Meet the UC-VEG Team
UC-VEG AmeriCorps Members
UC-VEG AmeriCorps Members volunteer to support the organization and have left a deep impression and impact on the community. We are grateful to those that have served UC-VEG in the past, and excited about those to come!
Nancy Webb – Former Community Nutrition Educator February – July 2020
Nancy Webb has been a Douglas county resident for 20 yrs. Prior to working with UC-VEG, Nancy ran a successful dog boarding and breeding business for over 17 years. Having researched the dietary needs of dogs for many years, her focus took a turn when her husband was diagnosed with Cancer for a 4th time in 2013. After extensive research, and along with her husband, son and daughter, Nancy became plant based in August of that year. Discovering UC-VEG through the 13-week disease prevention and reversal series, the Lifestyle & Nutrition Course, Nancy’s transition toward greater health has made a great impact on her life focus, going from the health of dogs to the health of people. Her hobbies include cooking healthy plant-based meals, watching documentaries and walking. She loved being able to share her enthusiasm in her service as the UC-VEG AmeriCorps in 2019.
Iryna Boehland – Former Community Nutrition Educator March – August 2020
Iryna was born and raised in Ukraine. Her mother never let her near the stove, saying “You’ll have your share of cooking when you grow up.” And since children like to do the opposite, she was eager to disobey and was pestering her in the kitchen. Over time, her interest in cooking expanded.
Love of traveling, curiosity, and eagerness to see the world brought her to the U.S in Sept. 2001. She worked in Accounting at Mercy Hospital, went to college, then met her husband, and started a family. Her education includes a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering & Accounting, and Beautician training from Ukraine, and an Associate of Arts degree in Accounting from UCC.
In America, Iryna was exposed to a different lifestyle. Busy college and family life got the better of her. Like many Americans, she joined in on the SAD (Standard American Diet). From size XS I went to XL, felt tired, sick, and upset with herself. It was time to do something.
UC-VEG was the right fit for her and offered a breath of fresh air. So much information, science, testimonials, humor, recipes, and gentle support; it felt like home!
At one of the UC-VEG potlucks, Iryna met Nancy Webb, the former Community Nutrition Educator AmeriCorps, and was moved by her speech. She thought, “I, too, would like to learn more, be in the heart of the organization, and help promote the knowledge and lifestyle to help people in our community.” Iryna is proud to be a part of the wonderful volunteers of UC-VEG!
For other activities and hobbies, she likes drawing and painting, practicing calligraphy, reading, helping my daughter with homework, walking our rescue dog, meeting new people, trying new food, shopping, and cooking, having family dinners, watching movies, symphonies, plays and shows, and to travel. Iryna believes that life without learning something new is boring!
Cherish Wanter – Former Community Nutrition Educator
Cherish genuinely believes it is hard, if not impossible, to live a fulfilled life without sharing love with others, and that one of the greatest ways to show love is through service that focuses on empowering individuals’ or communities to combat their challenges. Due to this belief, Cherish has given her time to a variety of volunteering work ranging from serving as a field agent in Peace Corps Senegal to providing after-school service to first generation elementary students. In the upcoming months, she will be relocating to Roseburg to serve as a UC-VEG 2020 AmeriCorps member.
Her time as a Peace Corps volunteer further exposed her to the global challenge of food insecurity and nutrition. She worked extensively on capacity building of women to address food insecurity and malnutrition within their families. Some of her work included construction of a women’s garden, speaking on the use of local leafy greens and moringa to boost nutritional content of local meals, and co-trainings mothers on the creation and use of local grain cereal for complementary feeding of children 6 months-2 years.
In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, yoga, partaking in various outdoor activities, and spending time with friends and family. Cherish looks forward to building relationships and working with the people of Roseburg.
