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.
We are so excited to read the latest news release from the White House announcing the $38.8 million in POWER grants that have been awarded. Congratulations to our partners and colleagues in Appalachia who are working so hard to achieve the Appalachian Transition--we know that these awards will play a huge role in our progress toward that goal.