Front Porch Blog

Investing in what matters: Federal funding to kick off community-led resiliency projects

A mural welcomes visitors to Pound. Photo by Appalachian Voices

What’s Happening

As spring bursts into bloom in the mountains, Appalachian Voices is officially launching Building Community Resilience in Virginia’s Coalfields, a new project funded through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Grant. The $500,000 in funding will be used across five communities to create community-driven projects that make communities stronger in the face of natural disasters. We’ll also work with communities to build a toolkit that will serve as a hands-on resource to equip local leaders with the tools to initiate and manage these projects effectively.

These projects are aimed at growing community resilience — but what exactly do we mean by resiliency? Resiliency is the ability of a community and its residents to survive and thrive in the face of economic difficulties, climate disasters and other hurdles. We are partnering with five localities across Southwest Virginia for the next three years to map, plan and implement initiatives that will address legacy environmental justice issues, climate disasters such as flooding, existing hazards and support communities with the practical necessities to make these visions a reality.

Find out more about the project and the first round of listening sessions here.

The participating localities are:

The community of Clinchco. Photo by Brian Stansberry

Clinchco in Dickenson County: Situated in the heart of Dickenson County, Virginia, Clinchco has a population of under 400 residents, who fall in the 95th percentile for low life expectancy, 82nd for asthma and 83rd for air toxics cancer risk nationally. The community lacks safe outdoor parks and emergency shelters and hopes to address periodic flooding with greenspaces.

Dante in Russell County: Dante is an unincorporated community with a population of 650. Appalachian Voices has worked closely with Dante and the Russell County Board of Supervisors to implement Dante’s Downtown Master Plan, which has five key elements: (1) cleanup and beautification, (2) infrastructure, (3) parks and recreation, (4) preservation and (5) tourism and economic development.

Dungannon’s historic train depot could become a resilience hub. Photo courtesy Dungannon Development Commission

Dungannon in Scott County: With a population of 332, Dungannon is nestled in the mountains within a broadband desert, food desert and medically underserved region. The town has already undergone downtown master planning, but did not include strategic planning centered around energy resiliency and climate disaster mitigation. Potential projects include creating a resilience hub in the current community center in a historic train depot so that residents can access electricity, food and medical supplies during emergencies, or creating a community riverwalk and wellness park to support residents.

Pennington Gap in Lee County: Officially incorporated in 1891, Pennington Gap is a town of approximately 1,600 residents in Lee County, Virginia. As a community affected by periodic flooding, higher-than-average levels of air pollution and a historical dependence on extractive industries, Pennington Gap provides an ideal community for investing in flood-mitigating green infrastructure, clean energy jobs and equitable economic development.

Pound in Wise County: Pound, a community of approximately 850 residents, has been troubled by both acute and systemic environmental issues for years. Recent examples include a landslide that buried multiple oil tanks and severe riverbank erosion that is actively damaging multiple buildings. Some nearby previously mined areas offer potential for new, green development options, such as reforestation projects or flood-mitigating landscaping.

How we’re building resilience

These communities are all affected by unique challenges, but we need only think of the recent floods and their aftermath to see how shared histories, infrastructure and landscapes can result in shared vulnerabilities. By supporting the needs of each community and developing cooperation across communities, the project will strengthen regional and local resilience.

The main way that we aim to do this is by providing project funding to support local partners and community-based efforts to address issues identified during community engagement meetings and a mapping process.

We’ll provide project funding to help unlock additional investments, expand opportunities, address immediate needs and fuel innovation by laying the groundwork for mainstream investors and funders to participate in additional transformative investments and economic development. The concept was designed based on our experience working in resource-insecure communities and developing the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund and the Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition mini-grant program.

How you can get involved

In order to ensure that this work truly reflects community needs and desires, we need to hear from you — the folks who live in and love this area! In order to make giving input as easy as possible, we’ve built in several ways for you to make your voice heard.

Community Listening Sessions
Two community listening sessions will be held in each partner locality this year. The first round will happen in May, with a follow-up scheduled for the fall. Registration links for the first round of sessions can be found at this web page. Participants will receive a $25 stipend and dinner will be provide.

Emma is our New Economy Field Coordinator. She is passionate about bringing in as many voices as possible to help build a sustainable and just future for Appalachian communities from the ground up. Emma currently lives in Lee County and loves hiking, gaming, and spending time with her husband and cat.


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