Zenya Ledermann- Former Community Garden Coordinator
Zenya is passionate about sustainable food systems and fighting inequalities found within our global systems. She is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and recently graduated from Eckerd College in Florida where she studied Environmental Studies and Anthropology, concentrating on sustainability. Zenya has traveled the world participating in a number of volunteer projects related to environmental and social justice, during which she cultivated a deeper sense of empathy and knowledge of the complexity of world issues, and the importance of different perspectives. Zenya is devoted to service and believes we must focus on bettering our communities for the benefit of all. She is looking forward to starting with UC-VEG and excited to embark on this new adventure. Some of Zenya’s other hobbies and activities include anything outdoors, especially hiking, biking and camping. She enjoys yoga, music, vegan cooking, dancing, gardening, and traveling. Zenya is looking forward to moving to Roseburg and making new relationships with the people and community.
Volunteer of the Month
I started volunteering with UC-VEG in the early days for multiple reasons. I observed that a large portion of the population was struggling with many health issues which could be largely attributed to the Standard American Diet and other lifestyle choices. I was appalled by current conditions and inspired by the potential for improvement as I read “The China Study” and watched “Forks Over Knives.” As I learned more about the Whole Foods Plant Based Diet I realized that it had many other benefits for individuals and society as a whole.
On a personal level I have a lifelong interest in health and wellness not only for humans but for the ecosystems around us and the earth as a whole. Developing a symbiotic relationship with our living environment and working toward a regenerative and resilient food system are issues of immense importance to me. Volunteering with UC-VEG has provided me with opportunities to meet like minded people. I feel that a plant based diet allows people to open their hearts further because they no longer need to justify the commodification of animals. Could this be a stepping stone toward world peace? Will Tuttle made compelling arguments for it in his book The World Peace Diet.
Volunteering with UC-VEG has been very rewarding whether it was helping setup for events, photographing the action, participating in community garden projects or providing technical support for other volunteers. I am currently a student and work full time so I haven’t been able to participate as much as I’d like to. I look forward to serving with the inspiring group of volunteers and community partners in the future as we build a healthier community.
JULIETE PALENSHUS (Executive Director)
As the Executive Director of UC-VEG, Juliete is able to share her lifelong passion for community health. Her educational and professional background is in international relations, government, social services, and the nonprofit sector. Juliete has worked in the health and nutrition field for the past decade, teaching classes on nutrition, living a healthy lifestyle, and meditation, as well as working with Dr. Charlie Ross, serving on the UHA Community Advisory Council, and in her current position as Engagement Director for Thrive Umpqua, formerly Blue Zones Project-Umpqua. Juliete started transitioning to a plant-based diet over 25 years ago and loves being able share quality information and tools that she truly believes can bring more happiness and longevity to individuals, and the community. She is energized by the radical health improvement of UC-VEG participants and overjoyed to facilitate the growth of the organization.
DR. JILL HANSEN (Board Secretary)
Dr. Jill Hanson owned a veterinary clinic in Coos Bay for 40 years. She and her husband, a Douglas County firefighter, are now retired and live happily along the North Umpqua River. Due to her life-long love for animals, and the influence of her oldest son, a professor of chemistry/nutrition in Vienna, Austria, Dr. Jill Hanson became a vegan. She loves working as the UC-VEG Board Secretary, as the Roseburg Potluck Coordniantor and supporting participants in their journey toward better health.
PATRICK HARRIS, RN, BSN (Board Member)
Patrick is a former emergency room nurse and currently teaching nursing students at UCC. After treating patient after patient in the ER, he began to wonder how the chronic illness he was seeing could be prevented. Now having the tools to treat, prevent, and even reverse many forms of chronic disease, Patrick is thrilled to be able to offer this information, as a UC-VEG Board Member, Lifestyle & Nutrition Course facilitator, to his nursing students, and to his community.
JOHN DIMOF (Board President)
John has worked in the Umpqua Valley as a farmer, builder, teacher, and community organizer. Combining his educational background in medicine, experience working in the dietary field, and extensive training as an organizational facilitator, he’s currently running non-profit organizations focused on health transformation and education. Having studied healthy lifestyle development and disease prevention, he’s taught classes and led community programs in all four corners of the United States. John enjoys sharing his passion to help others achieve success and find greater purpose in their lives. John was one of the founders of UC-VEG and serves as an active Board President and Lifestyle & Nutrition Course facilitator.
