South Cumberland Plateau AmeriCorps VISTA Project

About Our AmeriCorps VISTA Partnership


VISTA stands for Volunteers In Service To America, and is a branch of AmeriCorps, a federal program that is often referred to as the "domestic Peace Corps." AmeriCorps VISTA programs fight poverty across America by placing VISTA members in service to nonprofit organizations to help build capacity and sustainability.


The South Cumberland Plateau AmeriCorps VISTA Project began in 2014 and is a unique collaboration between South Cumberland Community Fund and the University of the South. SCP VISTAs serve each year at as many as 20 nonprofit sites in Franklin, Grundy, and Marion counties. 

Our VISTA Team

SCP AmeriCorps VISTA Project

Katie Goforth

Title: AmeriCorps VISTA Program Manager


Phone Number: 615.417.7258

Born in Tennessee and raised in Colorado, as a child Katie spent most summers with her extended family in Grundy County, Tennessee. After earning a B.A. from the University of Colorado with dual majors in anthropology and geography, Katie made Tennessee her permanent home. She worked in the field of K-12 education for more than 20 years, along the way earning a master's degree in Elementary Education (Tennessee State University) and an Ed.S. in Educational Leadership (Tennessee Technological University). She then transitioned into the field of nonprofit grant management and went on to serve as director of South Cumberland Health Network and co-director of grants for Volunteer Behavioral Health. She is a member of numerous local and regional committees and boards in the fields of public health and education, including South Cumberland Health Network, Grundy County Health Council, Activ8 Grundy, Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, and Friends of South Cumberland State Park. 


Prior to her current service, Katie partnered with the University of the South's Office of Civic Engagement and South Cumberland Plateau AmeriCorps VISTA Project on many community outreach initiatives; her current position as VISTA manager gives her even more freedom to use her professional experience in innovative ways to help the local community. In her free time, Katie enjoys traveling, hiking, and walking her dogs along the scenic trails of the South Cumberland Plateau. 

SCP AmeriCorps VISTA Project

Vicki Borchers

Title: AmeriCorps VISTA Coordinator


Phone Number: 931.636.3403 

Vicki was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended college at the University of Puget Sound in Washington State, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in music. After spending much of her career as an international marketer in Munich, Germany, Vicki returned to the United States in 2019 and settled with her family in Sewanee. Having worked for multinational corporations as well as operating her own marketing business, Vicki brings broad marketing, organizational, and sales enablement experience to her role as VISTA coordinator for SCP AmeriCorps VISTA Project, and welcomes the opportunity to put her professional skills to use in her adopted community. She is fluent in German and is additionally a trained mediator with experience resolving conflict in professional settings. In her free time, Vicki enjoys playing the cello, running, reading, spending time with her family, and hiking on the Plateau.

Office of Civic Engagement, University of the South

Julianna McBee (May 2020-21)

Title: South Cumberland Plateau VISTA Leader 


Phone Number: 931.841.7648

Julianna McBee, born and raised in Pelham, TN, graduated from Lee University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and an Emphasis in Business and a minor in religion. During her time at Lee University, Julianna participated in multiple volunteer opportunities and was in the leadership of a campus club for two years. She enjoys serving others and hopes to make a difference in every life she touches. In her free time, Julianna enjoys hiking and spending time with family and friends. Julianna served as an SCP VISTA with the Grundy County School System in 2019 and is continuing her service with the Office of Civic Engagement as SCP AmeriCorps VISTA Leader.


Goal of the project: Julianna will build the capacity of the South Cumberland Plateau VISTA Project to support VISTA members in their individual and collective efforts to improve health, education, and economic opportunity for people living in poverty in the South Cumberland region. As a result of Julianna’s service, VISTA members will have a  more productive and rewarding experience as they work to develop effective systems, processes, and programs for community partners, establish supportive networks within the community, and develop their leadership skills. Julianna will work to enhance the SCP AmeriCorps VISTA Project's growth, organization, and sustainability, increasing its capacity to support community partner’s efforts to alleviate poverty.


Sam Shaw (July 2020-21)

Title: Financial Inclusion VISTA


Sam Shaw was born and raised in Nashville, TN. In May of 2019 he graduated from the University of the South with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a minor in international and global studies. Starting out as a Summer Associate VISTA with the South Cumberland Plateau (SCP) AmeriCorps VISTA Project, he went on to enlist as a full VISTA in fall of 2019 and renewed for a second year in summer 2020. Sam is looking forward to spending more time addressing the economic issues facing the Plateau and tri-county area.


Goal of the Project: Sam’s goal is to build the capacity of BetterFi, a nonprofit answer to predatory lending located in Coalmont and established by a former SCP AmeriCorps VISTA member. Sam will develop a holistic financial coaching program operated by volunteers along with complimentary financial and soft skill programming to assist low-income residents in the tri-county area of Franklin, Grundy, and Marion. 

