ABF 2.0 brings together diverse group to sample, dream for the region

Posted by: By KFTC Staff on September 15, 2014

“I love seeing people get excited about our future,” said Kenny Colinger to a group of folks gathered to inspire, learn, celebrate and connect at Appalachia’s Bright Future 2.0 in Harlan and Letcher counties.

The event September 12-14 was a continuation of the conversation in April 2013 at Appalachia’s Bright Future, a conference that brought 200 people to Harlan County to begin developing a shared vision for the next economy in Appalachia.

ABF 2.0 was less a conference and more a tour of good things happening to build a strong local economy in the mountains. In addition to a few structured conversations, participants were encouraged to choose their own adventure by taking a tour across Pine Mountain from Harlan County to Letcher County, stopping at local businesses, co-ops and attractions to chat with proprietors and see what’s happening.

Colinger’s comment came during a time of reflection on Saturday afternoon. But the weekend began with a celebration Friday evening as the Appalachian Community Fund honored KFTC members Bennie Massey and Stanley Sturgill as Eastern Kentucky Appalachian Heroes for their work to build a brighter future in their community. About 80 folks came together at the Eastern Kentucky Social Club in Lynch to celebrate Massey and Sturgill with words, music and a meal. See related post here.

On Saturday morning at the restored Betty Howard Coal Miners’ Memorial Theater in Benham, a panel of eastern Kentuckians talked about their hopes for the region and shared examples of good work already happening.

Moderator Carl Shoupe of Benham described the Benham Energy Project, an effort among several allies including KFTC, the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop a community-wide energy efficiency program that would save energy and money, create jobs and put more money back into the community.

KFTC member Chris Woolery, a MACED staff member who has helped develop the project, echoed Shoupe’s optimism. One home in Benham has already been retrofitted for efficiency, and owner Lacey Griffey enjoyed 56% savings on her energy bill last winter, even during the polar vortex.

“If you do energy efficiency well, it pays for itself,” Woolery said. “If we an invest in 100 homes here in Benham, that’s not just energy efficiency – that’s economic development.”

“I’m an eternal optimist,” Shoupe said. “We can do it.”

Letcher County artist Carrie Wells Carter said eastern Kentucky also offers opportunity for artists and musicians. “There are a ton of these old master musicians that people learn from,” she said. “We have all these creative people that live in the area.”

Carter said there’s potential to market the whole region as an arts and culture destination if the communities work together. “Creating a network of these small towns in the area is a very good idea.”

Andrea Massey of Benham, who helps college students get work experience with potential employers through the Ready to Work program at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College, said community buy-in is essential for building a stronger economy. “We’ve got to look at the vision for our younger people to keep them here.”

Brandon Pennington, executive director of Harlan Tourism, shared his story of growing up in Harlan County, earning a business degree at Transylvania University and assuming he would go to a big city like New York or Chicago – only to be pulled back home by the “whisper” of the mountains. Pennington said he was fortunate to be hired by the city of Harlan and to live and work in his home county.

“I just really hope that one day we can have that opportunity for everyone,” Pennington said.

Panelist Tom Sexton of Whitesburg also thought he wanted to live outside the mountains. He spent time in Las Vegas and Arkansas before coming back home, where he serves on the Whitesburg City Council, manages Summit City Lounge, and is working with others to transform an old hotel in Whitesburg, among other projects.

The crowd for ABF was a colorful mix of people who had grown up in the region and others who had grown up in communities very different – in Michigan, New Jersey and even India. Over 100 people participanted throughout the weekend, many from Harlan and Letcher Counties and across the Commonwealth, and others from neighboring Appalachian regions of Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. 

After the morning panel, they took off on their own to visit various stops in Harlan and Letcher counties. Then the group reconvened at Appalshop in Whitesburg on Saturday afternoon to reflect and share impressions, led by a panel of youth from the Higher Ground theater program in Harlan County and the Appalachian Media Institute in Letcher County. Colinger of Harlan County was among the panel.

Tayna Fogle, a KFTC member from Lexington, visited the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum and learned about the lives of miners. “I had no idea what coal miners did,” she said. “I put coal miners right up there with our military men.”

KFTC member Joy Arnold of Midway visited Creech Orchard and learned about the Creech family, who patented a strand of the Gala apple. She said she’d like to visit eastern Kentucky again. “I want to bring my state representative,” Arnold said. “I don’t think I want him to come with a group of legislators.”

Mary Love of La Grange visited fellow KFTC member Elmer Lloyd at his farm, where he has a fish pond, berry patch, greenhouse, outdoor canning kitchen and more. “It’s amazing to me what he has built there,” said Love. (See photo below.)

Member Eagle Brosi of Letcher County commented on the courage of eastern Kentucky youth in taking risks on small business ventures and pursuing their art. “They’re actually willing to put it on the line.”

Participants rounded out their Saturday with a meal at the historic home of Mike and Marcia Caudill in Carcassonne, followed by the Carcassonne Square Dance and a packed Open Mic performance at Summit City Lounge, where local members registered voters. Folks headed home after hikes and more visiting on Sunday.

See media coverage of the weekend here:

"Appalachia's Bright Future 2.0": A call for change

Appalachia's Bright Future 2.0 kicks off

Showing Off Appalachia's Bright Future

'Appalachia's Bright Future' event planned


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Massey, Sturgill honored as Appalachian Heroes

Posted by: KFTC staff on September 15, 2014

Two long-time KFTC members have been honored by the Appalachian Community Fund as Eastern Kentucky Appalachian Heroes.