DR. HEIDI BEERY (Chief Medical Officer)
Dr. Beery is a family medicine doctor practicing at Evergreen Family Medicine. She grew up in Roseburg and has been practicing in town since 2010. She attended UC-VEG’s medical meet and greets years ago, and later took the Lifestyle and Nutrition Course. Dr. Beery quickly became enthusiastic about the program. She has done extensive self-learning and attended the Holistic Holiday Cruise in 2017, obtaining 30 hours of medical education on plant-based nutrition. She is actively encouraging her patients to adopt the lifestyle with her and is enjoying spreading the message as a Lifestyle & Nutrition Course facilitator and medical consultant for UC-VEG.
RAMONA SCHULZE (Board Treasurer)
Ramona has worked as a commercial chef for over 3 decades. When starting the transition toward a plant-based diet, Ramona not only experienced her own health transformation, but discovered a new world of culinary opportunity. Ramona serves as Board Treasurer and provides wholesome and delicious food demonstrations and sampling throughout UC-VEG programs.
Jude is a retired health care provider, having worked as a family nurse practitioner and midwife for over 30 years. Upon retiring, she took the Lifestyle & Nutrition Course. While struck by the merit of the information shared in the course, Jude was also impressed with the simplicity and power of lifestyle medicine. Jude enjoys observing the health improvements of participants while conducting evaluations and tracking outcomes for the program, serving as the UC-VEG receptionist, and managing the contact database.
In the fall of 2019, Halie Cousineau moved to Roseburg Oregon to serve as an AmeriCorps with Oregon State University extension and Blue Zones Project as Douglas County’s school garden coordinator. During that time, Halie became a Master Gardener and also started volunteering at UC-VEG events.
Halie has now moved to Eugene to continue her work in garden education for OSU extension as the State-Wide Garden Education Coordinator for the Food Hero program. However, she still makes time for UC-VEG by volunteering as a Master Gardener presenter for the Garden Workshops. Halie has been busy at work with the Grow This! Program, which gives out seeds to participants in spring and provides educational videos to help anyone grow their own seeds throughout the year with the materials found around the house. When Halie isn’t gardening or teaching gardening you can find her outside climbing, skiing, biking, swimming, or hiking.
Tasha King has been a vegetarian for over 40 years for humanitarian reasons. After a bout with cancer 6 years ago, she wanted to become entirely plant-based. Tasha began attending UC-VEG’s Lifestyle & Nutrition Course in September of 2017 to achieve that goal. Soon after, Tasha started volunteering for UC-VEG. As a Master Gardener, she often brings the fruits of her labor to the classes, sharing her bounty. Tasha has served as the Lifestyle and Nutrition Course facilities trainer and coordinator by opening the venue, setting up, greeting participants at the registration table and breaking down after class.
DR. CHARLES ROSS
Dr. Ross has been a practicing physician in Oregon for over 40 years. He practiced Emergency Medicine and became interested in Lifestyle Medicine about 6 years ago, at which point, he began focusing his efforts on teaching medical students at COMP-NW and promoting healthy lifestyle choices with UC-VEG. Dr. Ross became a local CHIP facilitator in 2014, and gradually transformed the course, founding the original THIP! He now lives with his wife, Christine, in Oakridge/Westfir, OR and is teaching classes there. He continues to come to Roseburg to share his story and new adventures as a potluck presenter.
Suzy Krause first learned about UC-VEG from an online advertisement in 2015, after moving here from Susanville, CA. She was curious but really had no intention of becoming plant based. After her first session attending the Lifestyle & Nutrition Course (then known as THIP), she was hooked. Suzy talked her husband into going with her the next week, and they both decided they were all in. Through the course, Suzy began to develop an understanding of the devastation that is occurring on the planet due to a mis-use of resources, and the over-farming and horrific abuse of animals to feed the masses. Suzy was also tired of the years of yo-yo dieting, and wanted to learn how to eat, and be healthy.
