Our dedicated team of community volunteers and student interns

Our dedicated team of community volunteers and student interns

Hwei-Ling Greeney

Founder and Executive Director of Amherst Community Connections

Hwei-Ling started her long-term commitment to serving community members at local soup kitchen Not Bread Alone where she worked for over twelve years. Her commitment to serving people there, (driven by her love for cooking and her passion for sharing the delicious meals she prepares to the people who need it most), ended up being a pivotal moment in her life. She recalled fondly how one particular patron whom she served for over ten years, was “very bright” and would always stay after they were done serving the meal to help her clean up. She elaborated how he inspired her to look for more ways to fulfill the variety of unmet needs of the community that she was serving, “I was serving people delicious hot meals, but I thought to myself, ‘That’s just not enough!’... I wanted to do more.” And do more she did when she founded Amherst Community Connections in September of 2009 where she has been helping to connect the local homeless and at-risk-of-homelessness populations to the organizations and resources that they need. This includes helping them access much needed emergency housing, funding, and resources as well as working with them to find permanent solutions to their homelessness and the many other challenges they face.

When she is not too busy lending her compassion, knowledge, and expertise to those in need, however, you might be able to catch her taking long walks around the area listening to her favorite podcasts such as This American Life, On the Media, and TED Talk. Although keeping up with her will probably come as a challenge to many since Mrs. Greeney can boast an impressive average of 8-10 miles of walking every day, (or about 20-28,000 steps daily), according to her Fitbit, which lends itself to her family’s competition to see who can be the most active. Although competition is only a small element in her active lifestyle. She confided in me with a warm smile that her motivation is better found in what she does while out walking, “Sometimes when I get listening to a podcast and it’s really good I just keep walking, and walking, and walking… I just don’t stop!” As far as anyone here at ACC can tell that seems to hold true for everything that she does, including her work!

Pat Creaser

Role in ACC: Community Volunteer

A former program coordinator at Loomis Village retirement community with years of experience working for the Public Recreation and Health Department in Cincinnati, OH, Pat feels strongly about the importance of being involved in her community. She first met Amherst Community Connection’s founder and Executive Director Hwei-Ling at the Amherst Artwalk where she credits her “love of art” for bringing her together with her “love for people” leading to her volunteer position here at ACC. She recognizes that her strength of being able to relate to people and connect with them can be well-paired with her prior experience, both of which she likes to utilize to the fullest in helping to give back to the people in our community. The strong call to action she feels to help those who are homeless is clear, “I want to do more than just talk about it, instead of being sad and angry, I want to be a part of the solution”, as is evidenced by her hands-on approach to helping ACC’s participants. Pat’s youthful energy, bright smile, and endless outpouring of positive energy and vibes are well-placed in her facilitation of ACC’s weekly “Incubator meetings”, where the participants all have an opportunity to share in the hardships and joys of their lives as they work with staff to find permanent solutions to the problems they face such as homelessness, jobless, and hunger.

Beyond Pat’s love of art and people, she is a woman of wide interests which is not compromised in her enthusiasm for them. Being active is one interest, but how she does it varies from hiking with her two beloved dogs, to riding bikes, swimming, or yoga. She also likes most anything to do with culture including cooking, reading, art, painting, poetry, and museums. All of these passions together are what made her fall in love with the Pioneer Valley area when she moved here twelve years ago after marrying her husband.  She also enjoys spirituality and meditation, so she appreciates the diverse and healing spiritual community present in the Valley “the blend of nature with dance, culture and academia” is what she considers to be her favorite part of the community.

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 9.39.24 AM.png

Lillian Coleman

Role in ACC: Office Manager

Lillian’s relationship with ACC started when she became involved with SCSEP, a program for adults wanting a second career. Her acceptance into a position here at ACC was not the first time she had encountered Hwei-Ling; she first met ACC’s founder and executive director over 25 years ago through the Amherst school system that her grandson was enrolled in. Originally hailing from the Bronx in New York City, Lillian moved to Springfield in 1969 where she started her family. Seven years later, Lillian and her two daughters moved to Amherst where she enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to study Fashion Marketing. Raising her growing family, however, was Lillian’s first priority and her love and pride in her family is forever outpouring and evidenced by her two daughters who have blessed her with her 7 grandchildren and her 5 great-grandchildren. 2015 marks the year that she successfully completed her degree in Business studies through the University of Massachusetts’s University Without Walls in 2015; a degree that she plans to put to good use since she has had her own handcrafted greeting card business, Cards by Coleman, since 1996 and is now looking to expand.

