staff & board

Sam Nickels

Sam Nickels

Executive Director


Passions:  Friends; biking through the countryside west of Harrisonburg; hiking High Knob with my wife Cindy (who teaches social work at JMU) and kids Heather, Alex and Ana; advocacy to improve the situation of immigrants and persons with mental illnesses; cultural diversity activities like the Court Square Theater Latino Film Fest; reading SciFi; cooking for others; making new things, whether it’s a table in my kitchen or a Friendly City Food Coop (where I served on the founding team). Heather does community organizing with Renew Rocktown to create greater local climate resilience and she work with The Natural Garden; Alex is currently roaming Mexico and Central America and generally is involved in solidarity work with indigenous groups from Mexico to Canada; Ana is studying social work at EMU.

Story: I grew up mostly in Tallahassee Florida and studied music composition, horn, and piano at Florida State University. Later I spent 10 years in Washington DC working in hunger advocacy, shelters, and low-income service organizations. Before coming to Harrisonburg in 2001, my family spent 5 years in El Salvador with the Mennonite Central Committee. In Harrisonburg, I’ve worked in the school system, mental health services, and NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center. My brother’s journey with schizophrenia greatly impacted my life. I brought together that interest with my international experience to help create family education and support programs in El Salvador since 2002. That volunteer work merged with my growing interest in research to push me to obtain my PhD in Nonprofit and Community Leadership from JMU’s School for Strategic Leadership Studies in 2016.

Our Community Place is an exciting opportunity for me to lead an organization dedicated to helping those in great need in our community, to work with a fantastic team of staff and board and volunteers, and to help move the organization to the next step in its important development. I want to thank all those who have come before and built OCP into what it is today.


Corey Chandler

Corey Chandler

Administrative Director


Things I love: My family is my strength and my friends are my power; I love the beach; laughter; my cat; my furry niece and nephew; hot tea; sleep; and a good meal with good people. 

My Story: Born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley, I graduated from Mary Baldwin University (2019) with a bachelor’s in sociology and a minor in political science. I am a master’s student in restorative justice at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University. I am passionate about equity, justice and lifting up marginalized voices. My work in the community centers around dismantling oppressive social, economic and political structures. I am an active member of the Harrisonburg chapter of Virginia Organizing. When I have any spare time between work and school, I enjoy reading, hot tea, family, friends, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, car rides, and good food (which I get at OCP). I live in downtown Harrisonburg with my very smart, very spoiled, cat Max. I am so grateful and thrilled to be part of Our Community Place. 

Symone Bolden

Symone Bolden

Community Care Staff


My Passions: Playing group games, watching documentaries, taking off-trail hikes with friends, loving on those in my small community, journaling and writing poetry.

My story: I was born and raised in Caroline County, Virginia — hometown to Richard and Mildred Loving, the small couple who’s undying commitment to each other changed America’s laws on marriage forever. Coming to Harrisonburg, via emergency shelters, I had wandered through OCP’s open doors and was invited into community life. By the empowering, humanizing efforts of New Community Project, Our Community Place, and Blue Ridge Community College, I completed my associate degree with a health science focus. Accepted into Mary Baldwin University, I studied health science with a focus in public health. A service project led me back to OCP’s doors, where I began to learn the underlying causes of housing insecurity. During this time, I assisted an Amplifying Voices project which brought to surface the voices of affected persons. As the community care staff, I pray I will cultivate empathy and compassion in deeply meaningful ways. I am pleased to serve my Brothers and Sisters in this capacity.

Timothy Jopling

Timothy Jopling

Kitchen Coordinator


Things I Love: Food, Food, and more Food, gardening, 4H, board games, teaching others how to cook

Story: Native to West Virginia, I grew up in a small town with my parents and sibling. Son to an Extension Agent and Land Surveyor, a lot of my time was spent in the woods, on the farm, and being very active in 4H at both local and state levels. At fifteen I got my first job in a restaurant and had an amazing mentor that started me on the path of becoming a culinarian.
I moved to Harrisonburg in 2005 and graduated with a degree in Media Arts & Design at James Madison University. There I was active in the Fencing Club, acting as club’s armorer, as well as WXJM, where a friend and I hosted a weekly talk show.
After college I found myself back in the restaurant industry providing food for JMU Students via Aramark and later assisting with the opening of a new downtown restaurant – Ruby’s Arcade.
I am very excited and blessed to be welcomed into the OCP team and look forward to servicing the community in new and engaging ways.
Tim Cummings

Tim Cummings

Housing Specialist


Tim Cummings is a native of Richmond who moved to Harrisonburg in 1979 to attend JMU. Tim began his own import business in 1988, specializing in handcrafts from Latin America. He has been a self-employed sole proprietor ever since, but came to work at OCP in the spring of 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced his business into dormancy. Tim began as a volunteer, but was hired to focus on assisting our homeless community members in finding permanent housing. His 20 years’ experience as a landlord has been useful in helping negotiate with landlords in the local housing market. Tim is married to Tricia, a registered nurse who now teaches nursing and medical topics at Harrisonburg High School. They have 3 adult daughters and 2 precious grandchildren. Tim enjoys skiing, biking, and carving amazing pumpkins for Halloween.

Kevin "Spyder" Waters

Kevin "Spyder" Waters



Things I love: Creating desserts and food stuffs, music, exploring new areas of interest, and I like people

My Story: I was born and raised in Southern California. I was adopted at birth. The adoptions weren’t open. I would like to find out who my real family is. My adoptive parents are deceased. My friends are my extended family.

I’ve worked in industry and construction a lot. Although I’ve done a few stints in food service, this is the first time I’ve worked in food service where we’re actually creating food! I like providing food for the community.

OCP has helped me a lot. I appreciate the opportunities they’ve offered me to better myself. I know where I came from – I put myself there – but I feel that I’m back to where I need to be.

Pedro Hernandez Portalé

Pedro Hernandez Portalé

Custodian & Building Maintenance


Things I Love: Everything. My job here at OCP—I’ve worked here for a long time. I like the people, too.

Story: Pedro was born in Cuba and has been in the U.S. for 40+ years. He worked chicken plants across Virginia for twenty years before coming to Our Community Place. Working in the organization since its beginnings, Pedro continues to remind our community that we are a family.

Board of Directors

Larry Jones, Chair

Lisa Schick, Vice Chair

Keri Hutcheson, Treasurer

Tony Brown, Secretary

 Lawrence Miller, Emeritus Chair

Randi Hagi

Gene Bowlen

Amy Knorr

Jacob Lester

Monica Robinson

Margot Heffernan