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.
Virginia Osterman and Joel Gonzalez joined Casa Alma as resident volunteers in September, 2022.
Virginia (she/ella) and Joel (he/el) are dedicated earth stewards who strive to cultivate self-sufficiency by means that honor both land & people. They look forward to working with others in the Casa Alma gardens, enriching the community with their creativity and sharing their gregarious daughter with those who stop by!
Virginia’s calling is rooted in being close to creation, sharing self-empowerment via horticulture sovereignty and holding space for both person and earth to heal. Virginia received her B.A. in Psychology, Religion and Art at the University of Redlands, CA (2013) and has served as an Agriculture extension agent for the U.S. Peace Corps in both Ethiopia (2015-2017) and Panama (2017-2018). She works part-time as a Migrant educator/support specialist for Albemarle County Public Schools in the Migrant Education and Families-in-Crisis support programs.
Joel comes from an agrarian village in rural Panama and learned from a very young age how to raise livestock and grow sustenance grains; truly a person-of-place. Joel studied Architecture at the University of Panama (cd Azuero) and has a gifted touch with both animals & plants. Currently, he works as a subcontractor with the intention of gaining skills needed in order to construct their future home one day. Joel finds joy in building community around playing soccer, spending time with family & fixing all things in need of repair.
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, Claire Hitchins and Julio Quispe. We are deeply grateful for their contributions to the Casa Alma community!