An alumna of the University of Massachusetts as well as a retiree, Lillian enjoys doing some work as a seamstress stemming from her interest in fashion. She also loves dancing, especially salsa, which can be confirmed by one of ACC’s participants who sees her at the Friday Night Dances at the Olde Hadley American Legion Post 271. “If you ever seen her dance, she can move! You wouldn’t expect it knowing her outside of [here],” in reference to Lillian’s warm soft energy , her kind smile, and her readiness with a ‘God Bless’ and a hug for almost all she encounters, the participant continued “She’s got so much energy, and you really see how young her spirit is when she’s out [there]!”

Karen Cassidy

Role at ACC: Community Volunteer

Karen found out about ACC through Hwei-Ling at a community breakfast. She wants to volunteer here because she has known Hwei-Ling through her work in the past. Recently retired, Karen wants to try being a volunteer at ACC to see what it is like because she has been a licensed clinical social worker who worked with families and children in multiple settings but primarily for children in the family. Karen became a registered nurse one point in life as well. She has worked in pediatrics for 30 years. As a pediatric nurse, Karen worked with families and children but most recently children with complicated care and fragile health.  Karen says she loves meeting new people and helping whenever possible.

Karen has moved around a bit. Originally from New Jersey, she has lived in Boston for ten years, then finally came to settle down in Belchertown. She has lived in Belchertown for thirty five years and loves the “Happy Valley”. She has two children, two dogs, one cat, and two fish. Her children are both young adults now so whenever Karen has free time she enjoys to dance, swim, rollerblade, play with her pets, read, and do many other exciting activities. Her list of hobbies is endless so there is never a dull moment! Karen is really interested in her family, friends, enjoying this beautiful valley, likes quiet time, and likes to laugh. She thinks that all lives are half full, meaning whether someone is rich or poor does not matter because happiness is a state of mind. An interesting fact about Karen is that she gets remarried every three years. She would sign a new contract with her husband and go on a honeymoon. I love how funny and friendly Karen is. Although she shared a few short stories with me, I wanted to hear more if I had time. I suggest all of you to talk to Karen and hear her stories!

Taryn Gately

Role at ACC: Intern

I first learned about Amherst Community Connections while scrolling online through local non-profits in Amherst. I’m a part of the Advancing Diversity in Research and Practice (ADRAP) program at UMass Amherst, which also led me to ACC. I felt that I had discovered a hidden gem as I read and was inspired by their mission to assist vulnerable individuals and families in achieving stability. Too often, people are overlooked and undermined when they need help the most. From a young age I knew that I did not want to just see the world, but also make a difference in it. My family and I would not be where we are now had we not received the helping hands we did. It made all the difference for our lives, and being knowledgeable of my potential impact on someone else’s life is too significant to ignore. Although I am interning, I’m aware that volunteering is a valuable, resourceful two-way street that people need to travel on more. Not only am I able to help those involved with the ACC, but it’s a whole other personal feeling to be able to give unconditionally. I have a profound passion for using the voice I was lucky to grow up with to provide advocacy and empower those who may not have one, and when I realized I could potentially have that opportunity with ACC, I had to take it.

As an intern, I am able to bring exceptional communication/people skills, sensitivity, and confidentiality to ACC. In the past, I worked as a sleep-away camp counselor and consistent babysitter/nanny for local families. I've taken care of children with multitudes of personalities and of different backgrounds that have given me a newfound awareness I would not have been able to achieve before. I was trained to look out for those struggling, whether it be homesickness or mental health, and not only address their needs, but do so in a way that they did not feel outed or shamed. I built deep connections with both my campers and co-counselors that were based on respect and kindness for one another, making communication the most effective it could be. I learned from the children I spent nearly every day with in ways they could not learn from me, reaching a level of understanding that would facilitate cooperation and collaboration. I’m excited to be bringing an open, sensitive mind to ACC in order to make clients feel like they have a steady shoulder to lean on when devising a plan for themselves.

