• Allegheny Mountain Institute


    Allegheny Mountain Institute (AMI) is an educational non-profit organization
    with the mission to cultivate healthy communities through food and education.
    The vision of AMI is a thriving network of collaborative, vibrant communities

    who value the connection between food and health.









  • ANNOUNCING: The AMI Farm at Augusta Health

    The AMI Farm at Augusta Health is a joint venture of AMI and Augusta Health to raise awareness about the importance of healthy eating and sustainable growing practices. AMI and Augusta Health share the vision that access to excellent health care includes access to healthy food. The project is rooted in the missions of both organizations to promote health and wellbeing in the community. - Click here to learn more!


    The farm site is located across from the Wellness Center
    and behind the Augusta Community Care building. Just look for the silo!
    Click here for an Augusta Health Campus Map

    Healthy Food

    Healthy Bodies

    AMI and Augusta Health share the vision that access to excellent health care includes access to healthy food.

    Community Health Needs Assessment

    This innovative farm project addresses Augusta Health’s recent CHNA priorities: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Weight.

    A Farm &
    Community Venue

    Key features include a production farm for Augusta Health, and demonstration garden, as well as a community venue for nutrition education.


    At-risk chronic disease patients will receive
    “prescriptions” for nutrition education, cooking classes, and fresh produce to support health and wellness.

    Farm Manager, AMI Farm at Augusta Health

    AMI manages a multi-faceted farm project on the main campus of Augusta Health hospital in Fishersville, VA. The farm includes educational gardens and a production farm to grow food for the hospital’s food service and the “Food Farmacy” program that serves at-risk patients. The farm supports AMI’s mission to promote sustainable agriculture and connect communities to local, nutrient-dense food.


    The Farm Manager is responsible for all operational aspects of the AMI Farm at Augusta Health, including managing vegetable production, education garden, and the farm team’s efforts. The Farm Manager assists and reports directly to the AMI Executive Director and works closely with AMI Board, Farm Operations Committee, Augusta Health partners, and consultants to install and maintain appropriate infrastructure to ensure smooth operation of the farm, and ensure adherence to sustainable, regenerative, organic practices.

  • AMI 2018 Classes & Events


    Garden 101: Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants

    Tuesday, April 24, 2018, 6:00-7:30 PM

    Healthy gardens start from the ground up. Explore the science of healthy soil and how to build it, plus organic controls for pests and disease. For more information, contact grayson@alleghenymountainschool.org


    (Augusta Health Wellness Center, Room 119)

    Volunteer Day at The AMI Farm at Augusta Health

    Wednesday, April 25, 6:00-8:00PM

    Join us at the AMI Farm at Augusta Health for a Volunteer Day! As a volunteer, you meet new people, learn garden skills, and benefit the health and wellness of our community.

    For more information, contact maya@alleghenymountainschool.org

    Zen and The Art of Compost

    Thursday, April 26, 2018, 6:00- 7:30 PM

    Compost happens! Join scientist, teacher, and compost-enthusiast, Joe Murray for a philosophical exploration on why it works, and what it can teach us.
    For more information, contact grayson@alleghenymountainschool.org


    (Augusta Health Wellness Center, Room 119)

    Volunteer Day at The AMI Farm at Augusta Health

    Saturday, April 28, 10:00AM- NOON

    Join us at the AMI Farm at Augusta Health for a Volunteer Day! As a volunteer, you meet new people, learn garden skills, and benefit the health and wellness of our community.

    For more information, contact maya@alleghenymountainschool.org


    May Community Workshops:

    Community Workshops are FREE to the Public

    Seasonal Eats - Wednesday, May 9



    Ask the Garden Gurus - Tuesday, May 22



    Understanding Food Labeling - Thursday, May 24




    At The AMI Farm at Augusta Health!

    Volunteer events are open to the public, and family-friendly. At our monthly events, you will learn about growing food, help with garden projects, meet new people, learn garden skills, and benefit the health and wellness of our community!

    CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP, or email


    Open House

    AMI Farm at Augusta Health

    June 16, 10:00AM-1:00PM

    AMI Farm at Augusta Health
    Tour the new Farm and Meet the AMI Team and AMI Fellows. Learn about Community Workshops and AMI's Fellowship Program. Enjoy Fresh from the Farm Snacks. Learn about Gardening, Food Systems, Nutrition, and More!

