The VCRHYP Coalition staff provide key supports that free member agencies to focus on the work of delivering essential programs serving Vermont youth and families. VCRHYP secures adequate funding that ensures services are available in communities across Vermont, advocates with State and Federal government, and local and national partners for funding and resources to meet the needs of Vermont youth and families, supports best practices among youth care professionals, and monitors benchmarks and outcomes to assess progress and measure successes. Working together with member agencies, the coalition creates a distinctly unique and effective model that works for youth.
Kasha Smith Ellis, HUD Housing Projects Administrator
Kasha (she/her) brings over 20 years of management with a B.S. in Project Management from Colorado Technical University. She takes pride in building strong relationships that aids in the success of her teams. She has a passion for teamwork. Kasha has led teams in the corporate, private, and nonprofit sectors. She has also started a nonprofit organization, A Careing Touch Foundation, dedicated to underprivileged youth. She is a newly married Atlanta native with two sons. In her spare time, she is working on her M.B.A. in Human Resources and enjoys listening to music. Kasha can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ari Kisler, Assistant Director
Ari (she/her) directed the Transitional Living Program at the Washington County Youth Service Bureau from 2014 to 2016 before joining the VCRHYP team. She also brings with her experience from volunteering at an LGBTQ Youth Drop-in Center in Rochester, NY. In 2014 she graduated from Springfield College with a B.S. in Human Services, focused on Addiction Studies. She is currently studying Youth Development at The Graduate School at Michigan State University through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance and sits on the Board of Directors for Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity. Ari is an avid used book collector, letterboxer, and spends most of her time with her two rescue dogs.
Maggie Merriam, Director
Maggie (she/her) comes to VCRHYP with over ten years of practice as a social worker in programs and systems that serve people experiencing homelessness and housing scarcity in Chittenden County. Maggie has a BSW (2008) and MSW (2014) from the University of Vermont and is currently an adjunct with the UVM MSW department teaching classes on organizational change and the crisis of homelessness. Maggie has a history of advocacy for housing first and low-barrier programs and is a strong believer in empathetic and collaborative leadership. In her spare time Maggie likes to go for strolls in the woods, garden and play with her 15lb (and growing) Maine Coon cat Misha.
Maple & Moo Velcro, Mascots
Maple Velcro (left) and Moo Velcro (right) are fraternal twin bears originally from Avery's Gore, VT who joined the VCRHYP team in March 2017 after a glowing reference by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. Maple (they/them) was a fan of the culinary arts in high school and went on to pursue carpentry at a trade school. They are now building strong foundations for VCRHYP's systems change work. Moo's (they/them) favorite subject in high school was music and they went on to study social justice theory in college. They are now ensuring that equitable services are available to all youth served by VCRHYP. Together the Velcro twins represent the protective factors like nurturing, stability and permanent connections the youth we work for need.