In my down time, I enjoy taking trips to the gym in order to be the best, healthiest version of myself I can be. I also like to explore, whether it be local hiking trails, downtown shops, or a new restaurant I have yet to try. Being outside is therapeutic to me, especially when my dog, Bow, accompanies me in exploring. I love to meet new people while I’m out and spread as much extra kindness as I can, because we all know we need it.

Claire ACC.JPG

Claire Holleman

Role at ACC: Intern

I learned about Amherst Community Connections from the Career Center at Amherst College, where I was looking for opportunities to be more actively engaged in the community. I was drawn to this organization because of similar volunteer work that I had done in high school at a transitional housing program in my neighborhood. I believe that every person is entitled to a place to call home, and ACC is committed to making this a reality to each person who walks through our doors. Solving the housing crisis is the first step to solving so many of the other issues that we are facing today, and so I think that doing this type of work will build skills and provide perspectives that are important for any career that I could potentially have in the future. I think Amherst Community Connections’ multifaceted approach to overcoming obstacles is very unique, and it is amazing the variety of resources they are able to provide. I also feel that getting out of the Amherst campus bubble every week is important, as it serves as a reminder that there is a real world out there, and there are bigger problems facing our world that what Val is serving for dinner.

My favorite part of working at Amherst Community Connections is listening to the stories and advice of our clients. Each person that comes in is determined to make a change in their life, and has an empowering message to share about what they are willing to sacrifice to make this change. I love meeting new people, and building relationships with clients who I have gotten to work with multiple times. As a volunteer, I always try to bring open ears and a smile, and a genuine interest in the person I am working with, so that I can do my best to help find a solution to their obstacles. I love writing resumes, because it seems like there is a story that goes with every job a person has had and I love hearing stories! I also try to bring a sense of optimism to every conversation I have with a client. By walking in our door, they are showing initiative that they want to make a change in their life, and with that change comes so much hope.

In my free time, I love skiing!!!! I also enjoy baking cookies, reading Harry Potter (and other books!), exploring the mountains, driving and singing Taylor Swift, and spending time with my friends, family, and dogs.

Jenny Mazzella.jpg

Jenny Mazzella

Role at ACC: Intern

I am so happy to be interning at Amherst Community Connection and play a small part in the important work being done here. This past summer I interned at a prosecutor’s office where I saw first hand how people were disadvantaged due to uncontrollable, environmental factors. Many people were in unfortunate situations that may have been avoidable had they been provided with support. My experience over the summer highlighted the importance of proactively providing support and relief to vulnerable individuals and families, which is why I was drawn to be a part of Amherst Community Connection. As a one-stop resource center, Amherst Community Connections works to provide individualized assistance and longterm support in any way possible to members of the community in need of support. I am so happy to have the opportunity to help with the hands-on work done by this organization and work alongside so many wonderful people trying to make a difference for people in need in the Amherst community.

In addition to volunteering at ACC, I am a junior at Amherst College majoring in Economics.  In my free time, I enjoy running and I am on the Amherst College Track and Field team. I love being a part of a team, competing and cheering on my teammates. I also enjoy hiking and biking with my friends and my family whenever possible.

Kennedy Countess

Role at ACC: Intern

I first learned about Amherst Community Connections from two other Amherst Students who worked here last year.  After hearing them speak about their experiences, I was eager to have a chance to work diligently in an environment that requires independence from its interns and centers its participants’ needs. Working with ACC will help me learn how to be a better advocate for housing issues and how housing can affect healthcare needs. I first encountered the effects of housing on health while working for the ACLU after the summer of my freshman year of college. I helped a lawyer compile research  to build an argument that cited the health benefits, along with monetary savings, that result from living in areas with less concentrated poverty and violence and more green space. I found conducting research valuable as a basis for understanding housing issues, but I would like to spend time working more directly with those experiencing homelessness in order to become a better advocate for these issues.

