Coalfield Development ends 2021 on a high note

The final Council Day for this year was one for the books — a fitting theme for a year CEO Brandon Dennison called Coalfield Development’s “best yet.” Despite the various challenges 2021 presented, our crew unanimously agreed that this year had facilitated the most personal and professional growth as we put our skills to the test and took on new feats. 

From the launch of our newest enterprise, Mountain Mindful, to the symbolic golden hammer swing at the old Fort Gay High School where our team will soon restore and revamp the building, there’s been no shortage of meaningful experiences. 

We kicked off our final get-together with time for reflection as we went around the room, sharing our most sentimental memories and recognizing our growth and the growth of our fellow crew members.

Collectively, the Coalfield crew had many victories to celebrate: weddings, births, baptisms, the starts and completions of various projects and eco-friendly initiatives, and — last but not least — the unforgettable artisan popsicles from our Labor Day event in Wayne County. 

Reflecting with gratitude 

Casey McCann, director of Revitalize Appalachia, said he was thankful for opportunities to be more present both at work and at home. Gina Milum, enterprise support coordinator, noted the impact Coalfield had made on the Huntington community through the 10th St. underpass painting our crew did this summer. 

Wayne native and Communications Director Ashley Stinnett said he was grateful to be involved in the Fort Gay project. For him, partaking in that celebration was an “irreplaceable” experience. 

Josiah Hannah, personal development coordinator, expressed his pride in the various moments that filled him “with confidence” each time a fellow crew member met a milestone. 

Jacob Hannah, conservation coordinator, said his favorite aspect of his job is having the opportunity to work at a place “where I can make such meaningful friends and relationships.” Not only has he enjoyed working alongside his brother Josiah at Coalfield, he said he’s also cultivated brother-like bonds with other crew members (some of which participated in his wedding). 

“I had a big, ginormous family, and now it’s multiplied even more so,” Jacob said. “It’s been an incredible year amongst all these challenges. One of proudest moments was the solar training. The trainees stuck to it every day we were together.”Sam Sarcone, chief financial officer, said he enjoyed watching our team grow and see team members get closer to one another. 

“[It was] a year we didn’t meet together,” Sarcone said. “We were forced to divide and conquer, everyone overcame unique personal and professional challenges. “We’re stronger at the end of the year.”

Ryan Stoner, chief operating officer, said 2021 was a year filled with moments that had been deferred for a long time.

“Being together for days like this where we can support the community — it’s great to be back in that mode where we get to create the memories,” Stoner said. 

Derrick Scott, WRAPS site supervisor, said he was ultimately impressed by his crew’s ability to come together and stick together. Luke Huffman, property manager of West Edge Factory, said he was incredibly proud of seeing the crane set up the AC units — a project that had been in the works for nearly a decade. The solar panel installation, he added, was also an exciting new addition. 

Kelli Crabtree, senior director of employee development, said she considered working with crew and developing relationships with them was the ultimate highlight of her year. 

“It really is a pure joy to speak with each of you each time I get to,” Crabtree said. “I’m really proud of what we’ve  all been able to accomplish.”

CEO Brandon Dennison said he had a difficult time choosing a favorite memory because there were so many positives. Financials, he noted, were as good as they’ve ever been. 

“This has been the best year ever for Coalfield, and I’ve been here for all of them,” Brandon said. “Some years have been tougher years. You never get all good or all bad. We’ve had the best year.” 

His favorite experiences were when he was able to spend time with the crew on site. The most special times, he recalled, were the subtle moments: the conversations he had with crew members, and the opportunities he had to witness crews investing in and improving the communities they work in.”

“I love when I get to show up on job sites, and I’m so proud of the growth where we learn and grow together.” Dennison said. “All of you in [this] room, we set goals and milestones. We pushed to challenge each other and support one another. We had growth as individuals and together, and It’s almost unbelievable how much that adds up for central Appalachia. I genuinely love every single one of you.”

Building bonds and gingerbread houses

Prior to our brunch, we hosted a gingerbread contest, during which crew members were divided into groups of four with the objective to make each house part of a larger scene. In one hour, our teams created a variety of scenes, from ships with gingerbread captains, to  mockups of West Edge’s high tunnels and solar panel-covered roofs, to The Overlook Hotel with a maze (from The Shining). The Overlook Hotel took the metaphorical cake. 

All fun and games… literally

Following lunch, we flexed our creative muscles as we divided into small groups to play various Christmas-themed games together. After a couple rounds of each game, we rotated. Seasonal games included playdough pictionary, scattergories, charades, and taboo. 

Celebrating our WRAPS graduates!

Today, we also celebrated four WRAPS graduates: Joe Mitchell, Rick Henderson, Tom Logsdon, and Joe Johnson. After they received their certificates and a room-wide ovation, Brandon Dennison gave a message for the graduates:

“Your accomplishment — that’s what this place is all about,” Dennison said. “You’ve learned to be a productive, committed part of the Appalachian workforce, and you’re ready for professional success. You’ve made this happen for yourself — all Coalfield has done is create space and provide support.” 

Joe Mitchell gave a message of thanks to his fellow crew members for their support and accountability. 

“In the past, I was quick to jump on something and jump off, so for me to make it to this point [is exciting],” Mitchell said. “The unexpected: we fear that. I know I do. I thought I was scared, but really I was anxious. It was brand new territory. I hadn’t been to school in 20 something years, and when I walked into CCCTC, I didn’t stop smiling. I loved it.”

Rick Henderson spoke about his transformation from this time last year to today. 

“I overdosed on December 18 — it’s been one year tomorrow,” Henderson said. “I’m going back to work for FNS after the first of the year in Huntington on Rt. 60. I’m super excited about it. I haven’t had a license since 2008, and that was my big accomplishment. Thank you for helping me.”

Derrick Scott spoke about Joe Johnson’s progress thus far.

“He’s my godson, so I’ve watched him from when he was a kid to now and the man he’s become. He always has the smile, and it’s contagious. He’s a ball of potential that needed guidance. No matter what he sets his mind to, he can accomplish it.” 

Build Back Better

To close out the year, we ended on a high note: Out of more than 500 applicants, Coalfield was selected as one of 60 Phase I finalists in the national Build Back Better Regional Challenge, which resulted in an invitation for CEO Brandon Dennison to speak with the U.S. Secretary of Energy at the White House. 

“The phrase ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ keeps coming up,” Dennison said in regard to the challenge. “I’ve never seen an opportunity this big and we may not see another one like it. Everything you’re doing matters. We’re on the radar scene of [decision-makers]. It’s a testament to the work you do day in and day out.” 

The deadline for the second phase of the challenge is March 15, 2022. 

“This is awesome,” Dennison said. “And this is going to be a lot of work. But it’s going to be worth it.” 

From all of us at Coalfield Development, we thank you for your continued support, and we look forward to another year of progress, projects, and growth. Happy holidays!

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