Breck Knauft, Executive Director
Breck Knauft holds a bachelor’s degree in history and English from Lawrence University, and a Master of Education from Saint Michael’s College. He joined VYCC in 2008 to lead the Development Department. He has also played a strong role in supporting the Farm and High School Leadership Programs.
More recently, in his role of Interim President he has guided the completion of VYCC's strategic plan, made key hires in the Finance and Operations departments, overseen the improvement of internal operating systems, and worked closely with philanthropists and project sponsors supportive of VYCC programs.
Breck is also a Director of the Mount Mansfield Modified Union School District. A resident of Huntington, VT, he and his wife Margaret Fowle have two daughters.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 110
Bob Coates, Chief Operating Officer
Bob Coates comes to VYCC from a career of over 20 years with the Student Conservation Association SCA, a national youth conservation service organization. He brings extensive partnership development and national program operations experience, having built five residential AmeriCorps programs.
After graduating from the University of New Hampshire, Bob worked for a United States Senator from New Hampshire in Washington, DC, then left for the Peace Corps, serving in Cameroon, West Africa. Upon returning home, Bob pursued a Master’s in Public Administration degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. While at the Kennedy School, he helped sponsor a conference on national service with AmeriCorps national director Eli Segal and youth corps from around the country. After graduate school, Bob found his way to SCA.
Bob lives with his wife Philippa, a veterinarian, and three kids, Claire, Will and Ian, in Pomfret, Vermont where he serves on the local Pomfret School board and the Pomfret-Teago Volunteer Fire Department. He enjoys a good hike or walk in the woods along with the accomplishment of mowing his own lawn.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 121
Hapy Mayer, Finance Director
Hapy Mayer joined VYCC in 2015 to head up the finance department.
Hapy has over 20 years of finance and operations experience managing Small Dog Electronics, an Apple Computer sales and service company modeled on socially responsible business practices, he founded with his father, Don Mayer, in 1995. Hapy has degrees from Northwestern University in Philosophy and Economics. He lives with his wife Jessica and many rescued dogs in their house in Fayston.
Hapy likes to keep busy outside of the workplace, and is a USA Hockey Ice Hockey referee during the winter season. In the summer, he competes as a professional "heavy” athlete in the Scottish Games, competing at games all over North America, and occasionally in Scotland and Europe. Any spare time outside of that, he is honing his craft as an artisan blacksmith at his shop in Fayston.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 134
Paul Feenan, Food and Farm Director
Paul was born and grew up in Bennington, Vermont. After studying sustainable agriculture, community development, and education at UVM and Evergreen State College, his real education took place in his own classroom when he was given the opportunity to teach alternative high school right out of college.
Teaching is extremely important to Paul. He believes that his work in agriculture, education, and coaching has taught him exponentially more than he has taught his students. In particular, working with disadvantaged students and coaching high school basketball galvanized Paul’s core values for working with people.
Paul also credits his family. His parents instilled a strong work ethic and the importance of “working hard and smart.” His brothers and sisters helped raise him and continue to help with his own children. Most importantly, his wife Kirsten and their children John and Ruby are the foundation and driving force for all of Paul’s work.
Paul recently moved his family back to Vermont after having lived, worked, and farmed in Western Washington State for the past twenty years. He finds himself lost on roads that he once could navigate without thought, but is happy to be back living and working in his home state.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 133
Christa Finnern, Conservation Program Director
Christa Finnern graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art and Art History from St. Olaf College in her native state of Minnesota. After several years of experience as a guide leading backcountry canoe, kayak, and backpacking trips in Northern Minnesota she moved to the “East Coast” where she served as an AmeriCorps member with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) program in New York's Adirondack Mountains.
Christa started working with VYCC as a Crew Leader in the summer of 2003 and over the years she has held various positions at VYCC. Her passion is working with emerging leaders to hone their leadership skills. She is currently the Conservation Program Director and oversees the training and field support of the Conservation Program.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 123
Naomi Galimidi, Development Director
Naomi planted roots in Vermont after living and travelling in many states and countries. Now a resident of Jericho, she has been on the development team at VYCC since 2012. She earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University at Albany in 2006, and brings professional experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, program development, marketing, and communications.
Naomi loves the outdoors in all seasons and has a particular affection for snowboarding.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 112
John Woodward, Communiy Programs Manager
John, a native New Englander, is thrilled to be back in VYCC’s West Monitor Barn. John’s 25 year professional career in education spans teaching internationally in Brazil, Qatar, and most recently Thailand, as well as with organizations such as Montshire Museum of Science and Hurricane Island Outward Bound School.
