February brings us ACEnet Director of Programs Leslie Schaller’s 30th anniversary at ACEnet! We celebrated Leslie last week with a locally sourced lunch, featuring a fun Leslie-centric slideshow and a proclamation from the Athens County Commissioners, that was well attended by various clients, partners, and friends.

Leslie has played an important part in the founding of several well-known organizations in Athens and has been an integral part of the local food economy for decades. She played a major role in creating Community Food Initiatives (CFI), writing a number of grants for CFI’s development and helping it to become a separate 501(c)3. After stepping away from CFI’s helm in 1995, Leslie then served as a board member for 15 years.

One of the eight original worker-owners of Casa Nueva, Leslie helped to develop a business plan, secure financing, and create the foundation of their current cooperative structure.

In her 30 years working with ACEnet, she has made an incredible impact for small businesses in our region. As part of the original staff of ACEnet, Leslie helped create the Food Ventures Center, ACEnet’s kitchen incubator for small food & farm businesses. Since its grand opening in 1996, the Food Ventures Center has provided licensed commercial kitchen, thermal processing, packaging, food service, and warehouse space to hundreds of small businesses.

Leslie has provided technical assistance to more than 1,000 small businesses, written over 500 successfully funded grants (and who knows how many grants total), and delivered hundreds of small business trainings & workshops throughout the years.