To ACC, I bring a sincere interest in listening and learning from others, a positive attitude, a passion for problem-solving, and knowledge of the interrelation of social issues. I’ve already had many meaningful conversations with participants and look forward to having many more and supporting them in any way needed.

In my free time, you can most likely find me listening to podcasts such as Still Processing and Code Switch, searching for the perfect cheeseburger, or admiring Beyoncé’s latest Instagram post.

Mara Penatzer

Role at ACC: Intern

I learned about Amherst Community Connections as part of a research project on Amherst resources, and was drawn to ACC because they recognize that finding housing is a necessary first step for participants to meet their other basic needs and thrive. I learned about the housing first model this summer and was very excited to find that ACC has a Housing First program. I admire ACC's ability to work collaboratively with participants and connect community members with resources. ACC addresses so many issues connected to homelessness, including fighting the stigma that people experiencing homelessness face by collaborating with and advocating for our participants, and helping participants find transportation and other supports in their efforts to find housing.

As a clinical social work graduate student, I am working to develop skills in clinical interviewing, case management, and community practice to bring to ACC. I value hearing each individual's story and believe that every person has the right to a life of dignity and purpose. I have lived in Amherst for the past five years and am excited about this opportunity to work within my community. My first introduction to community service was serving as an AmeriCorps member for a year and a half at the Community Music School of Springfield, where I taught music in Springfield public schools, learned about asset-based community development, and completed team service projects in Springfield and Holyoke. I am excited to be bringing what I've learned in AmeriCorps and school to my own community, and to work with ACC to support those struggling with homelessness in Amherst. In my role at ACC, I am learning so much about local resources that address basic needs, the process of applying for emergency housing, supporting participants in recovery, and working collaboratively with participants to develop service plans that work for them. 

In my downtime, I am a pianist and have been performing regularly with the Greys, a jazz-inspired indie rock band, for the past year and a half. I also enjoy cooking, hiking, and Amherst coffee shops. 


Dave Barnett

Role at ACC: Community Volunteer

I first met Hwei-Ling Greeney when I brought my senior high school Sunday school class to volunteer at the Food Kitchen at First Church.  Fast forward about twenty years, and I was volunteering at the Craig's Door Shelter at the Baptist Church when Hwei-Ling came through doing casework. She recruited me to volunteer for Amherst Community Connections. I have now been helping out at ACC since Spring, 2018.

Having worked in mostly technical fields, electronics, medical and technical writing for my professional career and volunteered in EMS and emergency preparedness organizations for much of my life, while the technical skills were not directly transferable, the problem identifying, research and solving efforts are similar. Working in engineering and the medical field taught me the importance of answering questions appropriately and providing the information required.  As they say, the "devil [or hopefully, the angel] is in the details. I have also always had a natural optimism, even when it was not really warranted. Today, I still take life "One day at a time." The biggest benefit of that leap of faith is that I do not have to do everything, just my part. God is the center of the universe, not me. Finally, probably the greatest asset I have is that I genuinely like most people and am able to connect with anyone who comes into the office!

I'm a serious old guy and I don't do a lot of purely fun things anymore. No more skiing. I am a model railroader and enjoy working on various projects around our house. My best one ever is our outdoor shower like you find at a beach rental. It is fully enclosed and has two showers and hot water, so it's not roughing it. I use it six months of the year and on special occasions during the winter. It is refreshing to have an outdoor shower after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day. It is also very enjoyable to start out standing on six inches of snow and finish up with my feet on the pavers! I also enjoy spending time with my grandchildren!


Laura Barkowski

Role at ACC: Intern

I was introduced to Amherst Community Connections when ACC staff spoke to my service learning class about the various opportunities at ACC. I felt inspired by her presentation and compelled to give back to a community that has given so much to me. As a college student, I have rarely taken the time to reflect over the past four years on the Amherst community and on the role I play in making this town a better place for individuals to learn, work, and thrive. By the end of the presentation, I knew ACC was a place for mutually beneficial work, where I could develop as a citizen of this community and also assist more vulnerable individuals.

