Women2Women - Spring 2018 - 10

Women2Know

Living In (and Loving!)
the Greater Reading Area

By Dani Motze, Entech Engineering

Lisa Weaver

Tasha Santiago
From working to develop new community
health initiatives to helping preserve some of
Reading's historic legacy, Lisa Weaver is bridging
Reading's rich past with its promising future.
Growing up, she had plans to live and work
internationally but, somewhere along the way,
she got hooked on the people and places of
Greater Reading.

Tasha Santiago was raised right outside of LA.
Now, she lives in Reading's south side and
loves volunteering, working and relaxing here.
"People... think I am crazy for moving. But...
Reading is a beautiful place with beautiful,
unique and creative people. I see how much
positive change can come and will come. I
want to be part of that."

After college, Lisa found out about an opportunity to serve with
AmeriCorps as a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) at the
Pennsylvania State University Berks Campus' initiative Be Bold Take
Charge. She worked to increase health and nutrition, as well as social
entrepreneurship across the City by supporting other community
efforts (like the Penn Street Market), by facilitating community
partnerships, and by managing student research projects.

Tasha was deeply influenced by her time at Reading Area Community
College, where she worked with staff member Danelle Bower to write
a grant that secured funding for a student-produced musical theatre
production exploring Latin American history. "I love Reading Area
Community College. They have so many resources and resourceful
people. I love to always learn and grow, so it makes sense that I like
to be on campus so much," she said.

AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program in which members
commit to serving poverty-reducing community initiatives full-time
for one year, receiving a meager stipend. To supplement this stipend,
Lisa also worked at both the Country Lane Organic Produce &
Poultry and Half Dozen Café at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market.

Tasha later served as an AmeriCorps VISTA, during which time
she learned about and worked on various community projects and
collaborations, including the Regional Reading Food Policy and
Action Council.

After completing her service term, Lisa accepted a newly-created position
that had evolved from her VISTA role, created jointly between Penn State
Berks and Penn State Health St. Joseph. Lisa assists with community
health initiatives and continues to promote social entrepreneurship.
"We're currently developing a fruit and vegetable prescription pilot
program at the hospital's Downtown Campus that will allow clinical
staff to prescribe vouchers to patients with diabetes and obesity to
redeem for fruits and vegetables," she said.
Lisa also volunteers with Reading City Church's 'Heritage Project,'
which seeks to preserve and promote the historical integrity, and legacy,
of historic church buildings within the Reading City Church network.
In her spare time, she likes to read (she recommends The Power of
Habit by Charles Duhigg!), cook, play soccer, work on her Spanish
and, with any time left over, relax with friends and family. Her favorite
spots in Reading include The Schuylkill River Trail throughout the
Gring's Mill area and the restaurants Olocuilta and Mi Casa Su Casa.
Reflecting on her past few years of working, living in and enjoying
Reading inspires Lisa to dream about the city's future. "[I hope for]
Reading to have a changed narrative - one that shifts from negativity
to celebrating the rich cultural history and diversity here - from
stigma to showcasing the incredible beauty and talent here."
10 Women2Women Spring 2018

Tasha also volunteers with the Reading Pride Celebration non-profit
organization, the group that hosts Reading Pride Celebration each
summer, as well as other fundraising and networking events. And,
she continues to offer a helping hand to the LGBT Center of Greater
Reading, which she helped to develop and distributed a survey to
better assess the needs of the community.
"There is a misconception that there is nothing to do here, but so
many organizations have so much to offer," she said.
Tasha finds joy in the little moments, like lunch with a friend or a
moment of quiet, all around Reading. The park near Willow Street
is among her favorite; "The park behind [that location] holds my
fondest memories. It's a beautiful walk by the river and a quiet and
quaint neighborhood next to Cristina's Restaurant where my friend
Scarly and I used to go almost every pay day for lunch on a Friday."
Tasha isn't sure what the future holds for her, but does know that
she will continue to help out her community in whatever way she
can and will keep dreaming big for Reading's future. "I hope for a
less fearful outside community, a spike in local business, more peace
and togetherness and for the community members to feel safe and
accepted as the unique and diverse people that they are."



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