Our Team

Caryn Wheeler Clay, Executive Director

With almost 20 years as a public health practitioner, Caryn lends her expertise in systems design and continuous quality improvement to convene partners in identifying gaps and barriers to recovery from the 2020 Almeda and South Obenchain fires. Her knack for identifying a path forward in the seemingly impossible has uniquely positioned her to work alongside community partners and fire survivors in championing successes and building bridges to improve recovery outcomes. 

Her tireless efforts have led to the creation of the nation’s first multi-jurisdictional disaster recovery plan and the alignment of strategies across multiple sectors, including local, state, and federal public and private entities. 

She prides herself in finding joy in the absurd and creating the next generation of leaders by being her most authentic and socially awkward self. She tells her mom she is a professional dot connector and table setter.

Matthew Havniear, Housing Recovery Director

Matthew Havniear, a native of Southern Oregon and a Non-Commissioned Officer of the United States Marine Corps, joins the JCC LTRG after a 15-year career in leadership with the greatest focus on housing resiliency, stabilization, program development, and end-to-end project management. Matthew’s education includes an Associate’s Degree from Rogue Community College with a focus in Social Sciences and a Bachelor’s Degree from Southern Oregon University, where he majored in Innovation and Leadership.

Prior to his housing stabilization and program development experience, Matthew held the role of the Regional Field Operations Manager, where he managed deployment operations for Natural Disasters impacting the Pacific Northwest while deploying nationally to various natural disasters.

His involvement with the Almeda Fire Recovery began at the Community Action Agency ACCESS, where he created and provided end-to-end management of the Center for Community Resilience designed to serve fire survivors with Housing Stabilization Case Management.

Hilda Escalante, Community Resilience Program Manager

Hilda is a seasoned professional with a master’s degree in social work and a rich blend of cultural experiences. 

Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, she is bilingual and embodies a bicultural perspective that informs her work. Hilda has dedicated over 20 years to serving diverse communities and has been a tireless advocate for survivors of individual and community traumas. 

She has worked with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and investigated child abuse and neglect in child welfare emergency response. She also investigated conservatorship, guardianship, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions for the Superior Court of California, while serving as a Region Representative for the California Association of Superior Court Investigators.

Before joining JCC LTRG, Hilda was an Intensive Case Management Therapist at a local community mental health agency, where she also facilitated support groups and served as a Leader for the Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color (BIPOC) Employee Resource Group. Her areas of interest include burnout, vicarious trauma, immigration issues, serving the Latinx community, and spirituality.

Ellie Holty, ReOregon + RV COAD Coordinator

Ellie comes to the LTRG with a background in management, caregiving, hospice, animation, messaging, and book publishing.

In Spring 2020, Ellie co-founded Local Innovation Works with Bret Anderson, Chair of the Economics Department of SOU, and leadership consultant Stephen Sloan. Their first project, the Local Innovation Lab internship program, was about to launch when the Almeda Fire made its mission extremely clear: connecting SOU students with impactful recovery projects.

Inspired by her work with students, Ellie is committed to bringing the voices and needs of those most impacted by the fire into strategic conversations about our recovery. To that end, she co-created and managed the Zone Captains program with Tucker Teutsch, and she compiles the Weekly Resource Wrap Up with Cass Cornwell, fire survivor and Zone Captain Coordinator. She served on the Board of the JCC LTRG for three years, working with many community partners on the Communications, Needs Assessment, and Disaster Case Management Committees, and was elected Secretary and Treasurer.

In her current role with the JCC LTRG, Ellie is committed to bringing the community’s collective learnings from our work together on fire recovery into collaborations that continue to support recovering fire survivors, and strengthen our resilience and preparedness.

Tessa Elbettar, Network Engagement & Operations Manager

Tessa is a woman of many hats who brings a rich multi-disciplinary approach to her work in community recovery and resiliency.

Born and raised in the vibrant city of Los Angeles, Tessa earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She’s worn her ‘explorer hat’ (think Indiana Jones) to 28 countries, giving her a global perspective that enriches her work.

Tessa earned her ‘thinking cap’ as the Co-Founder and Program Director at Shift Happens Volunteers, a festival and live event volunteer coordination company. She supported the company’s growth into an expanded team that executes 10 volunteer programs annually. She continues to direct the Work-Exchange Program for Envision Festival in Costa Rica – the company’s largest program with 1,200 applicants from over 50 countries. Through this work, she developed her admin abilities and a knack for solving complex operational challenges.

Tessa puts on her ‘art hat’ (likely a beret) while serving as a member of the Ashland Public Arts Advisory Committee. She is passionate about serving the Rogue Valley through cross-organization collaboration, long-term planning, and the development of our region’s physical, social, and emotional disaster resilience. 

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