My anthropologic training at the University of Massachusetts allows me to approach every situation with compassion and understanding. It is vital to be able to adopt a new perspective, especially in the role I play at ACC, where each individual has their own story. I grew up with large exposure to social work and subsequently developed a passion for the ways in which I can make micro, and hopefully macro, level change. Furthermore, I have honed my interaction skills as a camp counselor, nanny, and Peer Advisor at the UMass International Programs Office and feel that personal communication is a strength of mine. From these positions, I have also developed an ability to multi-task and adjust in fast paced environments.

In my free time I enjoy running, exploring the Pioneer Valley, and hanging out with friends.  I am also co-captain of the UMass Equestrian Team and more often than not can be found at the Hadley Farm riding or grooming horses.


Elizabeth Brown

Role at ACC: Intern

When I came across Amherst Community Connections, I was instantly inspired by the mission to “empower, advocate for, and assist those in need”. As a public health science major at UMass Amherst, I have focused a great deal on health inequities and how situational factors can have negative impacts on a person’s health. At ACC, I am able to assist in helping participants find housing, employment, food, and much more to better their current situation.

One of my goals is to make every participant feel heard and provide awareness of all the different resources within and surrounding the Amherst community. After graduation in May of 2019, I will be entering a Direct Entry Nurse Practitioner program. As a future NP, I hope to focus on community intervention and advocate for those with limited access to care. My experience at ACC will continue to inspire this field of work and help me to gain a better understanding of how to best assist vulnerable populations.

In my free time, I love traveling and exploring new places. I have been ski racing since age 5, and I am currently the President of the UMass Alpine Ski Team. I also love spending time with animals, specifically my dog Sadie!


Claire Peterson

Role at ACC: Intern

I first learned about Amherst Community Connections through a previous internship at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Corrections where I worked to help people apply for housing, government assistance programs, and new careers. Through this internship, I was on the other side of advocacy. I was able to speak with individuals and refer them to specific services in the area, but I was never able to follow them through to see the positive results that came about. However, as an intern at ACC I am finally able to be hands on and work with people directly in order to make a positive change.

Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to become a social worker. I find it incredibly rewarding to be able to impact someone’s life, while at the same time positively influencing your own. I have always prided myself in being a problem solver, and I love using this skill to help others. Once I begin a task, I will work as much as possible to ensure that I see it through. 

In my free time, I love to hangout with family and friends and go explore new places. Over my past three years in Amherst, I have loved adventuring around town and immersing myself in what this area has to offer. I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with everyone here at ACC, and I cannot wait to see what challenges and rewards will come about. 

IMG_3057 (1).PNG

Leah Gampel

Role at ACC: Intern

I came across Amherst Community Connections while trying to find an impactful place to work as an intern. I wanted to feel as if I was making a difference every time I came in to do my job. I stumbled upon this place while browsing online and knew I had to apply when I read about their incredible mission: to provide housing, food, income, and healthcare to vulnerable individuals and families in the area. Everyday, we see vulnerable individuals who don’t have the basic necessities that so many of us take for granted: a warm place to sleep, a hot meal, a job to keep them afloat, and thick clothing to help brace the bone-chilling Northeast winters. We don’t realize how much we need these things to live a comfortable life, and so many people aren’t as fortunate. Amherst Community Connections strives to make these individuals’ lives better by providing them with all these things and more. I am proud and honored to be a part of this small but powerful community.

As a dedicated intern, I bring my passion to come into ACC everyday as the hardest worker I can be. I will try my absolute best and work tirelessly to improve the lives of every individual who walks through the front door looking for help. I love brightening other people’s day by simply talking and listening to them. It can really be the difference between someone having a good or a bad day. I am hoping to consistently make people smile by doing everything in my power to help them.