    For more information, contact

    Summer Open House

    Allegheny Mountain Farm

    Saturday, July 21

    Join Us in Beautiful Highland County, Virginia. Tour the Allegheny Mountain Farm Campus. Meet the AMI Fellows. Learn about AMI's Farm & Food Education Fellowship Program. Enjoy Fresh from the Farm Snacks. Learn about Gardening, Food Systems, Nutrition, and More!
    For more information, contact jessa@alleghenymountainschool.org

  • AMI Fellowship Program

    AMI's flagship program is an 18-month Fellowship that prepares individuals to become teachers and ambassadors for a more vibrant and accessible local food system. Selected Fellows are fully funded to spend six months in immersive training on AMI’s Mountain Farm campus (Phase I) and one year in service work with AMI’s partner organizations (Phase II). AMI Fellows gain a deeper understanding of the relationships between food production, natural systems, diet, and optimal human health and participate in a hands-on educational program in sustainable agriculture. AMI's Fellowship Program creates strong leaders who successfully work to build more cohesive community food systems. They go on to work as local food coordinators, farmers, school garden facilitators, market farm managers, food systems educators, and advocates for sustainable food systems.

    For more information, e-mail Jessa Fowler: jessa@alleghenymountainschool.org.


    What Will You Study?

    • Full Season Organic Gardening
    • Cooking, Preserving & Fermentation
    • Food Systems and Food Access
    • Nutrition & Wellness
    • Soil Science
    • Small Animal Husbandry
    • Permaculture Design
    • Beekeeping
    • Community Development
    • Nonprofit Management ... and Much More!

    Phase I Fellowship

    During Phase I, a cohort of passionate individuals committed to revitalizing our foodshed live, work, and study together for six months on AMI’s Mountain Farm in Highland County, VA. Here, Fellows grow most of their own food, while developing a deeper understanding of the connections between sustainable food systems and community wellness, through hands-on experience, workshops, and training. Fellows gain a full season of experience in sustainable growing methods and small animal husbandry on a small-scale farm. Through hands-on experiences, workshops, field trips, educational sessions, and trainings. AMI Fellows study a variety of topics, including sustainable agriculture practices, whole foods preparation and preservation, wellness and nutrition, land stewardship, leadership, and community development. The curriculum includes expert guest instructors, field trips, and garden and educational sessions. In addition, AMI Fellows develop their own skills and interests through a Fellowship-long Capstone Project.

    Upon successful completion of Phase I, AMI Fellows receive a $1,000 stipend. Fellows spend approximately 40-50 hours per week learning, studying and working on the farm, with occasional evening and weekend commitments. AMI provides all successful Phase I Fellows with work placements in Highland and Augusta Counties for Phase II of the Fellowship, and considers Fellows’ interests when making placements.


    For more information, please click here to view Frequently Asked Questions. 

    I experienced six months of personal and botanical growth living atop Allegheny Mountain learning about the many intersections between food and community.

    - Samantha Taggart, AMI Fellow, 2014-2015

    Life on the Mountain

    It’s hard not to fall in love with our Allegheny Mountain Farm campus. Not only is the soil rich for growing abundant amounts of food, the farm is surrounded by picture-perfect mountain views, bubbling springs and a night sky lit up by the Milky Way.


    Set on hundreds of acres of land in rural Highland County, the farm is situated on an old farmstead at a triple watershed divide and bordered by both the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests.


    Off the mountain, Fellows are welcomed into a rich Appalachian culture and the close-knit community of Highland County. Just 30 minutes away, the town of Monterey offers a full Farmer's Market, restaurants, and community events throughout the summer.


    The Farm includes hand-crafted cabins, wifi-equipped study spaces, large commercial-style kitchens, and experimental garden spaces. During the Fellowship, AMI Fellows work together to create farm-fresh meals supplemented with whole food staples.



