Plateau Welcomes AmeriCorps VISTAs

Please join the South Cumberland Plateau VISTA Project in welcoming VISTA service members Sarah Edmonds, Dominic Gialdini, and Sarah Baumgardner. Following a week of VISTA orientation, newly on-boarded VISTA service members are now serving at their respective sites in Grundy and Franklin Counties.

Sarah Edmonds serves as the Hunger Relief VISTA at the University of the South. Serving with the Office of Civic Engagement, Sarah is building the capacity of food distributions systems across the plateau. Sarah will be 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. Per the pandemic, the 2020 Summer Meal Program increased its volume by eightfold over previous years, serving nearly 50,0000 free meals to children in Grundy, Marion and Franklin Counties. Sarah will support this greatly increased volume of meal service throughout the summer of 2021 and develop other year-round hunger-relief programs for the plateau.

Born and raised in Portsmouth, Va., Sarah is a recent graduate from Christopher Newport University. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology and minors in Leadership and Environmental Studies. As an undergraduate Sarah worked for the on-campus residence life, sustainability, and community engagement offices. She additionally 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.

Dominic Gialdini serves as the Sustainable Economic Development VISTA at the Grundy County Mayor’s Office. During his service Dominic will expand upon the tourism communication infrastructure developed by predecessor, VISTA member Kara Kramer. Dominic’s service will additionally strengthen capacity of the Grundy County Mayor & economic development partners across the plateau in order to build a thriving and collaborative business community—increasing economic opportunity for low-income residents.

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Dominic graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation Administration with an emphasis in Sustainable Tourism Management and a minor in Interdisciplinary Studies. In August 2020, Dominic returned to the U.S. after a two-year stint in Europe, where he completed the Erasmus Mundus European Master in Tourism Management Program. While in abroad, Dominic additionally served as an intern for the Alliance of Innovators and Researchers in Tourism and Hospitality (AIRTH). Dominic enjoys traveling and learning about community-based sustainable tourism, especially in the context of trekking and pilgrimage routes, and looks forward to applying his experience and academic training to developing tourism in Grundy County.

Sarah Baumgardner serves as the Opioid & Substance Misuse Recovery VISTA at Grundy Recovery Alliance Community Endeavor (GRACE), where she will create programming that encompasses outreach, education, training, referrals, medical services, counseling, coaching, and opioid/drug interventions for adults in recovery. Sarah will additionally position GRACE as a model for Building Communities of Recovery by determining need in the community, service gaps and applying best practices and industry standards.

Hailing from Blount County, Tennessee, Sarah is a graduate of University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Sarah holds a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and VolsTeach-Math Education and earned a master’s degree in Education. Between her undergraduate and graduate studies, Sarah worked overseas in China and England as an educator, community outreach liaison, and educator ambassador. Prior to joining AmeriCorps VISTA, Sarah worked as an educator and virtual banker in Knoxville, Tennessee. Sarah looks forward to applying her education and experience to expand the services and reach of GRACE.

The South Cumberland Plateau (SCP) AmeriCorps VISTA Project is a partnership between the University of the South and South Cumberland Community Fund (SCCF). Through their efforts, the SCP VISTAs expand the scale, reach, efficiency, and effectiveness of programs and organizations that work to alleviate poverty on the plateau. VISTA capacity building activities expand services, enhance delivery of services, and generate additional resources for these programs and organizations. These activities achieve lasting positive outcomes for those served by these program organizations.

For information about becoming a VISTA member or enlisting a VISTA to join your organization, please visit <>; or contact Vicki Borchers at <>.