Meet the VINES Staff!
Amelia LoDolce, Executive Director
Amelia joined VINES as the organization’s first Executive Director in February 2016. As a volunteer, Amelia began working with VINES in 2007 as a founding board member and the coordinator of the Liberty Street Community Garden. Prior to joining VINES, Amelia worked for United Way of Broome County spearheading the Healthy Lifestyles Coalition’s Eat Well. Play Hard. Binghamton! project (a pilot initiative working to improve the health of families on the North Side of Binghamton) and the City of Binghamton as the City’s Sustainable Development Planner. Amelia holds a Master’s degree in Agriculture, Food, and the Environment from Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Having grown up on a farm in Otisco, NY, she enjoys working with other community members to make space in the urban neighborhoods for people to grow their own food and connect with the local environment.
Cynthia Averett, Urban Farm Manager
Cynthia started her position as Urban Farm Manager for VINES in October of 2020. She is a lifelong resident of Broome County, born and raised in Windsor, NY. She started her career in agriculture right out of high school, at Catskill Cattle Company in Deposit, NY. Starting off as an amateur, she quickly developed a strong passion for growing, and serving the community. Cynthia has traveled and participated in the WWOOF organization, learning different methods of organic production. Cynthia feels privileged to work with VINES, and to help bring fresh, healthy food to Binghamton and the surrounding area. Cynthia believes strongly in preserving and enhancing food security and food justice in our community. In her free time, Cynthia enjoys nature and outdoor activities, like hiking and exploring, and also loves to read. She especially enjoys experiencing all of the wonderful food and restaurants Binghamton has to offer.
Johan Jelsma, Community Garden Manager
Johan joined the VINES staff as our Community Garden Manager in February 2022. A founding board member starting with VINES back in 2007, Johan also helped with much of the physical development of the first several garden sites and the Urban Farm. He was the co-coordinator for the Laurel Ave Community Garden for close to a decade. As a staff member, he’s looking forward to helping the organization with continuing its fundamental mission and continued expansion. A long time resident of Binghamton, Johan moved here in 2001 to study PsyBio and Environmental studies at SUNY Binghamton. In 2006 he attended massage therapy school and became a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) in 2007. He has had his own therapy practice since 2015. When he’s not tending his home garden, he enjoys playing music or might be found running through the woods on all the nature trails in the region.
Nikki Nesbit, Farm Share Manager
Nikki joined the team in January of 2021 and is ecstatic to be working for the VINES. She first learned of the organization in 2018 and immediately felt a connection with their mission and outreach. Nikki has a passion for helping to grow and support the Binghamton community so when an opportunity arose to work at VINES she jumped at the chance. Nikki grew up in Bainbridge, NY and spent many a summer in the Adirondacks where her entertainment was climbing trees, exploring streams, and avoiding the occasional bear. This time spent up north fostered a love for all things nature that has carried into her adult years. Nikki brings with her a wealth of experience in customer service, management, and hospitality. In her free time she enjoys hiking local trails, traveling, bird watching, and eating good food!
Tshijuka Nelson, Youth Program Manager
Tshijuka started her position as Youth Program Manager with VINES in March 2022. She was born and raised in New York City. Her introduction to community work was through her parents. Her mother was a member of the Grail, which serves women and girls across the globe, and her father was a founding member of Leja Bulela, which does humanitarian work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She also spent her summers as a teen at both TrailBlazer Camp, where she spent time hiking through the Appalachian Trail, and The Grail in Loveland, where she learned about global policies affecting women, organic community healing spaces, and composting. As she got older and participated in events with her parents, she developed a passion for creating change with the youth in her community. She began working with youth at the Children’s Aid Society at Frederick Douglas in NYC, but has spent most of her career at The Children’s Home in Binghamton NY. Tshijuka’s favorite things to do in Binghamton are ride the carousels, talk to her neighbors, and pick weeds in her garden. Her passion is supporting the youth in our community as they grow and creating positive unforgettable moments for youth in their own neighborhoods. Her current goals are to watch her son do sports, bake everything her family can think of, do another jiu jitsu tournament, and grow the sweetest watermelon.
Jamie Kirby, Community Engagement Coordinator
Jamie joined VINES in January 2023 as the organization’s Community Engagement Coordinator following an Americorps position serving VINES from June-October 2022. He was born in New Orleans, LA and raised in rural south Mississippi, where some of his fondest, and sweatiest, childhood memories were of working with his parents, grandparents and other family, in the garden and kitchen. Since completing his Bachelors in Culinary Arts Management at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, he has been passionate about supporting local, sustainable agriculture and using traditional and culturally diverse cooking methods. Jamie fully realized the power and beauty of community building and mutual aid while working as a manager, subsequent board member, and perennial volunteer of the Food Co-op Shop & Cafe in Canberra, Australia. After three decades in the hospitality industry and living, working, and traveling throughout the U.S. and across four continents, Jamie is excited to bring his unique perspective and experience to his new home of Binghamton, where he lives on the South Side with his incredible partner of more than 25 years and their curious and creative son who accompanies him to work daily, because they enjoy learning and growing together. When he isn’t working to improve our neighborhood environments, you’ll find him attempting to improve his family’s by slowly working through a neverending list of projects in the house and garden or, possibly, banging on his djembe to the neighbors’ chagrin.
Cora Holiman, Administrative Coordinator
Cora joined VINES as an Administrative Coordinator in January 2023, excited for an opportunity to serve the local community. Born in Shreveport, LA and raised in a rural community outside of Carthage, TX, Cora spent some time living in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex before moving to Binghamton in October of 2022. She brings with her several years of customer service and administrative experience, including time spent in financial roles in multiple startup environments. Growing up outside of town, Cora spent plenty of time “trail-blazing” through the woods near her home and climbing trees, and continues to enjoy hiking with her partner as well as running a collaborative storytelling community online.
Sam Lamuraglia, Urban Farm Assistant
Sam recently joined VINES in March 2023 as Urban Farm Assistant. He was born and raised in Binghamton, attending Binghamton High School where he graduated in 2022 with a Advanced Regents diploma as well as an Engineering diploma. Sam is now a freshman at Binghamton University studying Environmental Studies. He feels privileged to work at VINES and is looking forward to helping grow organic, healthy food for the community. Sam likes to spend his free time outdoors whether that be hiking, swimming, or playing sports!
Taton Smith, Farm Share Assistant
Taton joined VINES in February 2023 as the Farm Share Assistant serving through the AmeriCorp Rural Health Network. Growing up on a farm in rural Kansas, she has always enjoyed learning more about her environment as well as working to support local rural communities. After graduating from Washburn University with her Bachelor’s in Anthropology, she moved to Binghamton to attend SUNY Binghamton and complete her Master’s in Biomedical Anthropology. Taton hopes to use her education to give back to the community through research in chronic illness and infectious disease. When she is not studying or at VINES, Taton spends her time reading, crocheting, or playing with her cat.
Nikki Kesses, Community Gardens Assistant
Nikki joined the VINES team in February 2023 as the Community Gardens Assistant through the Americorp Rural Health Network. She is from Long Island, New York where she grew up swimming at the beach or playing in the woods. She loves spending time outdoors and is excited to do so through her service at VINES. She is also looking forward to learning about sustainable agriculture, making connections in the community, and helping to improve the Binghamton environment. Nikki is currently attending Binghamton University where she will receive her degree in environmental science in May 2023. In her free time, she can be found going on walks, trying out new recipes, and working on crafts with friends.