    As an AMI Fellow, you will build a life-long community with a cohort of individuals passionate about living sustainably and cooperatively with nature.
    - Grayson Shelor, AMI Fellow 2017-2018

    Phase II Fellowship

    Phase II of the Fellowship is a yearlong placement with a Partner Organization, where AMI Fellows use their knowledge and skills to build organizational capacity and launch new programs. Phase II Fellows work on projects and programs such as developing school gardens, and site-based curriculum, developing infrastructure for local food systems, growing food, and increasing food access, cultivating food-based businesses and teaching nutrition and cooking for a healthy lifestyle. Supported by the AMI staff, Phase II Fellows continue to meet regularly for leadership training, workshops and professional development. Phase II Placements with Partner Organizations in 2018 include: The Highland Center, Project Grows, Urban Farm at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind and with AMI projects and programs.


    Phase II Fellows work 40 hours per week. Occasional evening and weekend commitments are required. Fellows receive an annual salary of $18,000 (paid biweekly, subject to payroll taxes).

  • Watch to learn more about AMI's Phase I Fellowship!

  • Watch to learn more about AMI's Phase II Fellowship!

    Check out where they are now and what great work they do.

  • Meet the Fellows!

    AMI's 2017-2018 Cohort
    These eight amazing individuals have completed Phase I and have begun their Phase II work placements for 2018 with AMI's Partner Organizations.

    Patrick Banks, Phase II Fellow

    Production Assistant, AMI Farm at Augusta Health

    Pat has volunteered across the U.S. on various organic farms, but it wasn't until last summer that he began interning and working full time on a local organic farm outside of Madison, Wisconsin, where he truly fell in love with sustainable agriculture. Read more...


    Pat collaborated with AMI Fellow, Mary-Ellen Garnerfor their Capstone Project, Herbal and Medicinal Beers for the Home Brewer. Click here to view their Capstone Presentation.

    Maya Epelbaum, Phase II Fellow

    Local Foods Coordinator, AMI Farm at Augusta Health

    Maya graduated from Washington and Lee University with a Psychology major and minors in Environmental Studies and Philosophy. She led the Compost Crew and Student Environmental Action league at her college. She interned for a summer at Henry’s Fork Foundation in Idaho, where she discovered that she was meant for an outdoor career. Read more ...


    For her Phase I Capstone project, Maya partnered with AMI Fellows, Mary-Ellen Garner and Stephen Rodriguez on Exploring Interest in a Community Park and Mentorship Program. Click here to view their Capstone Presentation.

    Mary-Ellen Garner, Phase II Fellow

    The Highland Center/Allegheny Mountain Farm

    Born in Georgia and raised in Florida, Mary-Ellen spent most of her childhood covered in dirt, sand, mud, or clay. She graduated from Rollins College with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Chemistry. Since then she has been doing work-trades in New England and Western Europe, hopping from one passion to the next. Read more ...


    For her Phase I Capstone project, Mary-Ellen collaborated with AMI Fellow, Pat Banks on Herbal and Medicinal Beers for the Home Brewer; and with AMI Fellows, Stephen Rodriguez and Maya Epelbaum on Exploring Interest in a Community Park and Mentorship Program.

    Sophia Hutnik, Phase II Fellow

    Farm and Education Assistant, Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind.

    Sophia is originally from Ithaca, New York and has a Bachelor’s in International Relations/Anthropology from SUNY Geneseo and a Master’s of Science in Human Ecology from Lund University in Sweden. During her bachelor’s, Sophia focused on political issues in the Middle East and Turkey. After her work in political research, she switched her focus to environmental justice and food supply systems. Read more...


    For her Phase I Capstone Project, Sophia explored the Feasibility of an AMI-Scale Dairy. Click here to view Sophia's Capstone Presentation.

    Matthew Kitchen, Phase II Fellow

    Education Assistant, ProjectGROWS

    Matt is a sprightly native of Manassas, Virginia who went to school at the College of William and Mary and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in theatre and creative writing. His fascination with the multicolored biodiversity of organisms fitting together into the beautifully designed latticework of ecology is even further enlivened when considering people’s place in this system of life. Read more...


    For his Phase I Capstone Project, Highland County Schools Perennial Garden, Matt proposes a garden design for an outdoor education area and a place for Highland County Students. Click here to view Matt's Capstone Presentation.

