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VISTA volunteer sought as Highland Lakes Hunger Alliance leader

Jaelyn Nelson

After two years with the Highland Lakes Crisis Network, including the last year as director of the Highland Lakes Hunger Alliance, Jaelyn Nelson has taken a new job at Edwards Risk Management in Marble Falls. HLCN is looking to the AmeriCorps VISTA program to help fill the position. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

The Highland Lakes Hunger Alliance is preparing for its summer programs without a manager. Director Jaelyn Nelson has taken a job with Edwards Risk Management in Marble Falls, and the Highland Lakes Crisis Network is searching for a new “unicorn.” 

“I am so grateful for all of you and what you do,” Nelson said at the alliance’s quarterly meeting on Tuesday, May 23. “This is my last meeting, and I will miss you.” 

Nelson came to the Hunger Alliance two years ago under the AmeriCorps VISTA program through the Baylor University Food Security Initiative. She was paid a small stipend for full-time work, serving under then-alliance Director Pam Rodgers for a year. Rodgers helped found the Hunger Alliance six years previously before stepping down and handing the reins to Nelson in May 2022. 

Anyone interested in the VISTA position, which is more of a volunteer role as the pay is about $5 an hour, can apply online at the Baylor University Food Security Initiative website. 

“It’s a unicorn to find,” said HLCN Executive Director Kevin Naumann about the alliance’s lead role. “It has to be someone who is passionate about feeding people and doesn’t need to make a living out of it.” 

Anyone above the age of 17 who has a high school diploma can apply for the year-long position. As it did for Nelson, it could turn into a paid job with HLCN after that initial year. 

The Hunger Alliance is not a formal entity, Naumann explained. It’s a concept that brings together all of the Highland Lakes food pantries on a regular basis to coordinate and share information and resources. 

“Jaelyn brought heart and passion and all the great things about her personality in leading the charge to fight hunger,” he said. “We need someone like her to be the point person, the one people know to look to for the next big thing happening — someone to facilitate that, to facilitate the group of Hunger Alliance members, who are forward thinking and outside the box on programs.” 

The Highland Lakes Hunger Alliance plans a mid-summer meeting outside of its regular quarterly meetings to further discuss how to fill the coordinator position.