“Low-income people and their allies need a powerful organizational voice to defend and protect their interests on economic justice issues, and to guarantee their access to the government welfare services that ensure a strong foundation for people’s lives.”
Ken Regal | Executive Director
Ken Regal was named executive director in July 2012 after having served as one of our co-directors since Just Harvest’s founding in 1987. An activist and organizer in Pittsburgh for more than thirty years, he organized the campaign in the 1980s which persuaded the Pittsburgh Public Schools to join the National School Breakfast Program. Ken has consulted for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, served on the national grant-making advisory committee of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and has written and spoken on hunger and poverty issues for a wide range of audiences. He represents Just Harvest on the Board of the Pittsburgh United, the steering committee of the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, and the Allegheny County Health Department Advisory Coalition for its Plan for a Healthier Allegheny. Ken is a native of Brooklyn and a graduate of Brandeis University and lives in the Highland Park section of Pittsburgh with his wife.
“By engaging both clients and volunteers in Just Harvest services, I can engage more people and communities in the fight against hunger.”
Laura Byko | Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator
pronouns: she, her, hers
Laura Byko joined Just Harvest in 2021 after working on local electoral campaigns for several years, most recently running the countywide field program for the Lisa Middleman for Judge campaign. Laura grew up in Harmony, PA and studied journalism at Point Park University. She lives in Friendship where she enjoys knitting and rooting for the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Widespread hunger in the U.S. and Pennsylvania is the result of economic and racial injustice. Too many elected officials have traded the former “War on Poverty” for a war on people experiencing poverty. That agenda doesn’t reflect the majority of Americans’ values and priorities. We can defeat it by working together to advance fair government and a fair economy.”
Emily Cleath | Communications Coordinator
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Emily Cleath joined Just Harvest in 2013, after fifteen years at various public policy and social justice nonprofits here and in New York City. Prior employment highlights include communications work for Public Agenda and the RAND Corporation, and organizing work for SEIU and ACLU-PA. Emily has a master’s in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University and lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son.
“I am increasing my dedication to be a force for change and to use my power for good. With an intense focus on the needs of the people I serve, I aim to thoughtfully, thoroughly, and with a humble heart, educate and empower individuals to incite change within their own communities.”
Dana Dolney | Grassroots Organizer
Dana Dolney graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s in art history and has an extensive background in documentary photography and film. After traveling the globe through much of her 20’s, her life changed gears in her mid 30’s, after a difficult battle with breast cancer. With a second chance at life, Dana has been active in community organizing since 2009. She promoted public health and safety policies to protect the public’s air, water, and land with organizations like Marcellus Protest and Shale Test, and through a broad spectrum of public health and environmental coalitions across the US. Dana co-founded Friends of the Harmed, a project of the Thomas Merton Center, and worked in force with others to produce Shalefield Stories. She resides in Pittsburgh with two endlessly entertaining muppet/dogs named Lucylu and Linus. She spends as much time as possible in the great outdoors.
“The Fresh Access program increases access to farmers markets for low-income people by equipping the markets to accept SNAP benefits and by breaking down barriers that prevent low-income people from patronizing farmers markets. This program is one piece of a larger effort to eliminate food deserts and ensure that everyone, regardless of income, has access to food which is healthy, fresh, affordable, culturally appropriate, and delicious.”
Averyl Hall | Fresh Access Coordinator
Averyl Hall initially joined Just Harvest in 2015 as an AmeriCorps VISTA working on the Fresh Access Program, which she began to oversee a year later. She has a degree in peace and global studies from Earlham College. While at Earlham she interned with the Tucson Community Food Bank where she fell in love with connecting people to local produce. Averyl is excited to continue working at the intersection of local agriculture and food access.
“I strive to help families connect to SNAP benefits by giving them support and an awareness of the rules and regulations for SNAP policies.”
