Front Porch Blog

Welcome to new staff and 2015-16 AmeriCorps members

Grab some iced tea with lemon and sit on the porch a spell, there are some fresh faces around the organization this fall that we would like to introduce you to!

Willie Dodson

Willie Dodson

While new to our Central Appalachian Team, Willie Dodson is no stranger to the environmental struggles of central and southern Appalachia. Currently a resident of Wise County, Va., Willie grew up in the Piedmont and mountains of Virginia, and graduated from Kentucky’s Berea College with a degree in Appalachian Studies. He has organized for environmental and social justice in the region with groups such as the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards the Southern Energy Network and the Mission and Service Board of Union Church in Berea.

“I have watched Appalachian Voices grow so much over the past decade,” Dodson says. “This organization has not only broadened its scope of work, but also grown deeper roots in the region. I have long felt a great affinity with AppVoices and I couldn’t be more happy to join the team as a staff member.”

Willie serves as one of our Central Appalachian Field Coordinators, helping to expand our Appalachian Water Watch and End Mountaintop Removal programs to the folks that need it most. He enjoys making old-time and “not-so-old-time” music, foraging in the forests for wild foods and medicines, and listening to tales from elders.

Project Conserve Members

We also welcome two AmeriCorps Project Conserve members for the eleven-month 2015-16 service term that runs through July 2016. AmeriCorps Project Conserve is a national service program founded in 2004 by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy to focus on growing conservation needs in western North Carolina. Appalachian Voices has been a host organization with Project Conserve for over ten years now.

lee_payne_500Elizabeth “Lee” Payne joins as our AmeriCorps Communications Associate, and will serve as The Appalachian Voice Associate Editor and run our 2016 webinar series. A native of Boone, N.C., Lee earned degrees in archeology and ancient history before pursuing a Ph.D. with a specialty in Assyriology, the study of the languages and cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. After graduation, she worked for six years as the conservator for the Yale Babylonian Collection.

But Lee’s love for southern Appalachia never wavered, and this year she became determined to return to her beloved Blue Ridge mountains and find a way to give back. “[I am] delighted to return home for a year of service for AmeriCorps Project Conserve,” Payne says,” and [I look] forward to working with the wonderful team that produces The Appalachian Voice.”

Lee plans to spend her free time “exploring the endless possibilities for hiking, running and climbing that the mountain trails and rocky outcrops of the region provide.”

ridge_grahamRidge Graham, our AmeriCorps Outreach Associate, grew up in Rock Hill, S.C., and attended Appalachian State University, where he received a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology with a minor in statistics. During his undergraduate years, he worked as a teaching assistant and researcher, and also helped students create documentaries to educate the public about water quality.

Ridge will divide his service time between our North Carolina coal ash campaign and our Energy Savings for Appalachia program, helping to organize in impacted neighborhoods. “[I am] excited to be working as an AmeriCorps member with Appalachian Voices, and [look] forward to engaging the communities of western North Carolina,” he says.

Outside of work, Ridge enjoys hiking, biking and playing games and music with his friends.

Welcome, Willie, Lee and Ridge!




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  1. bunk spann on September 19, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    welcome Willie, Lee and Ridge to the great aPPvoices team …bunk

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