Community Heart & Soul Staff
Our staff is devoted to building brighter futures for small cities and towns across America through developed trainings and practical resources. Using their wealth of knowledge and experience with field-testing our Community Heart & Soul model, they are able to provide invaluable assistance and on-the-ground support for communities around the country.
Carol is a Vermonter who plays a mean game of Scrabble and has a soft spot for rescue dogs. She holds a Master of Business Administration and bachelor's in business finance from the College of Saint Joseph. She co-owns Ridgeback Properties, a rental property business. An active community member, her service includes a term on the board of Dinners with Love, a nonprofit that connects hospice agencies with local restaurants to provide free, delivered meals to caregivers and their loved ones. She joined Orton in 1998 and resides in Brandon, Vermont (pop. 4,000), with her husband, Shannon, and Neapolitan mastiff Sofia. They look forward to visits from their son Matt who lives in Redmond, Washington, and enjoy family, friends, biking, and kayaking.
When it comes to community engagement, Caitlyn practices what Orton preaches. She serves on both the Land Management Planning Committee and Comprehensive Plan Update Committee in the town where she lives, New Gloucester, Maine. At Orton, she shares her expertise in community planning, public participation and nonprofit marketing with the Marketing and Programs teams. Her bachelor’s degree is from the University of Colorado. Her master’s is in Community Planning and Development from the Muskie School for Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. Caitlyn’s hometown is Littleton, Colorado (pop. 44,275). She and her husband, Ben, and their children, Lowell and Anna live in the home they built.
Kyla is Vermont born and raised, growing up she took full advantage of her rural environs riding horses. She’s also a digital native and brings to Orton an intrinsic understanding of all things digital from website development, customer acquisition strategies, and content creation for web and social. Prior to joining Orton she helped travelers discover and connect with new places and people all over the world as brand manager for VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations. Kyla holds a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Massachusetts and began her career with Amnesty International USA in Washington D.C. When she’s not working, you will find her walking her dog or playing in the garden.
When she's not landlocked, Alexis loves to be in the ocean exploring underwater wonders in her scuba gear. She joined Orton from Paonia, Colorado where she was immersed in small-town life, serving as Project Coordinator the North Fork Valley Heart & Soul project. She was also Associate Publisher at High Country News, Chamber of Commerce President, and on the board of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society. Her hometown is Winnetka, Illinois (pop. 12,400). Alexis received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Globalization and Natural Resource Management, and holds a certification in Project Management from San Francisco State University.
David grew up in Van Buren, Ohio, (pop. 342) where he was imbued with Midwest friendliness that garnered him friends all over the world. Before joining Orton, he was Executive Vice President of Dane Technologies and President of its subsidiary, LEVO USA—a combined $20 million company based in Minnesota and Switzerland that he helped found. While he traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, and Australia, his heart was in small town America. A steadfast believer in the wisdom of local people, David launched rural programs for community development, business creation, and regional revitalization in his career roles as a Minnesota foundation and state government executive. He stated his work career as an elementary school teacher in Ohio and Brazil. David has a B.S. in Education from Defiance College, an MA in Educational Administration from Bowling Green State University and an MA in Public Affairs from the Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota.
Sara wins the prize for coming to Vermont from furthest afield. Prior to joining Orton, she lived on the island of Saint Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean where she was Director of Programming and Training at United States Peace Corps/Eastern Caribbean. She also served in the same role in Vanuatu in the South Pacific, and was also a Program Officer for the Australian Agency for International Development's Governance for Growth. Sara's bachelor's degree is from Brown University and her master’s is from the University of Hawai'i-Manoa and the East West Center in Manoa. She grew up on a farm in Lohrville, Iowa (pop. 357). She enjoys traveling, being near the ocean, and spending time with family.
