VISTA Member Stories

Allie McGahee | Manitou Springs, CO | Economic Developer Coordinator II VISTA

Allie has had the privilege to be on the web development team for, a multi-vendor digital marketplace platform that will be launched in partnership with the Manitou Springs Creative District and the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce, Visitors Center, and Office of Economic Development. The Manitou Made brand was a pre-established program for locally-made products crafted, designed, prepared, sourced or brewed in the Manitou Springs area. The Manitou Made digital marketplace will showcase the people, places, and products unique to Manitou Springs, in addition to offering digital marketing and e-commerce classes open to the wider business community. To date, the experience has allowed her to develop useful skills in employee on-boarding, web development, and community capacity building, with a major emphasis on growing and supporting the local economy. All stakeholders, project partners, and the web development team call the Pikes Peak region home, which truly highlights the dedicated support of Manitou Springs’ community, growth, and sustainability. The program is funded through the El Paso County CARES Act funding. Allie is thrilled to be a part of the launch of because it will provide long-lasting, positive, direct impacts to the Manitou Springs community.

Matt Kojm | Montrose, CO | Neighborhood, Homelessness and Housing Coordinator VISTA

Matt Kojm is originally from Washington DC and moved to Montrose Colorado for an Americorps VISTA position through DCI and The City of Montrose. The position involves focusing on community engagement, housing and homelessness. Since moving to Montrose in January Matt has researched housing opportunity and homelessness in the western slope region and created reports for city officials.

Since the start of the pandemic Matt has worked on creating a school lunch delivery program during school shutdowns and helped administer a gift card program to promote local restaurants. Matt has also helped write grants for downtown redevelopment projects and park improvements. After his VISTA year Matt wants to continue to work on urban economic development and resilience.

Hunter Hovenga | Buena Vista, CO | Local Revitalization & Economic Development VISTA

Hunter joined the DCI-VISTA program in the late Summer of 2016 and stayed with his host-site community, the Town of Buena Vista, for two years. He worked on issues related to economic and local small business development, creating a database needed for important historic preservation work, grant writing, and helping develop the Main Street Program in Buena Vista. 

Hunter is now pursuing a law degree, Class of 2021, at the University of Chicago. 

Carl Young | Huerfano County, CO | Economic Development VISTA

Carl joined the DCI-VISTA team in February of 2018 with a Master's of Public Policy in Regional Economic Development from George Mason University.  Carl worked on a number of economic development projects in Huerfano County including heritage tourism, an industrial park, events, helped form the local Business Alliance, and wrote a number of grants ranging from a recovery grant for the wildfires of 2018, the Colorado Tourism OfficeHistory Colorado, and the Department of Local Affairs for a business marketing grant.

After Carl's year of service, he then officially worked for the County as the Director of Economic Development and Tourism.

Mersadi McClure | Longmont, CO | Longmont Creative District Coordinator VISTA

Mersadi graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Urban Studies and Sociology, while also entertaining her creative side with a variety of art classes and a job at a local art studio. Paired with a lifelong love of community engagement, the transition to Americorps VISTA post-graduation was an easy decision, and the role of Creative District Coordinator for the Longmont Downtown Development Authority a natural fit. Prior to COVID, Mersadi focused on growing connections within the local creative community, building the brand recognition of the Longmont Creative District and Downtown Longmont, and creating more public art and programming for the community to enjoy within the district. In response to COVID and in recognition that many creatives were experiencing a loss of paid opportunities, Mersadi launched the “#Strongmont Creates Grant”, a micro-grant program that has been able to support 40 local Longmont creatives with funds towards facilitating public art projects and programming within the Longmont Creative District. Through collaborating with local artists, Mersadi has been able to help support their creative ideas and bring them to life, such as through public art installations, 2nd Friday art programming, virtual art markets, live music, and more. Mersadi has found the Longmont community and her family of coworkers at the LDDA to be incredibly welcoming and supportive during her tenure as a VISTA, and Colorado nature a constant comfort, especially during the COVID stay-at-home order.

Rob Warner | Longmont, CO | Creative District Coordinator

Rob is an established and professional graphic designer and has done work for such clients as Kroger and the City of Cincinnati but decided to take a year from his career to give back by doing a year of VISTA. He joined the Longmont Downtown Development Authority under which the local Creative District operates and was able to make important connections and partnerships with local creatives, artists, small businesses, the library, and more to put Longmont artists and the Creative District on the map. During his time in Longmont, Rob designed the widely successful "Shop Loco" campaign logo and brand as well as leveraging a total of $39,000 in both cash and in-kind donations and grants. 

Andrew Wallace| Trinidad, CO | Downtown Development Coordinator

Andrew began his AmeriCorps VISTA service at the City of Trinidad in August of 2017 under the Development Services Department. There he worked on a number of wide ranging issues including revising the downtown rental assistance program, the affordable artists' live-work housing project in Trindad, updated the Main Street Facade Program and the revolving loan fund for small local businesses, among other projects. 

After Andrew's term of service, he became a volunteer coordinator for the Phil Weiser campaign for Attorney General of the State of Colorado.

Destinee Lukianoff | Leadville, CO | Main Street Revitalization VISTA

Destinee had been with the AmeriCorps VISTA program since 2014 but joined the DCI team in the Spring of 2016, doing her two years of service in the City of Leadville, CO. Specifically, Destinee worked on the Leadville Main Street program which operates as a program under the City to provide a vision for the future of downtown Leadville, and provide a plan that gives direction for decisions about beautification, historic preservation, and revitalization of public spaces as strategies for economic growth. In one year alone, Destinee and the Main Street Program in Leadville raised $26,000 towards beautification and activating public space projects. Destinee also lead the charge on Historic Structural Assessments for a number of historically significant buildings on Main Street. 

More successes can be read in this January 2019 article from the Herald Democrat or learn more about the 2018 National Trust for Historic Preservation's "Vote Your Main Street" competition in which Leadville was one of eleven communities nation wide to win 1.6 million dollars worth of grant funding towards preserving the historic Tabor Opera House.