Laura and Steve Brown founded Casa Alma in 2009 and have served as resident volunteers since that time. Developing a community and houses of hospitality on an urban homestead is our way of answering the call to love others as we love ourselves. We are inspired by our formation in the Catholic faith and by the words of Dorothy Day, a co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement who said, “I wanted life and I wanted the abundant life. I wanted it for others too” (from The Long Loneliness).
Prior to founding Casa Alma, Steve (he/him) and Laura (she/her) served as Maryknoll Lay Missioners (class of ’05), and lived in Talca, Chile along with their three children: Emily, Anna and Ella. Steve is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (’95), and Laura is a graduate of Swarthmore College (’95), and the University of Connecticut School of Social Work (’97). Steve and Laura have the common hope of living in right relationships with God, among people and with the natural world.
Claire Hitchins and Julio Quispe joined Casa Alma as resident volunteers in July, 2021.
Claire Hitchins (she/her) and Julio Quispe (he/el) have both been part of the extended Casa Alma community for years, Claire having spent a summer as a residential volunteer ten years ago, and Julio having connected to Casa Alma after moving to Charlottesville in 2015. In 2018, Laura introduced Julio and Claire, and in 2022 they’re getting married!
An indigenous Andino immigrant from Peru, Julio is passionate about growing and making delicious food that honors the earth and his ancestors, while bringing people together. Claire is a second-year Master of Divinity candidate at Vanderbilt Divinity School and is called to the spiritual work of resisting systems of oppression and co-creating sacred spaces where community, creativity, and healing become possible.
Julio and Claire both love dancing, playing outside, and enjoying meals with family and friends. They are thrilled to join Casa Alma as residential volunteers and build on their experience in sustainable agriculture, community living, and justice movements. They hope to see you in the Casa Alma garden or at a friendly game of pickup soccer in Rives Park!
Heidy Coleman joined Casa Alma as a resident volunteer in November, 2021! Heidy (she/ella) and her daughter Linda are known to many in the Casa Alma extended community, as they resided here as guests from 2014-2017 and were active in many community events. Born in Guatemala, Heidy grew up surrounded by her grandparents and extended family who had immigrated from India. Their Christian faith and commitment to serving others was an example to Heidy, and she has followed in their footsteps ever since. Heidy came to the U.S. at the age of 18; she says, “Throughout my life, I have dedicated myself to meet and help needy families. I feel a responsibility to help as many families as I can because God has given me talents, and I know people need them.”
Former resident volunteers include these wonderful, talented, dedicated folks: Hunter Link, Christine Hitchins, Sarah Frazer, Craig Green and Cleo Keller. We are deeply grateful for their contributions to the Casa Alma community!