Rachel is a native Vermonter who crochets so quickly the needle hums and the yarn smokes! To the great benefit of her co-workers, organization is her hallmark. Prior to joining Orton she was Registrar at Burlington College. She volunteered as Registrar for Camp Downer, a nonprofit, affordable summer camp in southern Vermont. Rachel’s degree is in Liberal Arts from Trinity College. She grew up in the northwestern Vermont city of St. Albans (pop. 7,000). She lives at the foot of the Green Mountains in the village of Starksboro with her husband, son, and highly mischievous dachshund mix Daisy.
Erik is a connector who has focused his career on advocacy and community service. His expertise in grant administration, capacity building, and strategic planning has served many causes and communities including in the areas of child abuse prevention, HIV/AIDS, cancer awareness and research, public health, and grassroots advocacy. In addition, he has served as a bilingual case manager, community organizer, and fundraiser for a number of organizations. Erik’s background includes his most recent post as Associate Program Officer at the Colorado Health Foundation where he oversaw grantmaking in the areas of access to care and behavioral health. Erik serves on the board of the Chinook Fund, a nonprofit that supports community organizations working on issues of racial, social. and economic justice. Originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado (pop. 464,000), Erik is a devoted fan of his alma mater, the University of Arizona, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. He is an avid traveler and concert goer with his partner, Laura, and pup, Winston!
Gabrielle was a founding member of Community Heart & Soul in Essex, Vermont, and she continues to serve on the board of the nonprofit created by the initiative. She loves witnessing the impacts of the investment in Heart & Soul on the civic, economic, and social life of her hometown. She sees them in her everyday life around town, in newspaper articles and letters to the editor in the local paper, and on town meeting day as residents deliberate and decide together with respect and civility. She grew up in Clifton Park, New York (pop. 36,000). After going to school at Beloit College and the University of Wisconsin - Madison, she stayed in Wisconsin and called it home for almost two decades. Since 2006, she has lived in Essex with her husband, twin son and daughter, and Aussidoodle dog, Geordi. In addition to doing what she loves at work, she enjoys traveling, speaking French (broken though it is at times!), board/card games, puzzles, movies, comedy and improv, cooking, and spending time with her family.
Leanne, whose career started in the klieg lights of Broadway, combined her stage presence with her love of small towns and now holds audiences rapt as she shares her passion for Community Heart & Soul. Leanne has an extensive background in community revitalization including coordinating the Vermont Downtown Program. She was Director and CEO of Erie Downtown Improvement District in Erie, Pennsylvania, where her work included redevelopment of Erie’s Waterfront. In Warren, Pennsylvania, she was Executive Director of Warren Main Street. She gathered no moss in childhood growing up in New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Texas. She resides in Barre, Vermont with her husband and three curious cats.
Joan comes to Orton from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT where she directed the Center for Community Engaged Learning. In this role, she served as an instructor, faculty consultant, student philanthropy advisor, AmeriCorps supervisor, and liaison to local communities. Her work focused on nurturing partnerships and developing service-learning projects to advance the democratic traditions of volunteerism, association, and civic engagement. This position afforded her the opportunity to work directly with youth, the elderly, and every demographic in between. Joan holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and English as well as a master’s in Education. In 2017, she earned her doctorate in Education with a focus on organizational leadership and policy. During the short Vermont growing season, she enjoys coaxing beautiful things out of the earth that delight the senses and nourish family, friends, and neighbors.
David Weaver grew up in Oakland, Iowa, (pop. 1,200) where the message he heard throughout childhood was ‘leave town if you want to succeed.’ He took that advice to heart and lived in major cities from Seattle to Dallas to New York pursuing a career in advertising. Over the course of his career, David led and created award-winning campaigns for Nissan, T-Mobile, Clif Bar, American Airlines, Nestlé, adidas, Nationwide Insurance, and many others. He regularly shares his insights at conferences and has been a speaker at SXSW, TED and multiple TEDx events. His blog achieved viral status when he chronicled his experiment in minimalist living by giving away one of his possessions every day for 365 days. His job at Orton brings him back to his small-town roots where he believes the skills that laid the groundwork for his success were nurtured and he can put them to work for good, creating positive change in the world. He lives in Underhill, Vermont, (pop. 3,000) with his wife Misuk and their fox terrier Beaker.