    Elora Overbey, Phase II Fellow

    Community Outreach/Village Coordinator, Allegheny Mountain Farm

    Elora was born on a farm in Floyd, Virginia, and lived in New Mexico for 12 years before attending the University of Oregon to study Journalism and Advertising. In Oregon, she worked on a series of stories concerning social justice issues of housing and food security. After moving back to Virginia, she began volunteering with Lynchburg Grows to work on food accessibility. Read more...


    For her Phase I Capstone project, Elora presented, "Meet Lola’s" – A Farm to Food Truck Venture to Build Community and Increase Food Access By Creating a Mobile Food Hub. Click here to view Elora's Capstone Presentation

    Grayson Shelor, Phase II Fellow

    A former “picky kid”, Grayson is now committed to proving the merits of vegetables to children. She firmly believes that growing and preparing healthy food can and ought to be fun and empowering, and that changing the way people, young and old, think about their meals is the key to better health and stronger communities. Read more ...


    For her Phase I Capstone project, Grayson created the resource book Highlander’s Guide to Farm Fresh Produce. 

     Click here to view Grayson's Capstone Presentation.

    Stephen Rodriguez, Phase II Fellow

    Education Assistant, Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind

    Stephen sees gardening as a uniquely empowering and therapeutic activity and wishes to raise awareness about the benefits of eating locally grown produce through the creation of community gardens. Read more ...


    For his Phase I Capstone Project, Getting Back to Back Creek, Stephen explores the vast forests surrounding AMI’s main campus and implements GPX mapping software. Click here to view Stephen's Capstone Presentation.

  • Follow the AMI Fellows

    What's it like to be a Fellow? Check out AMI Fellows and Alumni blog posts!

    22 mars, 2018
    6 mars, 2018
    20 février, 2018
    More Posts
  • AMI Alumni

    AMI alumni continue to make an impact in communities. Former Fellows are now nonprofit directors, environmental educators, food entrepreneurs, permaculture designers, graduate students, sustainable farmers and lifelong leaders in the local foods movement. Check out where they are now, and what great work they do:

    Paul Krysik

    AMI Fellow, 2013-14

    I stepped foot onto AMI’s Mountain Farm as a beginning farmer and local food advocate curious about what the next two years as a Fellow might bring. Read more...


    Lisa Millette

    AMI Fellow, 2012-13

    Every day I touch thousands of lives. This is possible, when one's work is with seeds. In every singular, viable seed an embryo awaits the sufficient conditions to grow into the world. Countless lives pass through my hands and the hands of my co-workers every day. Read more...


    Ben Samuelson

    AMI Fellow, 2013-14

    My AMI Senior Fellowship was with the founding team to create the AMI Urban Farm at VSDB. That was the first educational farm I helped to build, now I'm working on the third. Read more...


    Anna Tracht

    AMI Fellow, 2015-16

    Phase I of AMI was a gift. It was a time to slow down, dig in, and pursue passions and skills I hadn't had time to explore – like working with two other Fellows to create an apothecary for my Capstone project. Read more...


    Roger Woo

    AMI Fellow, 2013-14

    AMI taught me so much about the power of food in building, nourishing, and sustaining local communities. It has inspired me to build a small farm business of my own, and reinvigorated my vision of building a farm-to-table restaurant and educational hub someday. Read More...


  • BECOME A MEMBER!! JOIN AMI TODAY! Support AMI's work with your membership. Please select from the AMI Membership opportunities listed below.

  • Join our Email list!

    Stay up to date on all the AMI happenings!

  • Growing Food. Building Community.

    Allegheny Mountain Institute (AMI) is an educational non-profit organization with the mission to cultivate healthy communities through food and education.


    Please consider making your tax-deductible contribution
    to support AMI's work. AMI depends on the contributions of supporters like you.
    With our thanks
     - Sue Erhardt, Executive Director

    . . .

    Help support the next generation of regenerative farmers and food citizens
    by making your donation to AMI. We couldn't achieve our goal of helping individuals and communities create a vibrant and accessible local food economy without you!

  • Who is Allegheny Mountain Institute?


