Celebrating 20 years of defending the mountains, watersheds and communities of Appalachia

A toast to our “Top 20”!

We’re a people group. As a grassroots organization, Appalachian Voices is deeply connected to the folks who live in and love the Appalachian region. Our work is driven by your connection to this place, and we draw inspiration every day from people who stand up to defend the mountains, waters and communities — especially in the face of powerful corporate and political interests. In short, we couldn’t do it without you, our members.

And so, on the occasion of our 20th anniversary year, we are delighted and honored to recognize our “Top 20” longest-standing supporters. We’re indebted to you.

Kent Walton and Susan Tyree

Boones Mill, Va.

Jane and John Young

Arden, N.C.

George Kegley

Roanoke, Va.

David and Janet Craft

Greensboro, N.C.

Michael Baranski

Woodleaf, N.C.

Richard and Lucy Henighan

Seymour, Tenn.

Michael Schwartz

Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Lawrence Darby

Lynchburg, Va.

April & Jeff Crowe

Williamsburg, W.Va.

Nicholas Young

Baltimore, Md.

Jane Wentworth

Rome, Ga.

Heike Mueller

Bishop, Ga.

Brenda Sigmon

Conover, N.C.

Gregory Hunnicutt and Nancy Smith Hunnicutt

Asheville, N.C.

Axel Ringe

New Market, Tenn.

Judy and Bill Scurry

Winston Salem, N.C.

Mary Lyons

Durham, N.C.

Herbert Reid

Lexington, Ky.

Eberhard and Jean Heide

Fairview, N.C.

Robbie Cox

Pittsboro, N.C.


Profiles

Here are short profiles of some of our “Top 20” — with more to come throughout the year.

Susan Tyree and Kent Walton
Kent Walton and Susan Tyree, Franklin County, Va.

(Excerpted from our Member Spotlight series)

Kent met Appalachian Voices founder Harvard Ayers in the 1990s, and became an early subscriber to The Appalachian Voice publication as well as one of the earliest contributors to our organization. He traces his connection to the natural world to childhood and recalls his father walking the field and crumbling the soil between his hands.

For the past 28 years he’s worked as an arborist in the Roanoke Valley and Smith Mountain Lake area. He and his wife, Susan, are Quakers, and deeply engaged in ecological and social issues. They are firmly opposed to the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline and others like it — not only for the climate impacts, but for the effects they would have on the land and waterways.

“We all need to remember that if we keep the water healthy it’s for everyone, it’s for the children and the future generations,” his wife Susan says. She grew up in the mountains outside of Roanoke, Va., and became passionate about nature at a young age. As an artist, she focuses on natural themes in her pottery, and serves as an interpreter at the Blue Ridge Institute Farm Museum in Ferrum, Va., where she reenacts daily life on an 1800s farm and teaches kids about traditional homestead games.

“Nature is not something outside of us. We are nature,” Kent says. “They say, ‘think globally, act locally.’ We can certainly apply that to climate change.”

Back to top

George and Louise KegleyGeorge Kegley, Roanoke, Va.

Appalachian Voices: How did you first hear about Appalachian Voices, and what motivated you to become a contributing member?
George Kegley: I don’t remember exactly where I first heard of Appalachian Voices, but I have always been interested in any material about the mountains — books, magazines, mailings, folklore, television, National Public Radio. I have lived most of my 88 years at the foot of a mountain. I always feel at home there. There is something comfortable about those green (or blue) ridges up there.

AV: What are some of your favorite places or things to do in Appalachia?
GK: Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway or any back road is always a pleasant trip, seeing what our neighbors are doing. I grew up on a Wythe County farm so I’m always interested in the remaining farms, their livestock and crops, how the people are faring. Also, in the past I have enjoyed a good amount of hiking mountain trails with my four children but my tired old legs can’t do that any more.

AV: Why do you think it’s important to protect the region?
GK: I want to preserve the rural way of life and the wonders of nature for future generations, like our twin great-grandsons, who will be a year old in June. I volunteer with Blue Ridge Land Conservancy, promoting conservation easements to save land and I live on a 116-acre farm in the city of Roanoke, protected by a Virginia Outdoors foundation easement.

AV: What do you appreciate the most about Appalachian Voices and our work that keeps you renewing your membership year after year?
GK: I support Appalachian Voices because it is doing good work in such areas as mountaintop removal and stream protection, preserving Appalachia.

Back to top

David CraftDavid Craft, Greensboro, N.C.

AV: How did you first hear about Appalachian Voices and what motivated you to become a contributing member?
David Craft: I believe I picked up The Appalachian Voice in a local outdoor store. I appreciated the articles bringing attention to problem in the Appalachians.

AV: Why do you think it’s important to protect the region?
DC: The area is under intense development pressure from many sides. Someone needs to speak for the mountains and Appalachian Voices does just that.

AV: What are some of your favorite places or things to do in Appalachia?
DC: Hike sections of the Appalachian Trail.

