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Celebrating 10 Years

Coalfield Development (Coalfield), a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization headquartered in Wayne, West Virginia, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. On Friday August 28 at 3:30, the organization will host a virtual celebration via Zoom. All are invited. Interested participants can register at: https://coalfield- development.org/10years/

Over the past 10 years, the Coalfield team has worked with gumption, grit, and grace to make its vision a reality: Appalachian places and people unlocking their full potential, power, and purpose. This has primarily been achieved by creating new social enterprises in sectors of the economy that model a more socially, environmental, and financially sustainable economy than what the coal industry has provided. A social enterprise is a business model which blends the compassion of the charitable worlds with the efficiency of the private sector. Some highlights include the organization’s partnership with Solar Holler, LLC to found the first solar installation company in southern West Virginia as well as the organization’s innovations in the sustainable agriculture field through the founding of Refresh Appalachia. Overall, Coalfield has helped start 52 new business over the past decade leading to more than 250 new full-time jobs for the region.

Founder and CEO Brandon Dennison reflects, “We’ve achieved significant and very tangible positive outcomes for the region, but what I’m proudest of is the fact we’ve done it from the ground up. We truly respect and listen to the people of Appalachia. We sincerely believe in this place and its people.”

Photos Courtesy of Stand Together

The organization has become internationally renowned for its innovative approach to on-the-job training for people facing barriers to employment; each week participants are paid for 33 hours of work, attend 6 hours of community college, and complete 3 hours of personal development so they can better care for themselves and better serve their communities. Since 2010 the organization has trained over 1,200 people and increase the income of participants and their families by an average of 150%.

Jaron Ekers, a trainee with the organization, expresses gratitude for the opportunity to learn and grow: “Coalfield has provided opportunities for employment and training that other employers don’t try or consider. Coalfield looks more at the person and not just their history when making a decision to provide an employment opportunity.”

Founding Crew Chief and current Coalfield board member Chase Thomas says, “A decade ago, we started very small: a few volunteers and friends in one county trying to come up with an approach to dealing with poverty that actually worked, that actually made a tangible improvement in people’s lives. We never could have imagined how fast it has grown and we can’t wait to see where it goes from here.”

The organization just released a new strategic plan in which it establishes bold goals for the next decade: creating 1,000 new jobs and attracting $90 million in new funding/investment to the central Appalachian region. Says board chair Larry Castle, “Our organization is willing to take risks and make big bets because we believe in the potential of Appalachia. Our region has given so much to this country and to the world. And we still have so much more to give. Coalfield Development is leading the way in helping the rest of the world understand just how special our communities really are.”

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