Amherst Survival Center Staff:
Philip Avila (he/him), Community Meals Coordinator
email@example.com, x 103
Philip was thrilled to join the Amherst Survival Center in August 2020. A native of California, Philip moved to Amherst in 2018. He brings over 15 years of experience in the restaurant industry, holding numerous positions. He has a BA in sociology, and is pursuing an MS in Sociology with an emphasis in social justice. His goal is to continue to foster a sense of community at the Center through the shared experience of food.
Alex Ayala-Palacin(he/him), Program Assistant
Alex, a native of Amherst, was ecstatic in joining the Amherst Survival Center and its mission in January 2022. He is passionate in giving back to the community through his experience in education, community outreach, and music. He is looking forward to having another opportunity to make a positive impact for friends in the Pioneer Valley. Alex is fluent in English and Spanish.
Carleen Basler (she/her), Program Director
firstname.lastname@example.org, x 102
Carleen joined the Amherst Survival Center team as Volunteer Coordinator in October 2015. Her background is in education, organizing for social change, and she has had many happy years of volunteer service. Carleen speaks English, Spanish, and a little Mandarin.
Lev Ben-Ezra (she/her), Executive Director
email@example.com, x 107
Lev joined the Amherst Survival Center in January 2019, finding that this is the perfect place to combine her passion for social justice, her commitment to making resources to meet basic needs accessible for all, and her skill bringing people together to accomplish big goals. Lev speaks English and a little Spanish.
Shane Christopher (he/him), Pantry Assistant
Shane joined the Amherst Survival Center in March 2022, bringing experience in grocery and hardware retail, machine shop work, and shipping/receiving. Shane grew up in Western Massachusetts, spends lots of time outdoors, including volunteering to keep up his local bmx track. He cares deeply about the well-being of others and appreciates providing for the Center’s community with care and hard work.
Chris Dyson (he/him), Pantry Assistant
Chris joined The Amherst Survival Center staff in January 2021, after being a part of our COVID Response team for 6 months. Originally from Western Mass, he returned for family and to continue the community and environmental work he’d been doing in the Peruvian Andes. Excited to now work as a local, he’s found the Center’s mission, commitment, and vibe to be an exciting fit. He comes from a background of film, warehouse management, food service, finance, and organizing, but mainly wanderlust. Chris speaks English, conversational Spanish, and some tidbits of Quechua and German.
Phil Gilfeather-Girton (he/him), Director of Finance & Administration
Phil joined the Amherst Survival Center in November 2021. He has created proactive and efficient accounting and information technology systems in several non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses in Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts since 1998. Phil considers himself a country accountant, aspiring gentleman farmer, and intrepid lifeplace explorer.
Miranda Groux (she/her), Administrative Associate
firstname.lastname@example.org, x 110
Miranda joined the Amherst Survival Center team in March 2021. She brings experience in social justice organizing and program coordination. Miranda finds great joy in building community, and is thrilled to work alongside everyone at the Center to ensure all our neighbors feel supported and have their basic needs met. Miranda speaks English and a tidbit of Spanish.
Sam Guerin (he/him), Operations Coordinator
email@example.com, x 106
Sam joined the Amherst Survival Center in September 2020. He has a background in the non-profit arts community, where he has worked as support staff and as an educator. Sam looks forward to joining the Amherst Survival Center, where he can work to sustain and support the peoples of the pioneer valley.
Marcella McNerney (she/her), Service Coordinator
firstname.lastname@example.org, x 101
Marcella joined the Amherst Survival Center team in October 2020, bringing a background in teaching and program coordination. Marcella is thrilled to be a part of the Amherst Survival Center team and contribute to the mission by providing a welcoming community and support to residents of Hampshire and Franklin Counties. Marcella speaks English and Spanish.
Sez Morales (they/them), Food Pantry Coordinator
email@example.com, x 117
Sez was overjoyed to join the Amherst Survival Center team in October 2020, putting their 5 years of retail management and food inventory experience to use in a community setting. They are grateful for the chance to work with staff, volunteers, and community members to ensure that everyone has access to the resources they need to meet their basic needs. Sez speaks English and is conversational in Spanish.
Elizabeth Morrissey (she/her), Food Pantry Coordinator
firstname.lastname@example.org, x 104
Elizabeth joined the Center’s staff in June 2021 after 2 years as a volunteer and substitute coordinator. She is deeply committed to helping our community as a part of the ASC team. Her background includes experience in education and administration.
Lisa Queenin (she/her), Development Coordinator
email@example.com, x 108
Lisa joined the Amherst Survival Center team in April 2014. She is grateful for the opportunity to work together with staff, volunteers, and our supporters to build on the incredible community support for the Center, and sustain and grow vital services.
Lisa Solowiej (she/her), Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org, x 111 or 413-238-1376
Lisa enjoyed volunteering in the food pantry at the ASC for six years and co-coordinating the Neighborhood Food Project. She was thrilled to join the staff as the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator. Lisa’s background is in Political Science and Legal Studies, with a focus on gender politics and race/ethnicity politics. Lisa speaks English and a little Spanish.
Kendell Sweeney-Thomas (he/him), Pantry Coordinator email@example.com, x 109
Kendell joined the Amherst Survival Center in June 2021, bringing an enthusiasm for helping others and improving communities. He brings a varied background and skills ranging from business administration to theatre to journalism, which he is glad to use to serve the Center’s members and its mission.
Board of Directors
Board of Directors
Board of Directors
Ted Parker (he/him), President
Ted is the President of Kohl Construction Inc. He is a real estate developer and construction pro with 35 years of experience managing and financing commercial and residential projects. Ted is a realtor and a licensed real estate agent in association with 5 College Realtors in Amherst. Committees: Finance, Investment.
Nicola Usher (she/her), Vice President
Nicola is an undergraduate academic advisor at UMass Amherst. She moved to Amherst with her family in 2013 and has spent time volunteering in the community store and food pantry. She is currently a neighborhood coordinator for the neighborhood food project. Committees: Governance.
Deron Estes (he/him), Treasurer
Deron works as the Manager of Financial Decision Support at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. He has an MBA in Non Profit Management from Boston University. He has lived in North Amherst since 2007. Committees: Finance.
Christopher Howland (he/him), Clerk
Chris is the Director of Purchasing and Marketing in Auxiliary Enterprises at UMass Amherst. Chris has developed a strong rapport with local farmers and suppliers continuing the department’s strong tradition of local sourcing and outreach. He manages all marketing initiatives for Auxiliary Enterprises including UMass Dining. Commitees: Development.
Neftalí Duran (he/him)
Neftalí Duran is a community cook, advocate, educator, and organizer, working towards an equitable food system and building a network of Indigenous food leaders. He is the co-founder of the I- Collective, an Indigenous collective that promotes a healthy food system that values people, traditional knowledge, and the planet over profit as well as the Holyoke Collective. His writing and culinary projects have been featured at the Smithsonian Native American museum, the Smithsonian museum of American history, the Native American Culinary Association, LongHouse Food Revival, Food52, and the Cooking Channel, and he has been a featured speaker at The Moth mainstage, Harvard, Smith College and more. Neftalí’s work is grounded in the belief that access to food is a human right.
Neftalí’s work is informed by his own experience as an Indigenous and formerly undocumented migrant worker and 20 years of experience in the restaurant and food industry as chef, baker, and small business owner. He engages in grassroots work and advocacy regarding Indigenous culinary traditions, the effects of migration on people and food, and the environment. His interests include documenting the culinary traditions of the different regions of Oaxaca, Mexico, reclaiming the roots and culture of the original peoples of the Americas, having conversations about the impact of colonialism in our communities in regards to traditional food-ways, and engaging in conversations about the impact of climate change on frontline communities. Instagram @neftaliduran_
Jan Eidelson (she/her)
Jan has committed her career to human services in a variety of areas ranging from sexual and reproductive health to domestic violence to foster care. Jan also served as a former President of the Board of Directors. Commitees: Development.
Matthew Gordon Morin (he/him)
Matthew is from Boston and settled in the valley after attending UMass. Throughout his life, Matthew has always been attracted to roles helping others, as an RA, summer camp volunteer, and first responder. He works as a Firefighter in Hadley and Sunderland and particularly loves doing fire safety education with kids. Matthew loves being outside, hiking or rock climbing with friends — ask him about his favorite hiking spots in the area!
J. Lynn Griesemer (she/her)
Lynn is the retired Associate Vice President for Economic Development and Executive Director of the UMass Donahue Institute with the UMass President’s Office. Elected to the first Amherst Town Council, she serves as President of the Council. She has an Ed.D. and MS from the University of Tennessee and a MPA from the Kennedy School, Harvard University. Lynn also served as a former President of the Board of Directors. Committees: Finance, Investment.
Jennifer Moyston (she/her)
Jenn Moyston is a former Food Pantry Coordinator at the Amherst Survival Center. She has been the Administrative Assistant for the Town of Amherst since 2013. Jenn has over 30 years of experience assisting low income, and mentally and physically challenged individuals. Committees: Governance.
Benjamin Peters (he/him)
Benjamin was born and raised in Amherst. He has dedicated his professional life to serving the public through a variety of different roles and responsibilities. Benjamin has a genuine passion for helping others and bringing people together. He is currently working as a police officer in Sunderland, where he focuses on developing community outreach projects and building strong community relationships. Benjamin loves hiking, camping, and spending time with family on Martha’s Vineyard!
Allison van der Velden (she/her)
Dr. Allie is the CEO of the Community Health Center of Franklin County. She earned a B.A. from Hampshire College, and then earned her Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona. She now lives in South Deerfield, where she also serves on the town finance committee. Committees: Governance.
Barbara White (she/her)
Barbara has had several “careers” in her working years from elementary and special needs teacher, to counselor/therapist and administrator in community mental health, to higher education, and later as a caterer, restauranteur and co-owner of the Blue Heron Restaurant in Sunderland. She is a former Amherst Survival Center reception volunteer. Committees: Development.