With their new knowledge and awareness developing, she and her husband began eliminating animal products and processed foods from their household. Shortly after that, Suzy became a volunteer, wanting to do something, and be part of the solution. Over the past 5 years, Suzy has volunteered with the Lifestyle & Nutrition Course, cooking classes, potlucks, movie nights, Farmer’s Markets, and special events. She posts flyers and approaches businesses around the community, announcing upcoming events and programs. Suzy works with restaurant owners each month in order to coordinate the DineUp Program, where a location is selected to gather for a nutritious, plant-based meal. Suzy also goes around to physician’s offices, providing them with information and handouts about UC-VEG programs, which they then pass on to their patients. She updates, and keeps current, the Douglas County Medical Provider’s Contact list for all those who are promoting and supporting UC-VEG programs. With the pandemic, much of this has been put on hold, but people still want to be healthy, now even more than ever. As a result, UC-VEG has made virtual the extensive course in order to continue supporting our community.
Suzy is also a volunteer Docent with Winston Wildlife Safari, working in the towers, events, and the Village assisting guests. She volunteers with Blue Zones Project Umpqua, helping out with various outreach programs. She loves gardening in her spare time. She can’t say enough about how exciting it is to volunteer, and be part of UC-VEG at this special time of change. People are wanting to live healthy, happy lifestyles, be compassionate, take care of the animals and one another, and treat our planet with the honor and respect she deserves. If we don’t start taking care of our home here on Earth, we won’t have a home. Suzy looks forward to seeing what the future has in store as we work together, even in the face of adversity. She feels blessed to be part of this organization!
Nancy Wolf is the UC-VEG editor and social media volunteer. She handles the UC-VEG Facebook site, is a moderator for the UC-VEG Support Group Facebook site, and does general editing – newsletters, fliers, cookbooks, recipes, and other things as needed. Nancy has lived in Douglas County for 27 years and calls it home. She took the weekly lifestyle and nutrition series, THIP, a year ago and was in awe of what UC-VEG offers to our community and found it to be a treasure. She’s retired from education, had the time, and wanted to help. Over the last 40 years, Nancy and her husband have switched back and forth between vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism. She’s always eaten lots of fruits and vegetables, limited fast food, and cooked most of their meals at home. But she’s struggled with weight all her life, trying one diet after another – losing and gaining it back. She even worked in the dieting industry for three years as a researcher. Dieting made her cravings and binging worse. After taking the Lifestyle & Nutrition Course and reading Dr. Greger’s book How Not to Diet, she knew she had to jump off the dieting merry-go-round. She has been working toward eating healthy, plant-based foods AND losing weight. Most importantly, she’s healing her body and mind from the dieting routine. In her free time, she likes to bird, draw, knit, create Pysanky eggs, quilt, paint, travel, bicycle, camp, and photograph wildlife.
LEVI CHASE MELENDEZ
Levi was first introduced to this organization in 2016, attending a UC-VEG cooking class at Aviva’s Sutherlin Clinic, leading him to the Lifestyle & Nutrition Course (then known as the Total Health Improvement Program, THIP). As a diabetic, the course had such a profound improvement on his health that he continued to be involved with UC-VEG. Levi wanted to help spread the word and promote the lifestyle to the community. He currently hosts UC-VEG’s monthly Movie Night, showing life-changing movies such as Forks Over Knives and The Game Changers. Levi’s experience with a plant-based lifestyle as a diabetic has been a wonderful reference for diabetics transitioning and wanting to transition to a more plant-based lifestyle.
After moving to Douglas County and searched for a group supportive of her decision to move toward a more healthy lifestyle. Robin started volunteering with UC-VEG’s Dine Up Restaurant Program and then expanded to supporting other UC-VEG programs. She enjoys observing her own medical improvements alongside the community members!