Mountain T.O.P.

Elliott Parsons

Title: Community Service Provider Network VISTA


Elliott is from central Indiana and graduated from Purdue University in August 2020 with a bachelor of science degree in public health. While at Purdue, Elliott was involved with the University recreation and wellness center, Food Finders Food Bank, and his housing cooperative. Throughout middle school and high school, Elliot has either volunteered or worked summers at Mountain T.O.P. In his spare time, he enjoys eating ice cream, foraging, thrifting, and watching Jeopardy. 


Goal of the Project: Elliott serves at Mountain T.O.P. as the Community Service Provider Network VISTA. In this role Elliot targets the social determinants that contribute to overall health, further empowering the families that Mountain T.O.P. serves.

DuBose Conference Center

Thomas Macfie (July 2020-21)

Title: Healthy Roots Community Garden VISTA


Thomas Macfie was raised in Sewanee, TN, and attended college at the University of Montana in Missoula, where he studied creative writing. He has served in a variety of capacities for several organizations, including Black Mesa Indigenous Support; the Friends of Canon Gideon Foundation in Kampala, Uganda; and at the Free Nashville Poetry Library in Nashville, TN. In the summer of 2020, Thomas served as a Summer Associate VISTA with the South Cumberland Summer Meal Program and the Healthy Roots Community Garden Program at DuBose Conference Center. Thomas will continue his service with DuBose in fall 2020 as a full-year VISTA member. 


Goal of the Project: Thomas will strengthen the capacity of the DuBose Healthy Roots Program by developing systems and processes for volunteer recruitment, program promotion, curriculum development, and program evaluation for this program for low-income residents of the South Cumberland Plateau. As a result of Thomas’s service, people living in poverty on the Plateau will have increased access to healthy food and learn practices for well-being and healthy lifestyle choices, helping to break the cycle of poverty.  

Franklin County Prevention Coalition
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Katie Cole (May 2020-21)

Title: Opioid Prevention Outreach VISTA


Katie graduated from Penn State in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a minor in global health. Prior to joining VISTA, Katie was heavily involved in service and social justice at Penn State through service-learning trips and volunteer work at a local medical center. As a VISTA, Katie hopes to strengthen community efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and is excited to learn more about the communities of the South Cumberland area. 


Goal of the Project: Katie will provide sustainable solutions to build the capacity of the Franklin County Prevention Coalition to combat the opioid epidemic and reduce the frequency of substance abuse in Franklin County, Tennessee. Areas of emphasis include opioid abuse prevention and harm reduction, prevention of drug/alcohol/tobacco use, and reduction of depression and anxiety. Katie will address issues of poverty through the development of sustainable behavioral health and addiction programming that acknowledges the health literacy of the community.

Grundy Recovery Alliance Community Endeavor (GRACE)

Sarah Baumgardner 

Title: Opioid and Substance Misuse Recovery VISTA


Sarah graduated from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in August 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and VolsTeach-Math education. Sarah went on to receive her master’s degree in education in May 2019. Between her graduate and undergraduate studies, Sarah worked overseas in China and England as an educator, community outreach liaison, and educator ambassador. Before joining AmeriCorps VISTA, Sarah worked as an educator and virtual banker in Knoxville, TN. In her free time, Sarah enjoys traveling, arts and crafts, and reading.

Goal of Project: Sarah serves as the Opioid and Substance Misuse Recovery VISTA for Grundy Recovery Alliance Community Endeavor (GRACE), building the capacity of the organization to provide effective programming for adults in recovery. Sarah develops programming in the areas of outreach, education, training, referrals, medical services, counseling, coaching, and opioid/drug interventions. 

Grundy County Sheriff's Office

Blake Blevins (May 2020-21)

Title: Rehabilitation and Reentry VISTA


As a native Appalachian, Blake grew up in Harlan County, Kentucky. He graduated from the University of Kentucky in May of 2020 receiving a Bachelor of Science in Business Economics with minors in international business and philosophy. During his undergraduate years Blake was in the Global Scholars pathway of the honors program, an editor for his university’s independent student-run newspaper, a resident advisor, and a volunteer in multiple community service events. His passion for equity, justice, and humanity in the legal system led him to serve as a VISTA in the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office. Blake hopes that through his position he can increase opportunities afforded to the incarcerated and work to decrease recidivism. Blake can often be found reading, running, playing video games, and accidentally burning food.


Goal of the Project: Blake’s efforts will build the capacity of the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office to develop, expand, and sustain inmate recovery efforts. These recovery efforts include several programs designed to provide educational opportunities and job skills training for those who are incarcerated at the county detention center. These efforts will strive to reduce recidivism rates in Grundy County and poverty among ex-offenders.

