Unique Places To Save Announces Additions of Harper, Vad to Leadership Team

January 30, 2018 (CHAPEL HILL, NC) Unique Places To Save, an entrepreneurial nonprofit focused on investing in and enhancing the places that make our communities unique, announces the additions of Executive Director David Harper and Assistant Director Christina Vad to the organization’s leadership team.

The North Carolina-based non-profit recently gained national and regional recognition for a breakthrough collaborative project resulting in a major conservation win for western NC’s Box Creek Wilderness, and local recognition for its ongoing roles in designing a community park with the town of Mebane, and crowdsourcing funds from the community to relocate and restore the historic Hollow Rock Store between Durham and Chapel Hill.

David Harper, Unique Places To Save’s first executive director, comes to the organization with more than two decades of experience in all aspects of land conservation and farmland preservation in rural and urbanizing regions in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. During his 25-year career, Harper has forged partnerships with landowners and land trusts, raising over $6 million to preserve more than 6,000 acres of farm and forest land. His interdisciplinary work at Unique Places To Save and as a conservation professional focuses on integrating land conservation with developing resilient economies, local food systems, and addressing land access needs for beginning farmers.

Mr. Harper previously served as the first chair of Unique Places To Save’s board of directors. A former Executive Director of the Pee Dee Land Trust in South Carolina, Harper currently serves as co-chair of the Rural Resource Coalition of South Carolina, which works to strengthen rural communities by promoting sustainable economic development.

David Harper holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and city and regional planning from the University of California at Berkeley and a master of regional planning degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also designed and taught a graduate course on land conservation.

Christina Vad arrives at Unique Places To Save as the organization’s first assistant director. Over a two-decade career, Ms. Vad has overseen project management, business operations, administration, event coordination, and hospitality efforts for companies in a variety of industries. Vad brings a lifelong passion for the environmental sustainability to her work developing and managing projects specific to our mission of creating and preserving places that make a difference for society and the environment.
In keeping with the organization’s entrepreneurial spirit, Ms. Vad assists efforts for grant-writing and fundraising in support of collaborative projects with land trusts, landowners, and for-profit entities, including Unique Places To Save’s crowdfunding efforts via Network for Good. In addition, she leads the marketing of Unique Places To Save, managing the organization’s public relations and social media presence.

Christina Vad holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from New York’s Buffalo State College. She has completed master’s-level coursework in elementary education and anthropology.

According Unique Places to Save’s current board chair, Erik Lensch, the hiring of Harper and Vad represent an important milestone in the history of the organization. “While Unique Places To Save has had a huge impact in the lives of people and the places where they live and work, we are a young organization with our best years in front of us,” said Lensch, founder of Leyline Renewable Energy in Durham, NC. “David Harper is one of the top leaders nationwide in the areas of sustainable economic development, farming, and land conservation, and we are grateful he chose to write the next chapter of his career leading Unique Places To Save. In her short time with us, Christina Vad has been remarkable in her versatility and passion, impacting the organization in its fundraising, marketing, and operations. We look forward to many great years with David and Christina pushing this innovative non-profit in new directions that continue to bring value to the communities we serve.”

For Harper, joining the team at Unique Places To Save was a natural progression, based on a history of collaboration with the organization’s founder Jeff Fisher, Lensch and other team members. “What drew me to this organization is its smart, lean approach to turning one-of-a-kind properties into community assets, combining best practices in nonprofit management with innovation from our highly entrepreneurial board of directors and network of partners,” said Harper. “If you look at our key partnership roles, such as with East West Organics and the Honeysuckle Tea House and Farm near Chapel Hill, you see the footprint of Unique Places To Save. In the context of community-based agritourism and value-added production, we are advancing ecological agriculture, healthy local foods, outdoor recreational opportunities, and perhaps our most important mission, educating the next generation about how much these things matter to the quality of life for all of us.”

In her new role at Unique Places to Save, Vad sees the potential to bring a diverse skill set to bear for work that drives her passion. “I’ve worked with a lot of great people, from corporate positions to running a family business, and I see Unique Places To Save as a game-changing organization where I can make a mark for the environment and build community,” said Vad. “There are few missions in life that equal what we aim to do at Unique Places To Save, and I’m proud to be part of this great team.”

2018 is shaping up to be another landmark year for the organization, as Unique Places To Save continues to work on projects that promote creative conservation and placemaking, including a growing network of conservation easements it holds protecting stream and wetland mitigation sites to improve watersheds across North Carolina.

In addition, the organization is working with private sector partners at the Keith Arboretum in Orange County, NC to optimize its incredibly diverse collection of trees from around the world arboretum by developing 3D and virtual reality technology for a once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunity for North Carolina’s children, adults, and seniors alike, the Digital Tree Experience.

For more information on Unique Places to Save and its entrepreneurial work to create and preserve the places that make communities more sustainable and livable, visit www.uniqueplacestosave.org.