Welcome, Maribeth Saleem-Tanner!
Welcome, Maribeth Saleem-Tanner!
CFI Newsletter, June 2021  
Introducing Our New Executive Director

Happy summer!  This month we have especially exciting news: Starting July 5, Maribeth Saleem-Tanner will join the CFI team as our new Executive Director! 
Maribeth has been a resident of Appalachia for almost two decades, and will bring more than 15 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector.  We hope you have a chance to talk with Maribeth in person soon, but in the meantime (and for those of you who support our work from afar), we wanted to give you a chance to learn more about her.  Below we’re delighted to share a short “get to know you” interview, along with a brief summary of her background.  You can find the full press release on our website.  Please help us welcome Maribeth, and be sure to say “hello” when you see her out in the community! 
Summer means things are humming-growing-buzzing-blooming at CFI, so below we’ve also shared some of our favorite photos from a full past month. 
Green beans and gratitude,
The CFI team  

Meet Maribeth

Maribeth’s  professional experience includes most recently serving as Director of Civic Engagement at Marietta College, a position in which she fostered service-learning, volunteerism, and social justice at Marietta College through developing training for faculty, staff, and community.  Also highly relevant to her new role at CFI, as Director of Civic Engagement Maribeth grew a network of more than 30 community partner organizations to support college-community relationships and community development in the Marietta area, and helped establish an annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day of service and reflection program that regularly engaged over 500 volunteers. 

Prior to her work with Marietta College, Maribeth served as Co-Director for the High Rocks Educational Corporation in Hillsboro, West Virginia from 2005-2007, and since then has remained involved with their Board of Directors. In this role, Maribeth developed curriculum, worked collaboratively with the executive team to grow organizational funding, and created and implemented policies and strategic plans for the organization, which provides educational programs teaching empowerment, critical thinking, and leadership. She holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, and an undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature.

Maribeth lives just outside of Marietta with her husband, two kids, and a stubborn but very sweet 12 year old beagle mix named PeeWee.  Please read on to learn more about Maribeth in her own words!

Q&A with Maribeth
CFI: What attracted you to CFI and Athens?
MB: The people of CFI are just incredible. Everyone I’ve met has been warm, thoughtful, and deeply mission-driven. I was also impressed with the strong interconnected web of people, organizations, and programs that work together to support a culture of healthy local food access in the Athens area. I’m a collaborator by nature, so it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to be part of such a strong and diverse community network.
CFI: Could you share a little about your connections with the region?
MB: I’ve lived and worked in Appalachia since 2002, when I moved to West Virginia “for a year” to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer and immediately fell in love with the region. I spent the past eight years living and working in Wood County, WV and Washington County, OH. Working in higher education in Marietta, Ohio, I had the opportunity to partner with a variety of food-oriented community organizations on service learning projects, and also worked closely with a broad network of partners throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley and beyond to support regional nonprofit capacity-building efforts.
CFI: How do you see your previous work preparing you to serve as CFI’s ED?
MB: In my previous position I had the chance to serve as a site supervisor for COMCorps, so I’m familiar with many members of the CFI network through that experience. More broadly, working in a youth empowerment program in West Virginia in the early 2000s, I saw how access to healthy food was a key component of physical and emotional well-being and academic success for the kids and teens with whom we worked; food and gardening eventually became a key element of the organization’s community outreach. Through that experience, I saw how a strong local food system could be a catalyst for strengthening families, education, and economic development, along with improving health and food security. On a more personal level, I’m excited to bring experience in organizational development, facilitation, fundraising, partnership development, and strategic planning to the table to support the amazing programs of CFI.
CFI: Could you tell us about a meaningful food or garden-related experience from any time in your life?
MB: Food runs in my family -- my grandparents on both sides ran restaurants, and my dad owned a diner when I was growing up. Every summer, my sister and I would help go strawberry picking and then my mom would spend days making gallons and gallons of jam for the restaurant. We made it in our kitchen, one batch at a time, because it didn’t turn out right if you tried to double the recipe. People would come into the restaurant all year long and ask specifically for that strawberry jam. I learned early that fresh, local, homemade food was special and important.
CFI: What are some things that excite you about CFI and our network?
MB: I am deeply inspired by CFI’s commitment to wellness as a human right, and the expansiveness of that vision. CFI also has a history and a culture of being collaborative and responsive, and demonstrating that it is willing and able to evolve based on the assets, needs, and opportunities of the community while always staying focused on relationship building and fiercely true to its mission and values. It’s because of this combination of flexibility and integrity, I think, that there’s such a passionate, dedicated community of local supporters.
CFI: What is one of the things you look forward to doing in your first couple months as CFI’s ED?
MB: I am really looking forward to immersing myself in the community, and learning first hand from the staff, volunteers, partners, and community members who are already deeply engaged in CFI’s work and can share their perspective and expertise with a new ED. I’m also looking forward to some wonderful potlucks.
CFI: If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
MB: I’d like to think I’d be a beet; somewhat sweet, somewhat tough, at home in the dirt, and well grounded.
CFI: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the CFI community/family?
MB: Just how grateful I am for the opportunity to be part of this organization, and that I welcome folks to reach out with questions, ideas, and suggestions any time.
Thank You to ServeOhio and Volunteers!
We were recently awarded a grant from ServeOhio, the organization overseeing all Ohio AmeriCorps programs, to build a new shed in honor of ServeOhio Day. ServeOhio Day, an annual day of service corresponding with the summer solstice, empowers communities to engage in service together. Calling upon our network of volunteers and community partnerships, we came together with 13 volunteers to build a new shed at the Eastside Community Garden on June 25th. With the upswing in interest in gardening during the COVID-19 pandemic, CFI looked towards investing in new infrastructure that would support more community gardeners for years to come. This Saturday, on July 3rd, the CFI gardens team will also host a group of volunteers at the Eastside Community Garden with a focus on garden maintenance and beautification. 
What Else?
There's always something coming up at CFI.  Be sure to follow us on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
Want to help the CFI garden grow? Visit our website for information about our programming and to see how you can help. Thank you! 
Ready, Set, Grow!
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