Cynthia grew up in meat & potatoes land (Southern Illinois), but then escaped to Seattle in 1985 for college and learned about amazing things like brown rice and hummus and that vegetables don’t have to come out of a can. After 35 years of living on the Oregon Coast, she and her family moved to Roseburg the day after The Big Snowstorm in 2019. From her new little homestead, in between taking care of kids, cats, garden, orchard, bees, chickens, wild turkeys and her deer named James, she’s been helping both UC-VEG and the Blue Zones Project in all kinds of ways.
For UC-VEG, Cynthia has been editing the slide decks for the fall 2020 Lifestyle & Nutrition Course, creating new headers and banners for the newsletters, copy editing everything thrown at her, reformatting the cookbook, “Cooking with UC-VEG,” for its second printing, has recently begun learning about grant writing in order to help UC-VEG obtain more funds to operate, helped redecorate the office for the two new AmeriCorps members, is designing posters for Movie Night, and has most recently stepped into the role of class coordinator for the Lifestyle & Nutrition Course, beginning in 2021. Karin has served in various capacities over the years, from tabling, greeting, and cooking assistance, to fundraising exploration. Her warmth and positive attitude are an invaluable addition to the UC-VEG team!
Dr. Lundy has been an Internal Medicine physician for over 30 years and now works at South River Community Health Center. She’s been involved in many kinds of volunteer organizations for years, serving for over two years with the Peace Corps in Botswana (2012-2014), working as a teacher advising on HIV prevention and wellness. Dr. Lundy also volunteered, acted and served on the board for Umpqua Actors Community Theatre (UACT) for over twelve years. She also help with the Art Center and recently was asked to serve on the board for the ADAPT. In her medical practice, she always spent time sharing with patients about healthy lifestyles as the path to long-term wellness. Dr. Lundy is an active volunteer, supporting participant evaluations of the Lifestyle & Nutrition Course and executing the Roseburg potlucks.
Shannon Agee had been thinking about changing to a healthier lifestyle for many years. A little over two years ago, she “accidentally” went to a Lifestyle & Nutrition Course when a friend invited her to a “healthy recipe class” and decided the time had come to give it a try. During the course of that series, she lost 20 pounds and 40 points off of her cholesterol level besides feeling so much better and healthier. Since then, Shannon has been very glad to volunteer with UC VEG and spread the great news far and wide, as a cooking class demonstrator, and shopping tour guide.
Erika loves to cook and make her comfort foods into healthy versions. After participating in UC-VEG and changing her lifestyle, she experiences more energy and better gut health. Eating healthier and volunteering as a cooking demonstrator means a healthier and longer life to Erika. One of her favorite quotes is: “TOGETHER we can change the WORLD”
Chriset first became excited about the joy of growing food in her ’20s when an organization called GRuB came to build her some raised beds, gave her seeds and provided information for new gardeners. From that moment she began expanding out from those 3 raised beds to other parts of her yard, her roof and then to vacant unused patches in the neighborhood. She is learning about culturally-specific First Foods that her ancestors grew, the growing methods and how they came to the people. Their duty is to sustain us and our duty is to cultivate and care for those relatives so they can continue to provide for us. She is participating in the Seed Seva apprenticeship with Rowen White and did the Wisdom of the Elders Agricultural internship where she studied Ethnobotany. Despite so much despair, there is always good news in the garden. Chriset started the Kitchen Garden Project (KGP) and has built gardens in the back yards of families across Douglas County, for elementary schools, and for non-profit organizations. As the KGP Coordinator ,Chriset shares her passion for growing food and food security with people of all ages and backgrounds.
Livi has been cooking plant-based for her family and clients for over 20 years. In her years of experience, she’s developed her own crowd-pleasing recipes, tweaking them to include more ingredients supporting disease-prevention and reversal. Livi provides wholesome and delicious food demonstrations and sampling at UC-VEG programs
John Schulz has helped cultivate UC-VEG’s lasting partnership with the Seventh Day Adventist Church’s Better Living Center. After witnessing countless health transformations throughout his life, he feels passionately about the power of food to prevent and reverse chronic illness and is thrilled to have this resource available to the local community.