media. In her own time she enjoys travelling, reading, and cooking.

Community Agriculture Program Director Stephanie Simmons has more than fourteen years of experience in youth development, including advocacy for marginalized youth and families in need, as well as experience in community-based outreach and education. She most recently served as a fellow with FoodCorps, part of the Americorps service network, mentoring fourteen FoodCorps service members across the state over two years, including two service members placed with ALT. In her current role, she supervises ALT’s community agriculture programs, which aim to contribute to the development of more just and equitable local food systems through increased healthy food access and food-based learning and economic opportunities. 

Kelsey Thompson joined ALT in January 2014 as an intern in the Affordable Housing Program. After serving as the Housing Assistant until October 2014, she returned in July 2015. Now serving as Housing Coordinator, Kelsey oversees ALT’s housing counseling activities and works with current and potential ALT clients. She also works with Fourth Street Village, a LIHTC apartment complex. Kelsey holds a B.A in Urban Policy and Planning from Virginia Tech and her MSW from the University of Georgia, concentrating on Community Empowerment and Program Development. She has a certification in housing counseling from Georgia Department of Community Affairs, and has been very active in the Athens nonprofit sector for the past two years.

adam_wilson_vistaOriginally from Lithonia, Georgia, Adam Wilson recently joined Athens Land Trust as an AmeriCorps VISTA Market Assistant. He assists with market logistics and works to develop relationships that support the West Broad Farmers Market. In the past, Adam has worked as a freelance graphic designer, copywriter, and web developer for community non-profits. He is excited to use his previous experience in writing and project management to support West Broad and the broader Athens community in their dreams of economic development and community health.

Kai Wilmsen joined Athens Land Trust in 2017 as a the VISTA Volunteer Coordinator. Kai is looking forward to using his past experience coordinating volunteers to help build a strong and lasting volunteer base for all of ALT’s programs.

 

 

 


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