Front Porch Blog

Brittney’s Appalachian Voices Internship Experience

By Brittney Baker


After being offered (and accepting!) the Outreach Assistant position I was eager to start my internship at Appalachian Voices. Finally, in mid-May I started my position. Throughout my position I have learned, worked hard, and have constantly been amazed and impressed at the talented staff and supporters of Appalachian Voices.

Appalachian Treasures Tour
The first task I was assigned was to schedule an advocacy tour throughout the state of Pennsylvania to educate citizens about mountaintop removal coal mining. This involved a lot of cold-calling to potential hosts. At first, I hated the cold calling. I would dial the number quickly before I could change my mind about making the call and my heart rate would increase with each ring. Eventually, after much coaching, I realized that I was just talking to another human being on the phone. By the end of the planning, I had built relationships with some of the tour hosts through our contact on the phone and e-mail. The passion that these supporters have to end mountaintop removal coal mining would remind me of why Appalachian Voices’ work is so important. I enjoy every opportunity I get to talk to these supporters. All of my planning was put into the hands of the amazing Austin Hall who engaged supporters on the road in Pennsylvania. My favorite part of my internship at Appalachian Voices was being able to get to know a few of the supporters well and I would have not had this opportunity if I was not forced to make a few cold calls.

Mountaintop Tuesdays DC Volunteer Nights

Each week, volunteers gather in the DC office to contact supporters by phone to encourage them to call, write, and meet with their Senators and Representatives about the Appalachia Restoration Act (S.B. 696) and Clean Water Protection Act (H.R. 1310). At first, just like setting up the Appalachian Treasures Tour, I was not thrilled to be making calls to strangers. I was surprised at how willing people were to say “yes!”. In addition to making contact with supporters during our volunteer nights, we also had some fun. Jed Grubbs led us in some sweet t-shirt making. These t-shirits are meant to be worn to be a conversation starter about MTR. Volunteer nights would not have been possible without the hard work, dedication, and travel of Jed!

Speaking at Limestone Presbyterian Church
Much of what I learned throughout the summer was applied at my speaking engagement at Limestone Presbyterian Church. My friend Sarah Marshall is an Elder at the church and connected me with the pastors Bruce and Carolyn Gillette, who are passionate about environmental justice and creation care. After the church service, Magpie played their song “Barons of King Coal” to introduce the topic of mountaintop removal coal mining. Their music is powerful and moving and if you have not had an opportunity to hear them, definitely check them out. After the music I described mountaintop removal coal mining and showed a brief DVD about the practice. Then came the “call to action”. Members of the congregation and guests in attendance wrote letters to Senator Tom Carper, Senator Ted Kaufman, and Representative Mike Castle urging them to end the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. It was awesome that people were receptive and willing to take the time to write letters.

I had many fabulous experiences this summer. I am grateful for the support of all of the staff members at Appalachian Voices, but especially the support from Kate Rooth, JW Randolph, and Lenny Kohm who taught me invaluable lessons about the campaign, the hill, and DC in general. Thank you for an awesome internship experience!

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