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 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, working closely with members of the community, other organizations, and local officials to further ALT’s mission. ALT’s impact has grown significantly during her tenure: the organization has grown from three employees to 31, and the annual operating budget has grown from $60,000 to over $1.2 million.

Melanie Bowerman joined ALT as Special Projects Coordinator after completing her Masters in Landscape Architecture at UGA. Before coming to Athens, Melanie lived in California where she worked as an environmental educator, school garden designer and greywater systems Installer. At ALT, she brings experience in non-profits, urban agriculture and Public Interest Design to neighborhood revitalization projects and design work.

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.

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 Neighborhood Revitalization Specialist, supporting the operations of West Broad neighborhood revitalization initiatives, the Affordable Housing program, in addition to special projects as needed. 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 the Athens community.

Stephanie DuQue joined Athens Land Trust as Farmland Protection Specialist after graduating from UGA with a BA in Geography and a certificate in GIS (Geographic Information Science). She has experience in community and environmental organizing and is excited to utilize these skills to help increase protection of agricultural land in Georgia.

Carly Evans first joined ALT in the fall of 2017 as an Affordable Housing Intern. She then served as a Program Assistant in Community Agriculture, and is now an Education Assistant working on special projects related to our youth training programs: Young Urban Farmers, Young Urban Builders, and Youth Conservation Stewards. Carly is a second year in the Masters of Public Administration and Policy program at the University of Georgia where she is specializing in Public Policy and Criminal Justice. She is excited to apply her passions for equitable education, equal economic opportunity, and food justice to ALT’s youth training programs and other special projects.

Julian Green is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and has an MPA in Public Administration. He joined Athens Land Trust in 2018 and works in the Community Agriculture Program as the Farmer Outreach Coordinator. His role is to is to assist new and beginning farmers, along with farmers of color and veterans, in growing their farm businesses. He is eager to apply his skills and experience in outreach to the mission of ALT.

DeJoiré Hall joined Athens Land Trust in 2017 as the Project Coordinator for the West Broad Community Cookbook. DeJoiré has a BS in Biology of Global Health from Georgetown University. She has worked as a writer and sustainable farmer, advocating for food and health security in vulnerable communities around the world. DeJoiré is excited to help preserve the history of a notable Athens community, to showcase ALT’s urban agriculture and food security project, and to highlight the significant contributions of the West Broad community to the food traditions of Athens, Georgia.

Marissa Joyner first joined Athens Land Trust in 2016 as a Market Ambassador, conducting community outreach and education for the West Broad Farmers Market. She is a strong advocate for healthy eating and has provided numerous cooking demonstrations at the Market and in the wider community. She is now bringing her passion and experience in community outreach to her role as an AmeriCorps VISTA Outreach Assistant. She has over 10 years of experience working with underserved communities in Athens and other non-profit organizations. She is looking forward to establishing more partnerships and building the capacity of Athens Land Trust so that we may be able to reach every person within the community.

Ashley Na joined Athens Land Trust in 2017 as a FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member. Ashley came to Athens to earn her BS in Ecology, and she has been here ever since. With a background in student organizing, field organizing, community organizing, leadership development, and food systems education, she is excited to see how her experience will help inform her work with Cedar Shoals High School and the Young Urban Farmers program.

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.

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.

Don Shelnutt is Athens Land Trust’s VISTA Youth Assistant. He assists with Athens Land Trust’s educational programs. Don has a BSED in Vocational Education and  Master’s in Workforce Education. He is an Athens native who has experience in both the local private and public sectors. Don retired as a Technology Education teacher at Burney Harris Lyons Middle School.

Renee Smith joined Athens Land Trust as a FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member. She works with middle and high school students teaching garden and nutrition education. Renee brings experience from different areas of the food system from local food policy, advocacy, and community engagement. She holds a master’s degree in Food and Agricultural Law and Policy program at Vermont Law School and a B.S. from Savannah State University.

Kelsey Thompson joined ALT in January 2014 as an intern in the Affordable Housing Program. Previously serving as the Housing Coordinator, Kelsey is now serving as Education Coordinator. Kelsey oversees ALT’s youth and education programs, and manages the Housing Counseling Program. 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 several years.