Besides being an intern at ACC, I am a sophomore Communications major at UMass Amherst. In my free time, I love reading, hiking, and swimming. Another organization that I am apart of is the Food Recovery Network, where we take unused leftover food from the dining halls and bring it to disadvantaged communities, such as Craig’s Doors and the North Village Apartments.

intern bio photo.jpg

Claudlyne Bernaus

Role at ACC: Intern

I am a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying public health science. I felt very compelled to work at Amherst Community Connections when Hwei-Ling came in one day to talk to my class about volunteer opportunities. As a woman of color and growing up on section 8, I understand what it is like to be vulnerable and the difficulties that come with that. I have personally witnessed and experienced the disparities that affect the impoverished, colored, disabled and forgotten populations, so I know how important it is to be receptive and respectful among these populations.

I never really saw myself working with the homeless population but being here has really opened my eyes to fight the misconceptions about homelessness and to educate individuals about the issues that come with it. I have a lot that I can bring the table. As a public health major, I am able to identify the disparities that some of the individuals that we are working with face and provide resources that may help them overcome them. I am a good listener and have a compassionate heart. This allows me to really connect with the individuals that we work with. There is not a one size fits all approach when it comes to addressing the homeless, so I strive to be able to understand each individual and help them the best way fit. I am skilled in outreach, communication, fundraising, and email sending thanks to my background working with Sisters on the Runway, a non-profit organization that raises awareness to domestic violence. I am always so busy between school, work/volunteering and Sisters on the Runway, but when I do have free time I like to sleep, hang out with friends and sketch.


Natalie Lima

Role at ACC: Intern

I learned about Amherst Community Connections when Hwei-Ling came and spoke to my team about the Restoring Dignity for Homeless Women. Period. campaign last year. This past semester I took a sociology class and we discussed families living below the poverty line and evictions and low-income housing. I became very interested in this topic and really wanted to find a way to help those in need find housing. I have always been interested in social work and really wanted to help the community in any way I could, so I though Amherst Community Connections was perfect!

I have thoroughly enjoyed working on the Restoring Dignity for Homeless Women. Period. Campaign for ACC. It has allowed me to make connections within my Amherst College community as well as outside of it. I have loved the opportunity to help in whatever way I can.

In my free time I enjoy playing with my dogs, reading, spending time with my family and friends, skiing, hiking, and playing hockey. I am on the Amherst Women’s Ice Hockey team, so I spend most of my time in the rink.

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 11.10.08 PM.png

Joseph Centeno

Role at ACC: Intern

I was first attracted to the work ACC does and the people it serves because I wanted to get involved in the Amherst community and make a difference during my time here. When I came to ACC, I immediately saw how important the issue of homelessness was to the workers here and to the Amherst community. Although I swept leaves outside during my first two times working at ACC, I knew that such a task was necessary to continue our operations, and I was happy to be able to help.

I believe I offer a friendly and hard working presence to the people we serve at ACC. I am great at communicating with and working with people, so I am able to make wonderful connections with our clients. Although I am inexperienced in much of the work we do here, I am very willing to learn and to help. Also, I can navigate websites easily so I have been able to conduct research into various topics for ACC. Even though this is not glamorous or hands-on work, I am able to help the case workers here do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.

In my down time, I take frequent walks and always try to go down a path or in a direction I have never taken before. I also play volleyball on the Amherst College men's club volleyball team, write and work for The Amherst Student newspaper, am involved in the Amherst College node of the Save our Schools network advocating for Indigenous Lumad (Filipino) peoples’ right to education. Other than that, I always am looking to try new and whacky experiences or read some strange and obscure book (right now I am on one called "The Tao of Pooh").


Danny Keane

Role at ACC: Intern

My desire to volunteer at ACC is informed partly by books I have read in my classes. Of particular relevance to ACC’s philosophy that “Housing is the Solution to Homelessness,” Matt Desmond’s Evicted shows how a scarcity of housing options for poor renters, the psychological distress of precarious living situations, and exploitative practices guided by the profit motive compound to systematically keep the poor in precarious housing situations, and by extension, trying life circumstances. However, by focusing on particular behaviors of the poor, societal discourse on poverty reinforces pervasive narratives that poverty is a result of personal failure rather than systematic issues in American society.

