Meet Our AmeriCorps VISTA, Lara Koebke!

Hello everyone! My name is Lara Koebke and I am pleased to be one of the newest additions to the Chinook Horses team! 

I am an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) with the Billings Metro VISTA Project (B-MVP) and will be serving with Chinook Horses for a year. I moved here to Billings from Virginia this January after graduating from George Mason University in December 2022 with a BFA degree in creative writing! Writing is my passion, and I think my skills will definitely be put to good use by Chinook Horses while I’m here! So far, I’ve written numerous grant applications, newsletters, and social media posts for the organization.

That’s not all I do, however. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, I will gain experience in capacity building for nonprofit organizations like Chinook Horses. “Capacity building,” according to the United Nations, “is defined as the process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast changing world.” The ultimate goal of the B-MVP is to alleviate poverty in the Billings area. My work with Chinook Horses will support the B-MVP’s initiative to alleviate poverty by increasing equitable access to mental health care for the residents of Yellowstone County and surrounding areas!

So far, not only have I done a lot of writing, but I have also organized the promotion of marketing and outreach materials so that Chinook Horses can get the word out to the community about the good work we do! I am very happy to be able to wear a lot of hats in this role, so to speak, because not only am I developing important professional skills for my career, I am also making a difference in the Billings community!

I am very excited about the work I am doing, and I am looking forward to everything Chinook Horses has to offer now and in the future. My favorite activity working for Chinook Horses so far has been our Kentucky Derby Family Fun Day last Saturday, because I played a big role in its planning and promotion and was so happy to see it pulled off successfully!

In my free time, I enjoy reading, writing fiction and poetry, and being outdoors. As the weather gets warmer, one thing I would like to do while I am in Montana is go backpacking either in Glacier National Park or somewhere west of Billings where the mountains are more plentiful. My favorite experience in Montana so far has been snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park with my mom when she came to visit me in March!

I’ll leave you all with one more fun fact about myself: my work with Chinook Horses is not the first time I have volunteered with an equine therapy practice! In my senior year of high school, I volunteered at Cloverleaf Equine Center in Clifton, Virginia, though at the time they had more of a focus on physical therapy for people with disabilities rather than mental health care.

Overall, I am very proud to be a part of Chinook Horses’ effort to bring quality and affordable mental health care to the people of Yellowstone County. Advancing mental health care access is another one of my passions, and from what I’ve seen so far, I believe that Chinook Horses is doing great work in the community in this regard! It’s great to be working alongside such an amazingly supportive team as we all work together to end the cycle of trauma, abuse, addiction, and poverty in Montana!

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