Becky Ceperley, Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation

What has spurred your interest and investment in Central Appalachia?

I was born and grew up in West Virginia and I feel very strongly about my state, as most people do. West Virginia is the only state completely within Central Appalachia and much of the lack of progress and transition of economy has been attributed to our culture. I like to think that I can affect the transition using the skills I’ve learned from the people who taught me how to be an activist. I also feel like I need to give back, particularly to the women: they spent a lot of time mentoring me and I want to pay some of that back.

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Kristin Tracz, blue moon fund

Can you tell us about your past work experience as a practitioner and how that experience might inform your renewed role as a funder?

In my case, having spent time in the field (in Kentucky, focused on energy policy) gives me a good sense for the scale and scope of the challenges that many of the grantees of the Network are facing. Understanding the interconnectedness of the capacity issues in Central Appalachia will help me understand, as a funder, how to build a portfolio that addresses the totality of those issues. Money alone is not the problem; we want to direct resources to help leverage support. The purpose of the Appalachia Funders Network is to help augment financial dollars to help the region and move toward capacity building. The dollars are essential, but they are not everything. 

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Sandra Mikush, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation

How did you get involved with the Appalachia Funders Network?

Several years ago, I was regularly finding myself in meetings with the same people - Wayne Fawbush, Ray Daffner and Mary Hunt-Lieving. We would have individual conversations and realize that we were funding many of the same organizations. This led us to think it would be great if we had more time to connect, learn about each other’s work and explore how we could work better together. These conversations led to the idea of convening funders in the region, which eventually became the Appalachia Funders Network. Around the same time, I was involved in a year-long leadership program at Rockwood and I wanted to give myself a challenge. I asked myself, "What can I do to be an organizer within philanthropy?", which encouraged my involvement in the Network.

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