Current Staff

Administrative Team

Emily Niehaus | Founder and Executive Director of Community Rebuilds

Emily and her husband, artist Chad Niehaus have a son, Oscar James who is lucky to grow up with Community Rebuilds and all the students that join the program each semester. He is Emily’s daily inspiration!

Rikki Epperson | Program Director of Community Rebuilds

She is a huge fan of CR and served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for nearly three years. Rikki is a crazy cat lady. 2015-present.

Doug Nichols | Lead Builder and Qualifier

Doug has been a natural builder of over 20 years, and currently serves as the lead instructor and contractor for CR. Fall 2013-present.

Claire Spalding | AmeriCorps Vista

Claire was an intern for the Spring 2016 semester and loved CR and Moab so much, she decided to stay on for an additional year through AmeriCorps. Her key duties center around intern recruitment. February 2016 – present.

Moab, UT | Fall 2017 Crew

Melissa Graciosa | Natural Building Instructor

An Oregon native, Melissa previously worked as a trail crew leader and youth educator. She has now been in the natural building scene since Spring 2015 when she participated in CR as an intern. Since then, Melissa has served as an apprentice, assistant supervisor, and now lead instructor!


Jason Pronovost |Natural Building Instructor

Jason will be an Assistant Supervisor for the Spring 2017 builds. He was a student intern for CR in the spring of 2012, served on the board of directors for three years, and recently built his own straw bale home. He considers himself a CR groupie.


Alex Burbidge | Assistant Supervisor

Alex is an artist, craftsman, and builder originally from Salt Lake City. As one of the next door neighbors for this build, it only made sense to bring Alex into the mix! He will be serving his first term with CR this Fall.


Marcus Henderson | Apprentice

Originally from Harlem, New York, Marcus participated as in intern for the Spring of 2017. CR is excited to welcome him back as an apprentice for the next build.

Guest Instructors


Frank Wetenkamp | Tadelakt Instructor

Frank has been facilitating the Tadelakt workshop for interns since the Spring of 2016. Frank currently owns his own natural building company in Longmont, CO – Living Craft.


Joel Glanzberg | Permaculture Instructor

One of the highlights of the semester, Joel has been leading the Permaculture workshop since the 2011. Joel is based out of New Mexico, where he operates his business, Pattern Mind.


Jeff Tobe | Solar Instructor

Jeff is a PV project coordinator and IREC Certified PV Instructor with Solar Energy International. Based out of Paonia, CO,  Jeff has been facilitating the solar workshop for interns since the 2010.


Ken Gardner | Solar Instructor

Ken has been working with the solar workshop since 2015, assisting in the installation of the panels themselves. Ken’s company, Gardner Energy, is based in Salt Lake City, UT.

Past Staff and Instructors


Amanda  Jane Albert (Aja) | Natural Building Instructor

Aja worked with us as an Instructor in the Spring of 2016 and will be joining CR again for the Spring 2017 builds. Welcome back Amanda Jane! She also has a lengthy history with Habitat for Humanity in North Carolina since 2002 as a construction supervisor.

Karen George | Natural Building Instructor

Karen is a natural builder for Build Like A Bird, LLC in Asheville, NC. She completed one build with CR during the Fall of 2016.

Mitch Heuer | Natural Building Instructor

Mitch hails from Montana and has been a builder since 1990. He completed one build with CR during the Fall of 2016.

Amanda Stephenson | Apprentice

Originally from Dallas, TX, Amanda has worked in a variety of industries from healthcare to now building. She first came to CR in the Fall of 2015 as an intern and completed both the Spring and Fall builds of 2016 in Moab as an apprentice.


Dusty Szymanksi | Natural Building Instructor

Dusty is the Principal at Straw and Timber Craftsmen, and has worked with CR as the straw bale subcontractor/natural building instructor in Gunnison County, CO. in both 2013 & 2016.

Jessica Manderfield | Assistant Construction Supervisor

Jess has been developing her career in natural building with CR since 2014. She was also an apprentice in Moab for the Spring and Fall 2015, and for the 2016 build in Mount Crested Butte.

Kyle Terrio | Apprentice

Kyle has a background in architecture and began as an intern during the Fall of 2014 and Spring of 2015, and transitioned to be an apprentice for the 2016 build in Mount Crested Butte, CO.