AV: What do you appreciate the most about Appalachian Voices and our work that keeps you renewing your membership year after year?
DC: I am never disappointed with the issues of The Appalachian Voice I receive. This work is important and Appalachian Voices delivers.

Back to top

Larry DarbyLarry Darby, Lynchburg, Va.

AV: How did you first hear about Appalachian Voices, and what motivated you to become a contributing member?
Larry Darby: When I picked up a copy of the wonderful Appalachian Voice paper in a outdoor gear shop in Charlottesville, Va. After reading it from front to back, I decided I wanted to read each issue and the easiest way to make sure I could was to become a contributing member of Appalachian Voices. I soon realized that supporting the mission of Appalachian Voices fit perfectly with my beliefs about our environment, people’s rights to clean air, water and land, and that those rights must be pursued through our political system.

AV: What are some of your favorite places or things to do in Appalachia?
LD: I hike, bike, bird, camp and fish in Appalachia. Mostly though, I just like to spend a day or more walking and exploring the mountains and streams of this place. Nothing else refuels me or makes me as optimistic about life.

AV: Why do you think it’s important to protect the region?
LD: Once our natural environment is damaged or destroyed, most likely it won’t be resurrected in our lifetimes or maybe not ever. For many of us, that does great damage to our lives. As a result of the recent election, the profit motive is now the central driving force and standard for political decisions that affect our environment. This is an “all hands on deck” time for those of us who think differently.

AV: What do you appreciate the most about Appalachian Voices and our work that keeps you renewing your membership year after year?
LD: Appalachian Voices is the most focused activist organization I know of for environmental justice for this region. It has been that way for all of my eighteen years of membership.

Back to top

Nicholas YoungNicholas Young, Baltimore, Md.

(Excerpted from our Member Spotlight series)

A long time resident of Maryland, Nicholas Young first heard about Appalachian Voices after dropping off his kids at summer camp at Tremont, on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains. He picked up a copy of The Appalachian Voice at a shop, liked what he saw and joined our organization.

Before discovering beauty and history in the Smokies, Nicholas did not consider himself as an environmentalist. But after making those yearly trips with his children, he firmly believes in preserving the the environment, from local parks to national wilderness areas to clean water. As a Marylander, he’s also concerned about issues involving the Chesapeake Bay, including the decline in oyster populations.

Yet, it’s the Appalachian mountains that most inspire him. He is awestruck by their ancient origins — the multitude of creatures that have made their home here going back tens of thousands of years, as well as the Native Americans and early settlers who dwelled here. For him, the mountains are a sacred place, somewhere he can walk alone among the trees and experience “a feeling of being connected to nature, to God.”

Preserving the history and the beauty of the mountains, is extremely important to Nicholas, and one reason why he has been one of our most stalwart supporters.

Back to top

Brenda SigmonBrenda Sigmon, Conover, N.C.

(Excerpted from our Member Spotlight series)

Growing up on a farm in Lincoln County, N.C., Brenda Sigmon intimately knew the outdoors and understood her natural surroundings as a part of everyday life.

Brenda picked up an issue of The Appalachian Voice years ago, and soon became a member. She began actively volunteering with our Boone, N.C., staff in 2002, and served on the organization’s board from 2006 to 2012.

Brenda attributes the organization with raising health and environmental concerns in the Appalachias into the national spotlight. A decade ago, mountaintop removal “was just words,” she says, but now much of the country knows about the devastation in the region’s coal-bearing states. She is inspired by the team’s level of commitment and offers that she’s “never met more dedicated or talented people.”

A retired school teacher and lifelong avid hiker, Brenda spends much of her efforts getting children outside and on trails to combat “nature deficit disorder,” an issue she became more aware of through Richard Louv’s 2005 book, “The Last Child in the Woods.” She emphasizes that getting kids outside not only lets them appreciate their natural surroundings, it helps prevent childhood obesity and diabetes.

Brenda also continues to volunteer in a number of places — she helps the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation build trails, and is one of our longest-standing volunteer distributors for The Appalachian Voice, and continues to serve on our Advisory Council.

Back to top

Judy Scurry, Winston Salem, N.C.

(Excerpted from our Member Spotlight series)

Like so many people who become members of our organization, Judy Scurry first heard about us through The Appalachian Voice, which she picked up while on a visit to Boone many years ago. Even though we were a small group at the time, Judy appreciated our mission.

“Whatever they did in the mountains, it was going to be for the good of the mountains,” she says.

A North Carolina native, Judy’s love of nature started on fishing trips with her father, and bloomed in her youth during summers spent at Camp Yonahlossee, near Boone. A former middle school science teacher, mother of two and grandmother to six, she’s proud that she instilled in her children a love of nature.

And she’s active in protecting the natural resources and beauty of Appalachia so that it can be enjoyed by future generations. In addition to her enduring membership in Appalachian Voices, Judy volunteers for the Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University, including their Young Naturalist Summer Program.

Asked why she has been a sustaining member over the years, Judy says: “I feel like Appalachian Voices has expanded into so many different areas. And I just feel like you keep the area up-to-date on what’s going on in the mountains. Some people may not care, but I care.”