    Laurie Berman
    Founder, Board President

    Laurie moved to Highland County in 1975. There she began taking an active role in local environmental protection and intensive organic gardening. Her non-profit community involvement includes being a founding board member of the Highland County Arts Council, The Highland Center, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Valley Conservation Council,and most recently as the Founder of Allegheny Mountain School, now Allegheny Mountain Institute.

    Laurie is a strong advocate and spokesperson for maintaining and building agricultural vitality while protecting and preserving our valuable soil structure and watershed. However her deepest passion is in growing food and teaching others to appreciate the importance of eating fresh foods for optimum health and well being.

    Laurie is also an avid naturalist, beekeeper, permaculture enthusiast, hiker, music maker, and mother of three grown daughters, who all share her love of gardening, earth stewardship, and fresh cuisine.

    Sarah Collins-Simmons
    Vice President

    Sarah grew up in Nelson County in the mountains of Virginia, so she felt right at home when she moved to Highland County in 2011 to participate as one of the founding Fellows at the Allegheny Mountain School, now Allegheny Mountain Institute. Sarah loved being a part of the Highland County community so much that after finishing her Phase II placement at The Highland Center, she has continued to live here.


    Today, Sarah uses the additional skills she acquired through the Fellowship as the Orchardist and Cellar Master for Big Fish Cider, Co. based in Monterey, Virginia. In addition to being a board member for the Allegheny Mountain Institute, she serves on the Highland County Economic Development Authority, Highlanders for Responsible Development, and the Highland Tourism Council.


    Growing up, Sarah first learned to care for plants from her parents in their garden and yard. After going to the University of Virginia to study architecture and environmental science, she discovered landscape architecture and went on to get a Masters Degree in that field from the University of Georgia.


    Sarah is married to Joshua Simmons, a Highland native, and the County Building Official as well as a general contractor. Together, they enjoy spending time outside, hiking and camping with their two dogs. They also caretake a small farm while they make plans for their own farm. Sarah also enjoys making pottery, jewelry, baskets and working with wood and recently co-launched Highland Made, a locally operated pottery studio and maker space for the people of Highland to further their artistic desires.

    Thomas Hadwin



    Tom was trained in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Ecology at the University of Michigan. He went on to manage environmental work for electric and gas utilities in Michigan and New York, believing that it would be easier to influence corporations to behave responsibly from within.

    He later founded a computer, software and services company to promote the advantages of the newly introduced personal computers. He also created an organization to heal ailing businesses, eventually traveling the country to help businesses get back on their feet.

    He moved to Kaua’i and helped government leaders and the island utility to explore various sustainability issues, including local food, renewable energy, and housing and transportation issues. As a faculty member he was able to facilitate student learning at the high school and college level.


    A lifelong organic gardener, he hopes to promote the training of a new generation of farmers and local food advocates building greater physical, social and financial health in our local communities.


    Noah Goldstein


    He spent his childhood in the lush woods of Tennessee, his teenage years in the dry forests and deserts of Israel, and his adulthood in Boston, New York, and Boulder. Everywhere he goes he always finds himself in love with the natural world. He has a B.A. in Biology with a specialization in Ecology and Conservation from Boston University, and a Masters in Traditional Oriental Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College. He has spent time farming in the Berkshires and pushing the edge of cooperative urban homesteading in Brooklyn, where he worked as an environmental educator for the New York Restoration Project.

    Noah now lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he merges his understanding of ecosystem dynamics with those of the human body to promote health and optimal vitality as an Acupuncturist and Herbalist. Noah also tends to chickens, bees, and a growing garden. He is also a dedicated husband and father.

    Kayla MacLachlan​


    Kayla MacLachlan was born and raised in the rolling countryside of Upstate New York, just outside of Syracuse. In 2009, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Adolescent Education and English literature, but quickly realized her true passion for land-based learning and regenerative agriculture.


    After graduating from the State University of New York, College at Fredonia, she served with AmeriCorps NCCC before becoming an Allegheny Mountain School (now Allegheny Mountain Institute) Fellow in 2012. Falling in love with Highland County and the work of AMI, she worked as AMI's Program and Fellowship Director for several years, before pursuing work as an Adolescent Lead Teacher at the Staunton Montessori School and part-time farmer at Geezer Farm. Kayla is a graduate of the Association Montessori Internationale Orientation to Adolescent Studies and completed her coursework at the Hershey-Montessori Farm School in Huntsburg, Ohio.