Dontika Hall | Food Stamp Specialist
Dontika Hall joined Just Harvest’s food stamp team in 2017. She has an associate degree in business management from Kaplan Institute. While at Kaplan she interned at the YMCA in Homewood, helping families who had encountered financial hardship. Working for the YMCA, Dontika discovered her passion for helping people in need of support and knowledge on financial well-being, and that has been her mission ever since.
“VITA bridges the gap between low-income taxpayers and the benefits entitled to them within the tax code. Without free tax preparation, these benefits become another way for businesses to exploit that same population. This program allows us the opportunity to engage, educate, and empower these members of our community.”
Elaina Mitchell | Tax Project Manager
Elaina Mitchell got her start with Just Harvest as an intern for the VITA program. She was later involved as a reviewer and site coordinator before being hired in 2020 to manage Just Harvest’s tax sites. Elaina is from Homer City, PA, and earned a bachelor’s in linguistics from the University of Pittsburgh. She now lives in Pittsburgh’s Knoxville neighborhood where she enjoys reading, gardening, doing taxes, and being outside with her cats.
“Public policies and programs are the best way to support low-income members of our community, but they are currently inadequate and unfair. The process does not incorporate the voice, perspectives, and realities of low-income consumers. My goal is to bring those perspectives to decision-makers to protect and improve programs that support basic human needs.”
Ann Sanders | Public Policy Advocate
Having grown up receiving food stamps, Ann Sanders is very dedicated to ending hunger for all. She has been involved with Just Harvest since 2007 when she served as an intern at the School of Social Work. Since then, she served a term on our board of directors and has worked as a tax preparer, food stamp specialist, volunteer coordinator, and was named our public policy advocate in the summer of 2017. Ann completed her master’s in social work and master’s in international development from the University of Pittsburgh in 2008 and currently resides with her family in Observatory Hill.
“I know what it’s like to struggle from paycheck to paycheck and a lot of the financial resources available to low-income workers do not have their best interest at heart. I also know what it’s like to wait in line at a Food Bank and people are not struggling due to lack of effort, they’re struggling due to lack of opportunity. It’s time we stopped the vilification of low-income workers.”
Vaughn Schmid | FTP Coalition Tax Training Manager
Vaughn Schmid grew up in Munhall and after graduating high school, worked various part-time jobs before going back to school at the age of 29. He earned associate’s degrees from CCAC before transferring to Pitt to get a bachelor’s in accounting and finance, and finally a pair of master’s degrees from the Katz Graduate School of Business. He joined the Free Tax Preparation Coalition as a volunteer in 2010 while attending graduate school. He became part of the Just Harvest family in 2013 as a reviewer in our free tax prep program, and in 2021 accepted a position as the FTP Coalition’s tax training manager.
“I am passionate about helping Just Harvest build connections – with people and with information. Connecting the dots is what makes Just Harvest unique.”
Heather Seiders | Director of Engagement
Heather Seiders manages Just Harvest’s daily office operations and has been with us since 2008. Heather’s work spans all programs at Just Harvest and focuses on improving our service delivery through data management and system design. She works as our staff lead on fundraising and development and coordinates our annual fundraiser. Heather graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s in creative nonfiction writing, and she enjoys reading, painting, and spending time outdoors with her family.
“I find that a lot of folks often don’t even realize what resources and benefits are available to them in times of crisis or to satisfy ongoing needs. Through my work at Just Harvest I can bring knowledge of those services to the greater community, assist people in securing and maintaining those resources, and advocate on their behalf. There are too many people living with food insecurity in Allegheny County, and it is so important for us to solve this crisis as a society. Just Harvest is doing that work; from the direct services we offer to the grassroots organizing and policy action that we are committed to.”
Amanda Sloane | Food Stamp Specialist
Amanda Sloane came to Just Harvest in 2019 from the Bellevue Farmers Market, which she managed from its inception through its success as a vibrant weekly community service. During her tenure there, she coordinated relationships among vendors, SNAP, regional government, volunteers, business leaders, and funders to ensure broad participation and enhance community health. Amanda previously worked with Animal Friends, facilitating service experiences for community members. Amanda holds a bachelor’s in public service, public service/public administration, and nonprofit management from the University of Pittsburgh. She lives with her family in Bellevue, where she serves on the Borough Council.