  • Full profile

Back to top

Herbert Reid and Betsy TaylorHerbert Reid, Lexington, Ky.

AV: How did you first hear about Appalachian Voices and what motivated you to become a contributing member?
Herbert Reid: One of the reasons that in 1968 I chose to come teach politics at the University of Kentucky was its proximity to Appalachia. At UK, I helped start the Appalachian Center … I developed and taught the first course in Appalachian Politics … I also had done much field research in the region and had been an active member of the first Appalachian Alliance. I believe it was in Rutherford County that my wife, Betsy Taylor, a cultural anthropologist who was researching chip mills, and I met [Appalachian Voices founder] Harvard Ayers. I believe it was through working with him in that context that we learned about Appalachian Voices.

AV: Why do you think it’s important to protect the region?
HR: Betsy and I devoted five years to writing a book answering this question. It is called Recovering the Commons: Democracy, Place, and Global Justice (U. Illinois Press, 2010). People live in places, not foxholes. Protecting our regions is also about the quality of life in places that matter to us. Among other things, we discuss how eloquently the late Larry Gibson’s defense of Kayford Mountain, W.Va., spoke to these issues.

AV: What are some of your favorite places or things to do in Appalachia?
HR: Highlander Center is a place of considerable significance in my life. Its role in struggles for democratic change in the South and Appalachia has been remarkable. Appalshop is another such place. I taught Appalachian Politics for over 30 years. The films I used by a number of filmmakers such as Anne Lewis and Herb Smith facilitated that work immeasurably. Finally, I have to say that Asheville and its surrounding forests has great appeal for me. I know few small cities that have its “public square feel.”

AV: What do you appreciate the most about Appalachian Voices and our work that keeps you renewing your membership year after year?
HR: The Appalachian Voice newspaper regularly reveals a remarkable team working constantly to engage the issues and problems [related to fighting international corporate interests]. Just the other day, I pulled the February/March 2012 issue and opened it to “Remembering Buffalo Creek” by Brian Sewell. This one article enlists Jack Spadoro to provide a real gem of political education. Betsy and I attended a conference on sustainability in Abingdon, Va., that several Appalachian Voices staff helped enliven. I could go on and on about this worthy project and that one. But maybe what Harvard Ayers was getting at in the founding years and 10 years later was that it is in the living ecology of places, not the offices of bureaucratic power, where we can hear best the “voice [of] the land and all its living things.”

Back to top

Eberhard HeideEberhard Heide, Fairview, N.C.

AV: How did you first hear about Appalachian Voices, and what motivated you to become a contributing member?
Eberhard Heide: I picked up a copy of The Appalachian Voice at Izzy’s Coffee Den years ago and as soon as I read the first page, I knew it was a newspaper that I could connect with. Having seen the horrors of environmental degradation early on growing up in the midwest, I was an early convert to the nascent environmental movement that was gaining traction in the US. Appalachian Voices was and remains a clear, honest and factual voice for presenting environmental issues that affect daily life in the region.

AV: What are some of your favorite places or things to do in Appalachia?
EH: Some of my favorite places are the Highlands of the Roan, Mt. Rogers, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and to be honest, the entire mountain region has its charm. I am an avid birder, mountain biker and hiker.

AV: Why do you think it’s important to protect the region?
EH: The unique biological communities found in this region are a national treasure and are the very foundation of life. America is huge but shrinking due to population pressures which in turn impact all wild and natural areas that offer comfortable living for humans. Habitat destruction is a major issue that needs constant vigilance and attention.

AV: What do you appreciate the most about Appalachian Voices and our work that keeps you renewing your membership year after year?
EH: I appreciate Appalachian Voices for its wide coverage of the whole southern mountain region. It makes one aware of things that need attention elsewhere as well as at home. Environmental degradation is an ongoing problem that needs awareness and a call to action and Appalachian Voices provides that clarion call as well as actual action to stop, fix or mitigate important issues.

Back to top

robbie-cox-Himalayas-2013Robbie Cox, Pittsboro, N.C.

AV: How did you first hear about Appalachian Voices and what motivated you to become a contributing member?
Robbie Cox: I had worked with Harvard Ayers in Sierra Club before he launched Appalachian Voices in 1997. After growing up in southern West Virginia, it seemed only natural to support a strong voice for the people and environmental struggles in Appalachia.

AV: Why do you think it’s important to protect the region?
RC: Appalachia is blessed by nature but cursed by an industry that’s despoiled both nature and the people of the region. Without strong advocacy, those responsible for mountaintop removal, chemical spills, fracking, pollution and more remain unchecked and unaccountable.

AV: What are some of your favorite places or things to do in Appalachia?
RC: Backpacking in Dolly Sods, biking the Greenbrier River Trail, visiting friends.

AV: What do you appreciate the most about Appalachian Voices and our work that keeps you renewing your membership year after year?
RC: Informative news, action alerts, and celebration of Appalachian people and places.

Back to top