As a college town, it can be particularly difficult for those with a low income to secure housing in Amherst. As the 2015 Amherst Housing Market Study reports, Amherst’s rental market is driven by student demand that is “competitive with households earning up to $100,000 per year,” effectively “pricing out” low and mid-income renters. In making note of these societal and local issues, I hope to highlight why I think the efforts of ACC and similar organizations are so important.

At ACC, I assist participants in the housing search, make phone calls on their behalf, and write them advocacy letters. During conversations with participants, I strive to listen as attentively as I can. I admire their resilience and determination in overcoming obstacles that I cannot imagine, and I hope that I have been, and can be, of some small help.

In my spare time, I enjoy playing the piano, spending time outdoors, and reading books. I’m a junior at Amherst College and will probably major in math, physics, and anthropology.

At the Book & Plow Farm

At the Book & Plow Farm

Emily (Yuxing) Ma

Role at ACC: Intern

I grew up in a small town, and when I came to Amherst, I missed the close-knit community that I left behind. While searching for ways to get to know the Amherst community, I found Amherst Community Connections and discovered a side of Amherst that was far different from the campus environment. As I spoke more with the poets, magicians, and teachers who came to ACC, their shared experiences with housing and food insecurity made me realize how much I had yet to learn about the community I found myself in. Over the past year and a half at ACC, I’ve been struck by the deep bonds that ACC staff and volunteers make with local community members. I firmly believe that housing is a right and I want to continue to work at ACC to make housing and other resources accessible to everyone and strengthen my connections with the Amherst community.

One of the qualities I pride myself on is my ability to actively listen. Through hearing the experiences of the people who come to ACC, I am better able to learn from them and work with their strengths. My listening skills have also helped me interact with participants for the Humans of Amherst interview series, where community members share a glimpse into their lives. Everyone has a story, and listening to those stories while working at Amherst Community Connections has been the most rewarding.

When I’m not volunteering at ACC or fending off school work, you can find me under a pile of origami creations or absorbed in my latest graphic design project. On nicer days, I’m out and about, wandering on hiking trails and bike paths to explore the beautiful Pioneer Valley.

Molly Miles

Role at ACC: Intern

I am currently a sophomore at Umass Amherst. I was first introduced to Amherst Community Connections through a service learning class I am enrolled in. This organization caught my attention because I think that housing accessibility is an extremely important and underfunded issue. I was interested in getting to know members of our Amherst community outside of just the Umass or Five College community and to help folks in any way I can. While I don’t have any previous experience working for a non-profit or with housing accessibility, my friendly disposition and commitment to learning has helped me immensely at ACC. I have been learning the ins and outs of many public/government websites and application processes, and I am always here to provide aid, a computer, a phone, or an ear.

I am an anthropology major at Umass, and I spend much of my free time at home on Cape Cod. My father’s family is from Western Massachusetts, and I have always felt connected to the area. This community is very important to me, and I am excited by the opportunity to effectively give back through the work we do with housing at ACC.

JB Jewelry workshop.JPG

Josh Berins

Role at ACC: Community Volunteer

I moved to Amherst when I was eleven and grew up here. I moved away for several years at a time on different occasions, but I kept coming back to the area because my family lives here and it is a great place to live.

I have known Hwei-Ling for many years as we live in the same neighborhood. After Hwei-Ling got me a job cooking breakfast at Craig's Place, I was looking for other volunteer work, so I joined ACC. I wanted to work for ACC because I could have very easily have ended up in a situation where I could have been homeless if I did not have the support of loving parents who allowed me to live with them.

I have many skills that I put to work at ACC such as bookkeeping, computer and printer help since I am trained as a computer technician. I also help clients with case work, and I am on The Board of Directors at ACC.

In my free time I like to walk on the bike path or a hike up a mountain. I also make jewelry which I sell at Craft Fairs and Online. I work in three mediums: silver, dichroic glass, and wire wrapping Stones.  You can see my jewelry at www.jdbcreationsbyjoshua.com where I have my online store.