He brings experiential, environmental, and traditional education philosophies to his new position as the Community Programs Manager. “I couldn’t be happier to be tasked with building VYCC’s community presence across Vermont. I believe passionately in the idea of communities investing in their young people and, through hard work and sincere connection to the land and its people, those young people reinvesting in the health and vibrancy of their own communities. It is the way we will keep Vermont strong and poised for the future.”
When not at VYCC or traveling around the state, John loves to spend time romping outdoors with his two daughters Lucy and Hannah Julia, reigniting his desire to learn the bluegrass mandolin, making the perfect BLT, and finding the next great bike ride on the back roads of Vermont.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 131
Hannah Clark, Hiring and Recruitment Manager
Hannah grew up in North Carolina and completed her undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Women’s Studies at the University of Georgia. Hannah has previously worked with VYCC as a Park Educator, Conservation Crew Leader, and Field Assistant. Through her experience with VYCC, Hannah has become chain saw and crosscut certified, ATV certified, and certified as an instructor in the Project Learning Tree educational curriculum.
When not at work, Hannah enjoys pressing cider, bowling, and riding her bike. Hannah believes that the biggest difference one can make happens in the small space around them. In the future, Hannah hopes to continue working with youth, especially with a focus on gender, technology, and the importance of body awareness.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 130
Patrick Pfeifer, Operations Manager
Patrick joined VYCC in 2016 after making the move from Arizona where he has lived, studied, and worked for over 9 years.
Patrick’s Conservation Corps experience began through leading trail crews in the deserts and mountains along the Continental Divide with the Southwest Conservation Corps during his summers off while earning a BA in Anthropology from the University of Arizona. He then moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, for a return to four seasons and snow, and to pursue a MA in Sustainable Communities at Northern Arizona University (NAU). After launching a composting operation at NAU, starting his own compost business, and founding a non-profit multi-cultural micro-entrepreneurship center, he transitioned into forestry operations management with a major restoration project on National Forest lands across Northern Arizona. Through this trajectory, Patrick returns to the Corps world, bringing with him project management and program development skills along with logistics and operations experience.
Patrick is excited to continue VYCC’s great work of connecting with a diverse network of project partners, while working to increase the project capacity of VYCC to expand the organization’s positive environmental and educational impact across the state of Vermont and beyond.
He is also excited to explore Vermont’s rolling hills, hardwood forests, mountain bike trails, and many varieties of cheese.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 141
Ryan Riddle, Finance Coordinator
Ryan grew up in Shrewsbury, NJ and later attended Lafayette College where he received degrees in both Spanish and International Economics. His passion for language and travel led him to volunteer with WorldTeach as a volunteer EFL teacher in Ecuador for a year after graduation. Upon returning to the United States, Ryan worked with NBCUniversal’s Travel & Expense Department for just under two years. He has always had a love for the outdoors and is thrilled to be in Vermont for the next step of his career.
Ryan particularly enjoys hiking, snowboarding, and reading Calvin & Hobbes collections.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 137
Caelan Keenan, Farm and Food Manager
A Mitten girl from the very start, Cae grew up jumping into one Great Lake after another. She still believes no water is too cold for a swim, and credits her dad for never letting her wimp out. Further inland, Cae was raised in the city of Detroit and its suburbs. She and her younger sisters were taught to love Motown, Red Wings hockey, and Vernors from an early age. The city – its music, people, blight and heart – remain a driving force for Cae even in faraway New England.
Cae received a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Michigan in 2012. Her studies sent her gardening with Earthworks Urban Farm in Detroit, tutoring with the Boys and Girls Club in Brooklyn, and learning from Dutch dairy farmers in The Netherlands. Out of these experiences came a desire to work in the space where children and hunger intersect.
As the Food and Farm Coordinator, Cae is particularly excited about adding cooking and farming to that intersection, and helping kids feel confident and literate both in the kitchen and in the fields. Cae is a runner, very close to her family and friends, and also very serious about ice cream. She is honored to be part of the Farm Team.
Eric Recchia, Development Coordinator
Eric Recchia moved to Vermont over the summer of 2015 from the small town of Arcata, in coastal Northern California, where he lived for five years pursuing a degree in Sustainable Development and Economics at Humboldt State University.
While at HSU, he was exposed to the concepts of experiential learning and leadership development through conservation projects when he became a member, and eventual Co-Director, of the student non-profit Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT). He spent 3 years as a student working to start a student-run food cooperative at HSU with the non-profit organization CoFED, whom he later completed a yearlong fellowship with as California Regional Organizer. Eric has spent the last four years working with the California Student Sustainability Coalition, serving as a board member for three of those years.