“We partner with local corner stores to help them carry and promote fresh produce options that would otherwise not be available in that community.”
Dawn Marie Smith | Fresh Corners Project Coordinator
Since coming to Just Harvest in 2014, Dawn Marie Smith’s food policy work includes development, direct client service, and their current position. As the Fresh Corners project coordinator, Dawn Marie works to empower small, community-focused corner stores in underserved areas with the tools and resources they need to provide healthy food access to their neighbors. Prior to joining the Just Harvest team, they served two years in the AmeriCorps VISTA program through Hunger Free America. They hold a B.S. in sociology from Carlow University.
“Low-income workers are often prey to unscrupulous businesses at tax time who are trying to get a piece of their tax refund. Workers need access to tax preparation services that they can trust to provide high-quality service at no cost so they can use their Earned Income Tax Credit for its original intent: to pay bills that their paychecks aren’t big enough to cover. Our dedicated volunteers and staff also provide some targeted financial education when possible and learn something themselves about the often complex financial lives of the taxpayers we serve.”
Kristie Weiland Stagno | FTP Coalition Program Director
Kristie Weiland Stagno is from Butler, PA, and completed her master’s in social work at the University of Michigan before coming to Just Harvest in 2003. Kristie started at Just Harvest as an intern promoting the Earned Income Tax Credit and soon added a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site to meet the need for free, quality tax assistance for low-income workers. Over several years, she grew that site to the largest site in Western PA and added three other sites in Allegheny County. Under her leadership, Just Harvest started the Free Tax Prep Coalition in 2006, to facilitate collaboration among nonprofits operating VITA sites in the region. She is currently the director of the Free Tax Prep Coalition, supporting VITA sites throughout Southwestern PA, and sits on the Policy Advocacy Committee at the Taxpayer Opportunity Network. Kristie lives in Pittsburgh’s Highland Park neighborhood with her family.
“I care about the work I am doing here at Just Harvest because the focus is ‘people’. I genuinely care about the health and wellbeing of all humans no matter their circumstances. I strive to make a difference in just one person’s life every day, and if I can do that simple thing then I feel very accomplished! No one should EVER go hungry, EVER!”
Leigha Vaughn | Food Stamp Specialist
Leigha Vaughn was born and raised in Pittsburgh—specifically, a low-income neighborhood in the east end of the city. She watched her household and neighbors struggle to make ends meet her entire life and decided at a young age that she would do what she could to help uplift her community. Leigha worked in the non-profit field off and on in some capacity for the eight years prior to joining Just Harvest in early 2021. Most notable was the YMCA but her favorite was Bethleham Haven, which is a shelter for displaced women. Through her work, Leigha’s children have adopted an affinity for the homeless, and she is very proud of the way they give of themselves because of it. She plans to spend the rest of her natural life uplifting others and building on her children’s desire to do the same.
“The Free Tax Prep program is vital to building economic stability for low-income families, and together with Fresh Access and the other work of Just Harvest, we’re making tangible differences in our area. Working with our tax volunteers – and having been one myself – I know that the benefits go both ways. It’s wonderful to be able to connect a volunteer with a way to contribute their time and skills back to their own community and for them to see the real results of their work.”
Sarah Vine | FTP Coalition Volunteer Engagement Manager
Sarah Vine joined Just Harvest full-time in 2021 after prior years of working seasonally on our Fresh Access and Free Tax Prep teams. She holds a degree in literature and has, over the years, worked as a bookseller, editor, homeschool parent, tax preparer, and Mennonite church administrator. She has volunteered in the Memphis Public Library and the Allegheny County Jail, as well as at the YMCA’s Hazelwood tax site, but currently enjoys ushering for City Theater and Pittsburgh Public Theater. She lives in Greenfield with her husband, their youngest daughter, two rescued beagles, and three surly cats.