Reunited and it feels so good! Coalfield hosts first in-person Council Day in 12 months

Just two weeks ago, Coalfield Development hosted our first in-person Council Day event in over a year. After a year of quarantining, social distancing, and wearing masks, it felt good to see everyone gathered together at West Edge again. 

Kicking off the day with a greeting and ice-breaker, CEO Brandon Dennison prompted staff to section off into groups so that members could discuss their backgrounds and better acquaint themselves with one another in the process. Crew members introduced themselves to one another, laughing and smiling as they spoke. It was a sight we won’t ever forget or take for granted.

After a series of group exercises and discussions, the team continued chatting over an extended lunch, ensuring that everyone had ample time to catch up after a year of working together virtually. During the break, several crew members opened up about how the last year has affected their work and mental health. 

Many attendees described the relief they felt after receiving their COVID-19 vaccines, including Tim Haren, who had not previously had an opportunity to attend Council Day in-person. Though Zoom was an efficient way to host the events, he missed making one-on-one connections with his colleagues, so this Council Day was a welcome reprieve. 

“It’s just good to have my shot and be around people,” Tim said. “It’s nice to finally be able to get out and mingle and actually get other peoples’ backgrounds face-to-face when you talk to them because we couldn’t on Zoom meetings. Now we can actually get to know them.”

This Council Day was also first for Derek Scott, Fairfield WRAPS supervisor, who joined the Coalfield team in July 2020. 

“It feels good to socialize again,” Derek said with a laugh. “ It’s really been really good to see everybody — some of these people I’ve never seen in person, just on Zoom calls.”

Elice Hunley, development training coordinator, was “thrilled” to be meeting fellow crew members off-screen. Not having the distraction of covering up messy backgrounds was a huge relief, she added — one that could enable folks to engage in conversation instead of fixated on their Zoom backgrounds. 

“It’s very exciting to see everyone smiling,” Elice said. “There are advantages to Zoom when you’re in a breakout room with one another — you do get close to people in that way. So, to have met some of these people online and to now be able to shake their hands, hug them, and say, ‘I’m so glad to see you!’ has made for a really great day.” 

Amanda Whitlock, a crew member in the Mountain Mindful woodshop, has spent much of the last year finessing her woodworking skills at Coalfield Development’s headquarters at West Edge Factory in Westmoreland neighborhood of Huntington. 

“Whenever I started working here, I didn’t know what to expect, and I kind of felt like it was going to be a fun little thing to try out — I didn’t realize it was going to be something I’d fall in love with,” Amanda said. “I work in the woodshop, and I build furniture. I’ve been here about a year, and since then, I’ve taken on two projects, all on my own, so it’s been pretty fun.” 

Jackie Codling, a crew member at Refresh, Coalfield’s agricultural enterprise, wasn’t sure what to expect out of the in-person event, but reported that her experience was nothing but positive. At Refresh, Jackie works with produce and online marketing. 

“I’m really emotional today, so I feel like I’m feeling everything,” Jackie said with a laugh. “This is my first time that this has been in-person. Usually I’d be awkward and standoffish and introverted a little bit or get anxiety around people, but it’s been nothing but good.”  

Stephen Schrock, graphic designer for Mountain Mindful, felt that the event brought a sense of normalcy to the table after a year of virtual communications. 

“There’s just a special feeling you get having a conversation with your coworkers in person that just doesn’t translate well online and through the computer,” Stephen said. “So, it’s a nice reminder of why these things need to happen and how important they are for Coalfield and what we do.”

Yang Zhang, Coalfield’s staff accountant, echoed Stephen’s sentiments, noting that it felt great to meet new colleagues and spend time together. 

“I’m very happy to see them again,” Yang said. “I actually cannot wait to work together with them again.”   

Crew chief Amanda Jones with Mountain Mindful apparel said the positive shift in everyones’ interactions was noticeable. 

“The whole energy of the room has changed,” Amanda said. “It’s a lot friendlier seeing everyone face to face. We preach a lot that we are a work family, and when we’re here together and everyone’s mingling, everyone’s real personable, it does feel that way. We are truly a work family. Everyone cares on a really deep level, we care and have compassion about what we’re doing with our work and with each other as friends and coworkers. 

From all of us at Coalfield: We look forward to meeting in person again at the end of June! In the meantime, stay tuned to our social media channels to see all of the exciting and innovative efforts underway!

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