Will Munger | Apprentice

Born in raised a Utahan, Will first came to CR in the Fall of 2014 and Spring of 2015 as an intern. He then went on to complete the apprentice program for Fall 2015-Spring 2016.


Christopher Strayer | Natural Building Instructor

Chris is a natural builder and the principal at GDI Designs in Cleveland, OH. He completed four builds with CR from 2014 to 2016

Mitch McComb | Natural Building Instructor

A Denver, CO native, Mitch is a natural builder living in Bluff, UT. He was a part of three CR builds from Spring 2015-2016.


Ryan Chivers | Tadelakt Instructor

Ryan lead CR’s Tadelakt workshop from 2011-2015. His company, Artesano Plasters, works on specialty plaster projects throughout the western half of the US.

Lev Darkhovsky | Apprentice

Lev is an alumni of the Spring 2014 intern crew. He worked with CR as an apprentice for Fall 2014 and Spring 2015, and is continuing to work on natural building projects in the Moab area.


Dan McCann | Apprentice

Dan is a CR alum from the Fall 2013 build who continued on as an apprentice for the Spring 2014 semester.


Kris Wilson | Apprentice

Kris is a CR alum from the Fall 2013 build who continued on as an apprentice for the Spring 2014 semester.


Kristin O’Brien | Apprentice

Kristin is a CR alum from the Spring 2013 build who continued on as an apprentice for the Fall 2013 semester.

Eric Plourde | Natural Building Instructor

Eric is currently the principal at Ecologic Design Build. He helped get CR off the ground as a straw bale subcontractor and instructor from 2011-2014.

Gabriel Woytek | Construction Supervisor

Gabe’s first CR experience was as an intern in the Spring 2014 crew. He has gone on to be a CR board member since 2011.

Serah Mead Associate Director

Serah is was an intern with one of the early semesters in Fall 2011. She went on to become an administrative team member as Associate Director until 2014.


Jessica Retka Administrative Apprentice

Jessica was an intern for the first CR build in 2010. She then went on to serve as an administrative role in 2011.


Kate Heath | Apprentice

Kate is a CR alum from the firs build in 2010, and continued on as an apprentice for the year of 2011.


Kelly MatthewsCo-Instructor

Kelly worked as a co-instructor for three different CR homes from 2011-2012.


Doni KiffmeyerNatural Building Instructor

Doni lead the first build in 2010, helping Community Rebuilds get off the ground.

7 Responses to “MEET THE TEAM”
  1. jerry kujawa grampa says:

    Good Luck to all Grampa and Grandma Kujawa

  2. jerry says:

    Eric, you look like a triangle.

  3. James Patterson says:

    Through a facebook posting by Amelia Patterson…on a sunny day…from an island in Puget Sound.

  4. Neal VanDeRee says:

    I really like the group photo, quite a bunch!
    I am Sen’s Dad, hope to see more photos!

  5. JoJo says:

    I was honored to join my friends, Ben and Amanda, and 14 other interns for 5 days at a Community Rebuilds site this October. I was given a warm welcome by apprentice, Jess and assigned a duty of tacking on vapor barrier on all exposed wood. Later in the week I would slip coat the ceilings, install diamond mesh on all outside corners and build a window sill out of discarded bamboo from another contractor.

    The way your interns worked together seemed magical. I wish I had longer than a week to spend in that healthy vibration. As with any project, I believe leadership is the foundation of success. Contractor Chris’s leadership skills are the key to everything taking place on this site. He is knowledgable and witty. His attention to detail and careful explanation of “What if’s” will be valuable for each of the interns that goes on to build a straw bale house. Each morning during stretches he would ask everyone to share what they learned the day before and assign new duties to people who had not had the opportunity to learn specific skills. I could not have asked for a better team of individuals to lead me into my first experience building on a construction site.

    Congratulations to each and every one of your interns who gave 5 1/2 months of their lives to grow their personal skill set to include Earth-friendly building techniques. They were a joy to work with and very dedicated to the greater cause. I wish each of them happy ventures in green building.

    It was a genius idea, Ms. Emily, to take 16 people who had no experience, put hammers in their hands and say, “Yes, you CAN!” You have empowered these men and women to become the next generation of Straw Bale Housing contractors and I hope every single one of them does just that.
    You have made the world a better place, and in that I find great inspiration.

    Jo Newbold
    Pilot, American Airlines

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: