Amherst Survival Center Staff:
Philip Avila (he/him), Community Meals Coordinator
firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
email@example.com, 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
firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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
email@example.com, 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
firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Elizabeth Morrissey (she/her), Food Pantry Coordinator
email@example.com, 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.
Marcus Opalenik (he/him), Food Pantry Assistant
Marcus joined the Amherst Survival Center in May 2022. He has a background in Education, Omni Operations, Management, and Program Coordination. He is also a certified instructor of Martial Arts, which he studied in Taiwan. While there he taught English, Math and Science to non-native English speakers. He is excited to be able to bring his abilities to be a force for growth in the community. Marcus speaks English and conversational Mandarin.
Lisa Queenin (she/her), Development Coordinator
firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
Joseph Rogers (he/him), Food Pantry Assistant
Joseph joined the Amherst Survival Center team in June 2022. He is a local musician and videographer, has a strong belief in food security and basic human needs being met. Having been a previous volunteer at the survival center, and part of numerous benefits in support of local and national social and environmental causes, he is grateful to join the team.
Lisa Solowiej (she/her), Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator email@example.com, 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.
Karolyne Symonds (she/her), Community Meals Assistant firstname.lastname@example.org
After serving as a kitchen volunteer for over a year, Karolyne is delighted to join the team at ASC as the Kitchen Assistant. Karolyne moved to the Pioneer Valley at the beginning of 2020 after living in Spain and Portugal for some time. She holds a degree in Arts Management and Anthropology. Her background in food service, community engagement and the nonprofit sector, as well as her passion for food and culture is what makes the ASC a wonderful fit. She looks forward to continuing to work alongside Philip in the kitchen and is grateful for an opportunity to immerse herself in supporting a valued mission. Karolyne speaks English, Spanish, and some Portuguese.
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.
Jennifer Moyston (she/her), Vice President
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.
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.
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!
Risha Hess (she/her)
Risha was raised in Amherst. She spent 20 years working on sexual and reproductive health programs throughout the world, including living in India, Kenya, Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia. She is currently a consultant with Propelevate LLC working on the intersection of social impact and business approaches to better center clients/consumers. She returned to Amherst in 2020 with her daughter and is excited to be back! She is also a board member of the Amherst Affordable Housing Trust. Committees: Finance.
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!
Nicola Usher (she/her)
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.
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.