He is excited to be living in New England and experiencing the fun and beauty of all four seasons for the first time, and is looking forward to building relationships with members of the VYCC community and documenting and sharing the stories of our Corps members and other leaders. Eric currently lives in Shelburne and enjoys spending his time sailing, hiking, swing dancing, playing samba, cooking, and generally spending time outdoors with his friends and his roommate’s dog.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 113
Daniel Schmidt, Watershed Partnership Manager
Daniel Schmidt has been with VYCC since May of 2015, first as a Farm Team member, then as the Land and Facilities Coordinator and now as the Watershed Partnership Manager. Prior to VYCC, Daniel worked for the Green Mountain Audubon Center as an educator and sugar maker, and at the Community College of Vermont as an environmental science instructor. Back in the 00’s Daniel spent 2 years as an Americorps volunteer, first at the Catskill Outdoor Education Corps and then at UC Berkeley’s Public Service Center. He also lived on a sailboat, finished grad school, went on a 6 month bike ride, found out his Burmese Zodiac animal is the Garuda and, recently, fell in love with kombucha.
Daniel is also involved in Vermont’s mountain biking and backcountry skiing scene and does his best to make sure that VYCC’s trails are well used. Daniel lives in Winooski with his wonderful wife, Jen, and a growing number of fruit trees.
- 802.434.3969 ext. 133
Laura DeMaria, Office and Events Coordinator
Laura has a long history with VYCC starting back in 1995 as an impressionable sixteen year old. She was immediately drawn to the rich community and confidence that came from life on a trail crew. After two solid summers as a Corps Member, and in 2001 as Assistant Crew Leader, she got her BFA in Printmaking from Maine College of Art. She moved to Chicago to pursue her creative interests, and ended up in floral and event design and also became a certified Yoga Instructor and Trainer.
Laura returned to Vermont in 2012, and found her way back to the Corps as a Crew Leader, than in 2014 as Administration and Finance Coordinator. She now brings her talent for creative multi- tasking, customer service, and administrative support to her role as Office and Events Coordinator. In her free time she owns her own floral design business, practices bikram yoga, cooks from scratch meals, and spends as much time outside as possible.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 200
Don Bicknell, Volunteer Extraordinaire
Don is a retired Waterbury senior with over 15 years of volunteer work for VYCC. Don grew up in Bellows Falls, VT and worked for IBM, the VT Sheltered Workshop from 1957-1971, and the State of Vermont's Waterbury offices from 1972-1995. Don is truly invaluable to the organization. He takes on projects that enable numerous outreach and communications efforts. Don is also essential to office conservation allowing the reuse of numerous supplies. He volunteers whenever asked and is known for staying until the job is done! Don has one of the best attitudes in the world; he keeps us all smiling.
Outside of VYCC Don is very involved in the community. He volunteers at the State Hospital library three days a week, is active in the Waterbury Grange, the Waterbury Historical Society, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and the Council on Aging in the town of Waterbury. When you come to our headquarters office make sure to meet the man who deserves the title Volunteer Extraordinaire.
Clarice Cutler, Development Specialist
Clarice grew up in Vermont and has just returned from a 6 year hiatus in the PNW where she attended Reed College and directed two non-profit programs dedicated to research-based adaptive management of non-native invasive plants. She’s passionate about land conservation and sustainable land management. When out of the office she is hiking, running, swimming, dancing, or reading with her husband Jonnie and pup Khoda.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 114
Natasha Steinmann, Conservation Program Coordinator
Hailing originally from Boulder, Colorado, Natasha grew up nestled against the striking Flatirons of the Rocky Mountains. From the power of exploring those mountains, she cultivated a strong connection with the natural world and an intense enthusiasm to share that magic with others.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon in 2012. Natasha then led trail crews in Idaho with the Northwest Youth Corps, and crewed on two small sailboats from Boston, Massachusetts to Boquerón, Puerto Rico. Most recently she led a 6-month AmeriCorps carpentry crew with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, before stepping into the role of Conservation Program Coordinator at Headquarters.
