Partner Update from Brandon Dennison, Coalfield CEO

Last year, we reached an important milestone as an organization: topping 100 new jobs created as a direct result of our interventions. Also this year, we were honored to be included in a National Geographic-Bloomberg Philanthropies documentary, From the Ashes, as well as the Starbucks UPSTANDERS series. Both of these were viewed nationally by millions. In each of the past two years, we’ve essentially doubled in size from year-end to year-end. We’re proud of our work, but we’re humble enough to know we didn’t do it alone.

Moving ahead to 2018, we’re committing to increased efficiency and effectiveness. We’ve achieved a lot, but we know we can, and must, continually improve. We’ve done a lot of deep assessment of our current team, the various strengths and weaknesses we all have, and how best to structure ourselves. With that, I’m excited to announce some new organizational developments:

Marilyn Wrenn will move from Chief Operating Officer to become the new Chief Development Officer, responsible for grant writing, grant reporting, marketing, and performance measurement. In this capacity, Marilyn will also serve as the main point-of-contact for our SEED partners, which are local Social Enterprise and Economic Diversification partners through which we replicate our 33-6-3 workforce development model.

Jina Belcher will take on a bigger role for the organization as Chief Business Officer. Jina will oversee the Strong Mountain Communities program as well as business planning and analysis for our family of social enterprises. Jina has a background in banking and worked with many of you to make the WV Good Jobs Fund a success last year. Jina will work with Marilyn to support our SEED partners and help increase their organizational sustainability.

Ryan Stoner, previously our Director of Personal Development, will become Chief Operating Officer, responsible for day-to-day activities and being the main point of contact for enterprise presidents; Ryan will supervise his yet-to-be-hired replacement as Director of Personal Development as well.

We have a new CFO, Sam Sarcone, and Cindy Manning will continue to support him as the Office Manager. Sam is a CPA and has accounting experience in his previous role as Finance Director at the Huntington Area Foodbank.

For the first time ever, I’m thrilled to announce all five of our social enterprises now have a full-time president serving as the lead entrepreneur:

Zach Drennen, previously with Strong Mountain Communities, will pursue his entrepreneurial passions as President of Rewire Appalachia, our solar installation enterprise.

Adam Warren will continue as President of Revitalize Appalachia, our sustainable construction enterprise. I want to recognize and thank Adam in particular, who has juggled both Revitalize and Rewire over the past couple years. Revitalize Appalachia has now redeveloped over 175,000 square feet of formally dilapidated building space into community assets, and Rewire (through partnership with Solar Holler, LLC) has installed over 100 KW of solar power right here in West Bye God Virginia.

Ben Gilmer will continue growing the Refresh Appalachia sustainable agriculture enterprise. Supporting Ben as the new Vice President of Refresh Appalachia will be Ariela Alpert, who recently finished her graduate studies at Harvard and assisted with the Good Jobs Conference.

Nathan Hall joined us last May as the full-time President of Reclaim Appalachia after finishing his graduate studies at Yale University. Reclaim Appalachia is currently focusing on pioneering innovative mine-land reclamation practices in connection with several Refresh Appalachia project sites.

This Fall, Dana Hantel joined us as the new president of Rediscover Appalachia, our Arts and Culture enterprise which encompasses our Saw’s Edge Woodshop, WestEdge Factory, Big Ugly Woodshop, and the Trout’s Hill Coffee Shop. Dana has extensive experience in creative fields including entrepreneurial small-business ownership.

Joining Dana as Vice President of Rediscover Appalachia will be Chris Yura. Chris is the founder of SustainU, a sustainable clothing manufacturer out of Morgantown, West Virginia. Effective January 1, 2018 Coalfield Development is acquiring SustainU and incorporating it into our Rediscover enterprise.

So much happened in 2017! And more is to come in 2018. But as varied as our many endeavors can feel they’re all bound together by a sincere desire by all of us here at Coalfield Development to rebuild the Appalachian economy from the ground up, and to do so in a fair, equitable, sustainable way. We all share the same mission, the same vision, and the same values. And it is these values that will see us through.


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