Evolution at the Appalachia Funders Network

Dear Appalachia Funders Network Members,

We write to you today with tremendous excitement. The Appalachia Funders Network is in the best place it has ever been, with more than 60 state, regional, and national members, driving transformative change across the region.  We have come to an important decision: now is the time for the Appalachia Funders Network to hire its first dedicated Executive Director and transition the daily management responsibilities to a full-time staff.

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2021 Appalachian Oral Health Summit

Oral Health is critical to overall health. Poor oral health is linked to chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, yet more than 1 in 5 people report not having visited a dentist in the past few years. In Central Appalachia, access to oral health care can be a major barrier. The Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated the challenges, leading to dental practice closures, cancellation of school-based preventive measures, and an exodus of dental hygienists from the workforce.

The Health Group of the Appalachia Funders Network hosted the virtual Appalachian Oral Health Summit on Friday, May 21, 2021. The summit had 117 people register to learn about the current state of oral health and the importance of improving the region's oral health outcomes. Thirteen speakers engaged the audience with their successes, challenges, and the important research being used to improve the field. A recording of all the sessions are posted here.

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Opportunity Southwest Virginia

Arts, culture, and craft entrepreneurs prove their value as economic drivers

In 2011, staff in the Office of Economic Development at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise (UVa-Wise) recognized a challenge. With a mission to encourage economic development in Southwest Virginia by connecting the community with the college’s resources and building professional and leadership development, there was one piece missing: A culture of entrepreneurship.

“Entrepreneurship is critically important,” says Shannon Blevins, Associate Vice Chancellor for Economic Development and Engagement at UVa-Wise. “Helping people identify their talents and passions, and helping them create their own jobs and business, they will stay with your community, they won’t leave, and when you’re thinking about retention and growth strategy, entrepreneurship is so important.”

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Clear Creek Creative

In the winter of 2014, land prospectors started showing up in Rockcastle County, Kentucky. They were scoping out land for the next big hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”,  boom in Appalachia, looking to extract mineral rights and resources before the coal industry finally took its last dying breaths. Using divide-and-conquer tactics, they were hoping to buy up land leases from families in the community, offering money as the cold winter months approached in exchange for mineral rights.

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Appalachian Puppet Pageant & What the Water Tells Me

Hip-hop, theater, and puppets help grow new relationships and economies

The Appalachian Puppet Pageant takes to the streets of East Knoxville each year in a community parade that celebrates art, culture, and the resilience of the historically Black community it’s rooted in. A 10-foot tall papier-mâché Dolly Parton puppet dances alongside papier-mâché animals to the sounds of live music while community groups and neighbors in masks and costumes march alongside each other in a spectacle of pure joy. 

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