    No matter where her professional journey leads her, Kayla strives to find work that bridges her joy of teaching and mentorship with her love of plants, music, food, community, and the great outdoors. She enjoys working peacefully in her gardens, playing Irish music, writing, hiking, practicing yoga, and cooking fresh, wholesome food for all to enjoy.


    Kayla is excited to join AMI's Board of Directors as a way to give back to the organization that played a vital role in crafting the compassionate, connected, and community-oriented woman she is today.

    Julianne McGuinness


    Originally from New Jersey, Julianne lived in Alaska for 25 years until she returned to the East Coast in 2015 to spend more time with family. She served as Executive Director for the Alaska Botanical Garden for 7 ½ years, and now has her own writing and consulting business, Aisling Mhor Consulting --“Dream Big” in Irish Gaelic. She co-authored the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service publication on “Growing Garlic in Alaska”.

    A lifelong avid organic gardener, micro-farmer and Master Gardener, Julianne loves to cook, farm, forage, kayak, and travel. She has a B.A. in Psychology, and completed coursework for a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. She has worked as a social worker in Manhattan, managed a community radio station in Alaska, and was a caterer and camp cook. Her campfire recipes have been featured on the Food Network.

    Julianne is a lifelong student of herbal medicine and nutritional healing and plans to have an organic garlic and medicinal herb farm when she settles down in one place again. Julianne is pleased to share her expertise in non-profit management and community development as a member of the AMI Board of Directors.

  • The AMI Team

    Staunton, Virginia

    Sue Erhardt
    Executive Director

    Sue brings over 20 years of experience in education and urban agriculture to AMI. Prior to joining AMI, Sue served as Director of Education with Casey Trees in Washington DC, and held leadership roles with The Greening of Detroit and the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council. Sue has created and implemented environmental education programs for adults and K-12 students and has extensive experience in training and directing staff and volunteers to get the most out of their time and talents.


    Julia Church
    Admin Manager / Development Coordinator

    Julia brings over 20 years of nonprofit experience to AMI, specializing in Communications and Development. Her background includes work in the areas of education, environment, maritime interests, visual arts, and museums. She served as Communications Director with the environmental nonprofit, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater in New York working to promote youth empowerment and education programs, environmental awareness campaigns, and a Green Cities agenda. Originally from Patrick County, Virginia, she comes from a long line of farmers. After a decade in the Hudson Valley, she and her husband are happy to now call the Shenandoah Valley home.


    Jessa Fowler
    Education Director

    After studying ancient agriculture in college and co-teaching fifth grade, Jessa followed her passion for building healthy communities as an AMI Fellow in 2012. In her subsequent work at the AMI partner organization, The Highland Center, Jessa worked to build local food systems in the region. Jessa earned a Master's in Education from the University of Washington, where she studied and worked in the fields of nutrition and garden education, outdoor education, non-profit management, and curriculum development.


    Maggie Wilder
    Village Manager & Lead Gardener

    Maggie was born and raised outside Berea, Kentucky where she developed a love and passion for the land and outdoors. She completed her B.S. in Geography at Western Kentucky University. Maggie graduated from the Peace Corps Masters International Program at the University of Washington in the fall of 2016 with a Masters of Forest Resources. As part of this program, she served two years as an Agriculture/Environment Peace Corps Volunteer in Adaba, Ethiopia and taught small-scale sustainable gardening, tree nursery establishment, and conducted research with a local, community-based ecotourism as part of her thesis. After the Peace Corps, Maggie worked on small, diversified farms in Homer, Alaska and on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington to add to her lifetime of home gardening experience. Maggie began managing the gardens on AMI's Mountain Farm Campus in the spring of 2017.

  • Contact Us

    Email us:
    Mail us:

    Allegheny Mountain Institute

    PO Box 542, Staunton, VA 24402

    Phone us:


    AMI's offices are located in Fishersville, VA on the Augusta Health Campus.
    AMI's mountain farm campus is located in Highland County, VA.


    (Formerly "Allegheny Mountain School," you can click here to visit our old website.)

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  • AMI's Partner Organizations

    Working together to build a healthy community

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