Grundy Safe Baby Court

Teressa Calhoun (May 2020-21)

Title: Community Outreach VISTA


Teressa graduated from the University of the South in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in politics and minors in Italian studies, philosophy, and southern Appalachian studies. While a student at the University she was involved in civic engagement projects, and was inspired by the initiative and involvement of community members that she met. As a VISTA for Grundy Safe Baby Court, she hopes to help increase capacity for the program and increase programming in the community. In her free time, Teressa enjoys biking, hiking, and reading.

Goal of the Project: Teressa will ensure that children of incarcerated parents receive the educational, social, and emotional support that they need. This will be accomplished by building upon the capacity of the Grundy Safe Baby Court to develop sustainable volunteer recruitment and a management system for its mentoring program.

Grundy County Mayor’s Office

Dominic Gialdini

Title: Sustainable Economic Development VISTA


Dominic Gialdini, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor of science in recreation with an emphasis in sustainable tourism management and a minor in interdisciplinary studies, through the Weber Honors College. In August 2020, he returned to the U.S. after a two-year stint in Europe, where he lived in Denmark, Slovenia, and Spain as part of the Erasmus Mundus European master in tourism management program. While in Europe, Dominic served as an intern for the Alliance of Innovators and Researchers in Tourism and Hospitality (AIRTH), and upon his return stateside completed an internship with Solimar International Inc., an international tourism development consultancy firm. Dominic enjoys traveling, learning about community-based sustainable tourism (especially in the context of trekking and pilgrimage routes), and watching classic films. 


Project Goal: As the Sustainable Economic Development VISTA, Dominic builds the capacity of the Grundy County Mayor’s Office to develop a thriving business community and create economic opportunity for low-income residents. 

University of the South

Sarah Edmonds

Title: Hunger Relief VISTA


Sarah was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia. In May 2020 she graduated from Christopher Newport University with a bachelor of science in environmental biology and minors in leadership and environmental studies. Sarah worked for the residence life, sustainability, and community engagement offices on-campus. She volunteered with community partners in the area, including Habitat for Humanity and The Mariners’ Museum and Park. Sarah’s experience has influenced her passion to promote sustainability for the environment and local communities. In Sarah’s first year serving with the AmeriCorps VISTA program, she looks forward to interacting with the community and contributing to food distribution systems across the South Cumberland Plateau. Sarah’s pastimes include baking, hiking, and painting.


Project Goal: As the Hunger Relief VISTA serving at the University of the South, Sarah builds the capacity of food distributions systems across the Plateau. Additionally, she is a major contributor to the planning and realization of the 2021 South Cumberland Summer Meal Program, which serves free meals to Plateau children throughout the summer months. 


Emily Stone (August 2020-21)

Title: Volunteer Recruitment VISTA


Emily Stone graduated from the University of the South in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in International and Global Studies and Spanish. As a student, she served as a Canale intern with Sewanee’s Office of Civic Engagement, coordinating and leading Sewanee Elementary’s “Wednesday Wonderings” after-school program for kids in kindergarten through 5th grade. During her time as a Canale intern, she became aware of the cyclical poverty present in the counties surrounding Sewanee and was inspired by varied efforts to address issues that perpetuate poverty. In her free time, Emily enjoys cooking, hiking, traveling, and playing with dogs.


Goal of the Project: Emily will build the capacity of the Southeast Tennessee Human Resource Agency Court Appointed Special Advocate (SETHRA CASA) position to coordinate volunteers and other key stakeholders to effectively serve abused and neglected children from low socioeconomic families that are appointed to the program by Marion and Grundy county juvenile judges. As a result of Emily’s service, children living in poverty in Marion and Grundy counties will have greater assurance of receiving safe, loving, and permanent homes where their educational, social, emotional, and psychological needs are met. 

South Cumberland Health Network

Connor Stack (July 2020-21)

Title: Health Network Community Outreach VISTA


Connor graduated from the University of the South in May 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Before joining VISTA, Connor worked in the University of the South’s Bonner Program writing grants, helping with development at the University Farm, and creating programming for Bonner internship outreach workshops. During this time, Connor gained a passion for changing people’s lives for the better and developed the belief that no matter who you are or where you live, being healthy and well-fed are essentials on which we can all agree. As a VISTA, Connor hopes to bring together all the different health initiatives on the South Cumberland Plateau to create a healthier community. Connor enjoys hiking and a good cup of coffee in the morning.


Goal of the Project: Connor will build the capacity of the South Cumberland Health Network (SCHN) to fulfill its mission of supporting health care providers in their efforts to improve health equity and healthy outcomes for people living in poverty in the South Cumberland region. Connor will develop systems and processes to promote effective and efficient collaboration between providers, engage local community members, identify funding sources for healthcare initiatives, and build organizational protocols and procedures for network sustainability. Through his efforts, SCHN will leverage more resources to improve health care access and health outcomes for uninsured and underinsured people in the South Cumberland region.