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State’s new general permits for coal mining mean five more years of polluted streams

Posted by: KFTC staff on September 5, 2014

The Beshear administration this week issued two new general permits for coal facilities that fail to fully address the ongoing and substantial harm to humans and aquatic life from polluted mine wa

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Annual membership meeting focuses on grassroots leadership

Posted by: By KFTC Staff on August 25, 2014

One of KFTC’s goals of organizing is to have fun, and members proved they know how to do that at KFTC’s 2014 annual membership meeting, even as they took a serious look at Kentucky issues and the role of grassroots leadership.

About 200 KFTC members came together August 22-24 at General Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton around the theme “From the Grassroots to the Mountaintop: Empowering Grassroots Leaders.” Woven with many conversations both structured and informal about Kentucky issues were discussions about grassroots leadership – what it looks like, who’s a leader, how leaders become leaders and how grassroots leadership development can change the world.

In between serious conversations, members found time to hug old friends and meet new ones, honor each other for work well done at Saturday’s awards banquet, share their talents at a cultural sharing showcase, and show off their moves at a dance party. The crowd for the annual meeting was one of the youngest and most diverse in KFTC’s history, with many first-time attendees.

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Poet Bianca Spriggs opens KFTC annual meeting

Posted by: By KFTC Staff on August 23, 2014

Affrilachian poet Bianca Spriggs opened KFTC’s annual meeting by sharing her work and talking with participants about the meaning of collaboration.

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Wilderness Trace hosts a great Barn Bash, gears up for fall

Posted by: KFTC staff on August 21, 2014

With another summer comes another Wilderness Trace Barn Bash, and this year's was a hoot! On Saturday, July 12, the Wilderness Trace KFTC chapter hosted its second annual Barn Bash at Woodwind Farm in Junction City, where the music, weather, food, and company all made for a great combination to celebrate KFTC's work over the past year and to invite others to join in the fun of working for social change. 

Barn Bash 2014

People who came hungry were delighted to find a great assortment of dishes. Local food was front-and-center as all the meat at this year's event came from nearby Springfield producers, Rising Sons Beef and River Run Farm & Pottery. Providing quality local food at a low price to Barn Bash guests was made possible in large part to event sponsor, Stuart Powell. Members felt that showcasing local food fit in well with the chapter's values and hope to continue grilling local meat at future events.

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Transition Stories: Eastern Kentucky Social Club binds Lynch community

Posted by: KFTC Staff on August 14, 2014

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Jefferson County members talk tax reform with mayor

Posted by: Linda Stettenbenz on August 7, 2014

A small group of Jefferson County chapter members met with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer last month to find common ground about the need for revenue.

The meeting came about as a result of an encounter in March between KFTC members and the mayor in Frankfort. Members were in Frankfort for our Economic Justice Lobby Day to lift up the need for fair and adequate statewide tax reform; Mayor Fischer was seeking support for his local option sales tax initiative. KFTC decided to oppose the local option sales tax mostly because it takes more from the budgets of low-income people than from higher-income people.  There has also been concern that revenue from it would not be sustainable or flexible enough to meet community needs. 

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Louisville Metro Council unanimously passes resolution supporting Voting Rights Restoration in Kentucky

Posted by: Bonifacio Aleman on August 7, 2014

We Did It!!!

Louisville Metro Council once again made history last month by passing the Resolution supporting the Restoration of Voting Rights to Former Felons in Kentucky with a unanimous vote of 19-0!

Going into the July 24 Metro Council hearing, the Resolution had 11 bi-partisan co-sponsors. Once the Resolution was brought to the floor for discussion, five more Metro Council members (bi-partisan, again!) signed on as co-sponsors.  With no opposition on Metro Council, or from the chambers, the Resolution passed, with several Metro Council members going on record about why voting rights matter, and why this resolution is so important.

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Great food served up by Rowan members at music fest

Posted by: Annie Adams on August 2, 2014

The Rowan County Chapter held its annual fundraiser at the Old Time Music Festival, which took place at Jaycee Farm in Morehead on July 25 and 26. This was the fifth year the chapter worked the festival, and the fourth it served as the sole food vendor.

Rowan 2014 fundraiserThe chapter set up two food stations, a KFTC informational table with KFTC merchandise, and a spacious eating pavilion.

Ted Withrow oversaw the primary food station, which offered vegetarian and non-vegetarian soup beans and corn bread, hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches (with slaw), fried taters and fresh corn.

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Kentucky lawmaker praises EPA Clean Power Plan

Posted by: Lisa Abbott on July 31, 2014

Over the next few weeks we will share some of the powerful public statements made by Kentuckians to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the agency's proposed Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. Below is testimony given at a hearing yesterday in Atlanta, Georgia by Joni Jenkins, who represents Kentucky's 44th House District in the state legislature.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.  My name is Joni Jenkins and I represent Kentucky House District 44 in the Kentucky General Assembly.  The 44th district is South of the Louisville, right on the banks of the Ohio River.

It is home to hard working, mostly blue collar, workers who strive everyday to raise their children for a brighter future. The 44th District is also home to 2 coal fired power plants with 2 coal ash landfills and coal ash ponds.  

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