One of ECO's founding board members, Jessica Kirin, stepped down from her position on the board at the end of her term this past December, following years of commitment and contribution. Jess was an early supporter of the Etna EcoDistrict and continuous community representative during the Etna EcoDistrict Education Series and Community Planning events of 2018 and 2019. She became a certified EcoDistrict AP, represented Etna at the 2019 EcoDistrict Incubator, and supported the Etna EcoDistrict as it applied for Certification. As a dietitian, she used her knowledge and skills as an Etna Food Champion and led the "Grow, Cook, Eat" event and cooking demonstration at the Garden of Etna in 2019. Jess helped to organize the Cooking Kit initiative as a part of the Food Champions group. She joined ECO's Board of Directors in 2019, served as our Board Secretary since the nonprofit was established in 2020, and has volunteered countless hours as a board member and volunteer. In 2020 and 2021, Jess participated in the visioning process for the Etna Center for Community and has guided the project with her thoughtful insight into health, nutrition, and parenting.
Of Jessica's contributions, we are most grateful that she helped steward the organization through the early, very rocky days of the pandemic. Her compassion and leadership enabled the organization to stabilize financially, adapt to emerging community needs, and continue the important work of the Etna EcoDistrict Plan.
We asked Jess about her time spend serving on ECO's Board. Here are her responses:
What drew your and your family to Etna and why did you want to get involved?
"My husband and I moved to Etna five years ago without any prior knowledge of the community. We first chose to live here because of the home that we really believe "found us". We were warmly welcomed by neighbors and soon learned of the legacy of the woman who owned our home before us, Mildred Bosilevac. Millie (as she was known) was a public servant; a woman deeply involved in the Etna community - specifically the Garden of Etna. Her hard work and skilled knowledge of gardening can still be found in the perennial soil of our home and of the community garden. We never knew Millie but have learned from those that knew and loved her how much she cared for this earth and helping others. Millie grew up in our house, her brother raised his family in these walls, and we are honored to grow our family in this same community. My husband and I believe firmly in loving and serving our neighbors. We also feel the call to steward this land we have been gifted. It didn't take long to learn of the work that was already underway on the Etna EcoDistrict planning when we moved here. After attending just one community meeting, we were sold. We immediately felt in that meeting what we had already been learning through our neighbors; Etna is a community filled with deep pride, loyalty and a desire to protect and serve its own."
What were the most important initiatives, in your opinion, that ECO took on while you were on the board? What are you most proud of?
"The most impactful initiatives ECO has been at the helm of while I have had the honor of serving as a board member have been the Dinner for Neighbors program (an unexpected and unplanned response of resiliency during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic); the EcoDistrict Certification (becoming the WORLD'S first certified EcoDistrict); and the opening of the Etna EcoPark (the fulfillment of a resident-requested, designed, led, and executed project to bring a green, safe space to the community)."
What do you hope the organization will continue to work on?
"I have full faith that ECO will continue efforts into opening the Etna Center for Community (ECC), bringing not just a library system back to Etna, but a physical space and haven that provides resources and opportunities to every Etna resident."
What are your hopes for the community as a whole? What are you most excited about?
"My hope for the community as a whole is to see a reunification across generations, race, political party, and whatever desired affiliation one has. That we reconnect as neighbors and build relationships with each other in order to better serve the needs and celebrate the joys as one community made up of many unique parts. We are excited for Etna to remain our home and be part of its continued growth."
We can't thank Jessica enough for her years of service to the organization and her unwavering commitment to the community. As she steps down, we know that she will continue her involvement with ECO and Etna Borough. Jessica is a community asset in herself, and we are lucky to call her our neighbor. Thank you, Jess!