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

John Anderson is a graduate of the Young Urban Farmers program, where he fostered a passion for sustainable agriculture and food justice. He now uses that passion as the Assistant Farm Manager at Williams Farm and the West Broad Garden, where he assists the farm managers in farm maintenance and works on special projects to promote the growth of both locations. John is a senior at Clarke Central High School and is also dual enrolled, studying business management at Athens Technical College. He hopes to use his experience with Athens Land Trust to impact change in the food industry in the future.

Austin “Tex” Bagley has over 10 years of non-profit experience and a background in business development, community outreach, marketing, and non-profit management. He graduated from the University of New Mexico with degrees in Communication and English. Tex spent two years living and working on a family farm in northwest Georgia, which instilled a passion for providing people access to local farm fresh produce. He brings this passion and experience to ALT as Market Business Development Coordinator, working with small farmers and new and beginning farmers to grow and sustain their operations. 

Ethel Collins, known as “Ms. Ethel,” is a community mentor and entrepreneur. She has worked with ALT as a farm contractor at the West Broad Garden since 2012, where she helps plan which crops are grown. She also lends her experience to garden volunteers and Young Urban Farmers working there. Ms. Ethel has been growing and cooking food for most of her life; she was born and raised on a farm outside of Athens where she began cooking family meals at the age of 12. A retiree from UGA Food Services, she cooks large meals weekly for her church’s soup kitchen, the Athens Homeless Shelter, and other community groups. She is also an anchor vendor at the West Broad Farmers Market, where she is widely known for her unique soul food recipes and traditional southern dishes.

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.

Maya Dudley first joined ALT as an intern in the Affordable Housing Program in 2017. She recently completed her Masters in Public Administration from UGA and has returned to ALT for the Summer as an Education Assistant, supporting the program administration and operations of the Education Program. Her role also includes assisting the Education Director in launching a new education program. 

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.

Yyokkia Lawson has more than 10 years of experience in the financial industry and is passionate about fostering housing and economic development opportunities throughout the Southeast.  As Housing Counselor, Yyokkia provides guidance in financial literacy, budgeting, credit repair, delinquency, and fair housing issues.  Additionally, she coordinates Home-buyer Education courses, Post Purchase & Credit Workshops, and helps connect home-buyers with various purchasing programs. Yyokkia holds a B.S. in Management from Georgia Tech and an A.S. in Architectural Technology.  She also holds a housing counseling certification from the GA Dept. of Community Affairs.

Lauren Muller joined ALT after graduating from UGA with an M.S in Horticulture. Her previous work focused on the role of horticulture in plant conservation and she has a passion for Georgia’s diverse plant communities. Her role as Invasive Plant Management Coordinator allows her to preserve the integrity of Georgia Piedmont forests and grasslands by increasing removal of invasive plant species on public and private land. Additionally, Lauren promotes community engagement through outreach, education, and youth program development.

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 Manageprovides 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.

Kamilah Roberts first joined the Athens Land Trust in 2016 as an AmeriCorps VISTA Housing AssistantAfter a year of National Service, She re-enrolled as an AmeriCorps VISTA PR Coordinator. Kamilah 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.

Linda Stephens joined ALT in 2016 as a Market Ambassador, working with staff to promote the West Broad Garden and Farmers Market. Linda brings 29 years of experience as a professional in the nursing and healthcare fields to her outreach work, providing nutrition education, conducting cooking demonstrations, and promoting community wellness.

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.

adam_wilson_vistaPreviously serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member for ALT, Adam Wilson is now serving as Salesforce Specialist. He will assist with expanding ALT’s Salesforce platform to track program data and performance. 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 web/software programming and project management to support ALT’s plans for visionary land use. He holds a B.A. from Georgetown University.

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.

As an Athens native, Deijhon Yearby’s growing experience began in high school, with landscaping as well as gardening at Clark Central High School. He participated in the Young Urban Farmers program during his senior year and is now the Assistant Farm Manager for Athens Land Trust. Deijhon is studying Horticulture at Athens Technical College and hopes to apply what he learns there to our farms.