Tell me a little about your career path and what led you to become the President and CEO of The Greater Clark Foundation. How do these experiences inform your work in philanthropy?
I’ve held a lot of different positions in my career in local government, the nonprofit sector, the for-profit sector, and philanthropy. The common theme with all of these positions is that I started something from scratch or took something to a new place, and all were related in some way to health and community development.
The Greater Clark Foundation is a health legacy foundation – our assets came from the sale of our local hospital in 2010. I took the position in 2012 after being recruited by a headhunter. I had a background that was a bit in healthcare, a bit in hospitals, and a bit in philanthropy. It took about a year to get the foundation off the ground. Nobody in the community had been on a foundation board before, so it required teaching people what it means to be on a foundation board, which is similar to being on a nonprofit board, but not the same. That was a really interesting process and it continues to be. I consider us to be a very young foundation. Each year is new, because it’s the first time we’ve done it.
My true calling in life is helping people understand that as individuals we all have power, and we have to get in touch with our power and stop giving it away to other people. So, the idea that I could be a part of a small community in a part of the country that I feel passionately about and be building something that I believe is going to make the community more resilient over time was pretty powerful to me. The Greater Clark Foundation’s asset size is pretty small relatively speaking, but it’s pretty large on a per capita basis, and so that was enticing in terms of thinking strategically about how we could invest assets and really contribute to growing the region – not just the Greater Clark region where we fund, but the whole Appalachian region.Read more
The 8th Annual Gathering featured an exciting array of activities, panels, and open spaces over three action-packed days. Over 120 participants came together in Abingdon, VA for building relationships and trust, facilitating common understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing Central Appalachia, and fostering cross-sector collaboration to accelerate the Appalachian Transition.Read more
View a slideshow of the activities and events at our 8th Annual Gathering in Abingdon, VA.
There's a great article over at Inside Philanthropy featuring the Appalachia Funders Network called "Which Funders Care About Appalachia, and What Are They Up To?" Check it out!
Tell me a little about your career path and what led you to Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky.
I’m the first employee with the foundation. I spent most of my career working for a nonprofit that acted like a cross between a community action program and a community development corporation in Perry County, KY, a small county in the heart of the Appalachian Kentucky coalfields. We did a lot of work on issues that impacted the community: childcare, housing, and access to healthcare were the three priorities. I spent about 18 years helping lead the community in addressing those issues. We started a community health center to help people with no health insurance have primary care. We started a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) that would help people into home ownership. We were the first rural homeless shelter to receive emergency shelter grant funding on a regular basis. And we developed some of the highest quality child care in rural Kentucky.
But we found ourselves always struggling for the resources we needed to do the work that needed to be done and we never got at the cause of the issues, like our overall health and wellbeing, not just access to housing but ability to build assets as families, and to have jobs that were meaningful and paid a living wage. We spent a lot of time in the community talking about what we really want our community to look like and what has to change to get there. Somebody said “we should start a community foundation” and that way we could put together enough resources to have some permanent funds for our community to use in ways we wanted. So that’s how we started the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky. We started in Perry County and decided that if it was going to work and have meaning and move the dial on things we really cared about, we had to do it around the region and not just Perry County, so we expanded our board to include all the counties surrounding us. We evolved from the ground up from the nonprofit sector.Read more
AFN member, Philanthropy WV, has extended the registration deadline for their annual conference on October 25-27, 2016 in Huntington, WV. The deadline to register is now Wednesday, October 19th. Click here to learn about and register for the conference.
How did you come to work in community development?
I grew up in the Appalachian area of Pennsylvania, in an area that was very rural and mountainous. I went to undergrad in Pittsburgh, PA, and I became fascinated with how other types of cities work. I focused my undergraduate studies in that direction and then went to graduate school for community and regional planning in Vancouver, BC. I was exposed to the Cascadia mindset, which was more environmentally and international development planning focused. That’s where my real passion for community development took root. The biggest trajectory of my career was when I was awarded a research fellowship and lived in Vietnam for 2 years. At that time, Vietnam was the 13th poorest country in the world. My research focused on a project about slum settlement relocation and another on marketplaces and women’s role in the household economy. Looking back, it was specifically relevant to Appalachia and the importance of “place” in our lives because in a communist country like Vietnam, they can literally relocate people, but the people inevitably gravitate back to these places where they feel they want to live. I truly loved poverty alleviation work because it allowed me to see the compelling and entrepreneurial subcultures of people that exist in places like slum settlements.