When she’s not at work researching leadership lesson plans, Natasha enjoys downhill skiing, falling on her new snowboard, hiking through the hardwood forests of Vermont, and singing Lone Bellow harmonies with her two roommates.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 140
Stephen Cohen, Conservation Program Coordinator
Stephen Cohen hails from the southeast corner of the country where he, from an early age, came to have a love of being outdoors exploring and recreating. He attended Georgia State University where he procured a degree in Sociology and a love and interest for working with people. After testing his hand at many trades from printmaking to goat herding Stephen moved to Vermont where many of his skills and passions culminated in the form of conservation work. He led crews with VYCC in 2014 including the Rutland Community Crew and an OYSI AmeriCorps Crew.
When he’s not working he loves to backpack, cycle, rock climb, ski, carve wood and do anything that his dog is on board for.
- 802.434.3969, ext. 135
Wyatt Vargas, Operations CoordinatorWyatt grew up in the heart of the Green Mountains of Vermont in a small town called Waitsfield, situated in the Mad River Valley. He studied wildlife biology and forestry at the University of Vermont and in 2015 obtained a Master’s of Science from the University of Idaho’s partner institution called the McCall Outdoor Science School with a degree in natural resources and environmental education. Wyatt has been a crew leader with VYCC for two field seasons and during this time he discovered contra dancing, numerous small town farmers markets, as well as the joys of conservation service.
He has a passion for experiential education and in particular the fields of ecology, entomology, forestry, and sustainability. His hobbies include mountain biking, alpine skiing, logger sports, and bird watching. You can find Wyatt at the Vermont Mountain Bike Festival or sitting next to one of the thousands of small rivers and creeks in the mountains of Vermont.
- 802-434-3969, ext. 148
Caroline Martin, NCYCC Field AssistantCaroline is originally from North Carolina and grew up playing in the forests and sand dunes of the Western and Eastern sides of the state. During the summers she would take trips to explore the mountainous trails of Asheville and Blowing Rock and to swim in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. These experiences allowed her to appreciate time spent in the outdoors from a very young age and to pursue a degree in environmental science. Now her top priorities are to protect and conserve public lands so that everyone may enjoy them and to ensure that other young people have the same access to outdoor experiences no matter their background.
She graduated from Colorado College in 2015 and spent another year in Colorado working for an educational non-profit while also escaping to the mountains to ski, climb, and hike whenever possible. She is super excited to be back in her home state for the season and to be an active part of conservation work in North Carolina.
Evan Willeford, NCYCC Senior Crew LeaderEvan has been spending time in the outdoors since he was a kid growing up in the outskirts of Durham, NC. His family moved into the city when he was still very young. However, the time he spent exploring and roaming the woods with his two brothers became cemented as some of his most important early memories. After high school he spent time in Central and South America soaking up new languages, cultures, agricultural knowledge, and creating cherished memories with people from all walks of life. He was introduced to the Corps world in Montana in 2013. After working the MCC, he headed to Peru where he volunteered with the Villa La Paz Foundation. The Foundation provided housing, care, and medical treatment for a kids and young adults who couldn’t afford it otherwise. While still in Peru, he applied for a position as a crew leader for NCYCC. The way that the NCYCC and VYCC combined goals of personal development goals, deliberate community building, and creating connection to the natural world drew him back for a second season and he is thrilled and energized to see the impact that we have on the natural world and the participants of our programs. He is looking to get his yoga teaching licensure later this year and hopes to integrate those skills into all aspects of his professional and personal life. When he is not involved in work or studies, he is usually roaming the mountains of NC or spending time with friends and family.
Thomas Hark, President Emeritus
Thomas founded VYCC in 1986 and led the organization through immense growth over three decades. A former Crew Leader for the Youth Conservation Corps in Young Harris, Georgia, and Camp Director for the Minnesota Conservation Corps, Thomas is recognized nationally for his vision in making VYCC one of the nation's leading youth leadership, education, and training organizations.
Thomas received the prestigious Sterling College Environmental Leadership Award in 2009. He currently serves on the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) Board and chairs the Williston Boy Scout Troop Committee.
Thomas holds a Master’s of Science Degree in Experiential Education from the University of Mankato. He is the former Vice President of the Board of the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (Corps Network) as well as a past Chair of the Catamount Trail Association, Recycle North Board, Mallets Bay Homeowners Board, and the Western Slopes Business Association. He has also served on the Vermont Environmental Consortium Board as well as many others, and was a founding member of the Vermont Alliance of Non-Profit Organizations (VANPO).
In the summer of 2015, Thomas moved into the role of President Emeritus where he continues to be a tremendous asset to VYCC. He serves as a resource and as a mentor, and is the organization’s greatest champion. He lives in Williston, Vermont with his wife, Dana Hearn-Hark, and their three children, Eli, Zachary, and Rosie.