This story was originally published in the Herald-Dispatch.
Six recipients were honored with Power of Performance Awards and one was awarded the Small Communities, BIG Solutions advocate last month to recognize their efforts to change lives, put people to work and revitalize their communities. The awards were presented as part of last month’s third annual Small Communities, BIG Solutions Conference, which showcased West Virginia successes and highlighted what is working across the state’s 21 most southern counties. The honorees received a customized, glass award designed by a local artisan.
The conference, which is organized by the Alliance for Economic Development of Southern West Virginia (Alliance), West Virginia Community Development Hub and Coalfield Development, took place virtually from Nov. 16-19.
In addition to these awards, four students were presented with a new award, the #WVSolutions Seekers Rising Leader Award and one #WVSolutions Seekers Educator of the Year was awarded, during the first statewide #WVSolutions Seekers Student Leadership Conference on Nov. 20, which is also organized by the three organizations.
“I am always amazed by the honorees’ talent and passion for our state,” Sara Payne Scarbro, the Alliance’s Operations Council Chair, said. “There are power performers, student leaders and inspiring educators in every community and we had an amazing opportunity to highlight just a few of them. I look forward to continuing these awards next year, because it is important to highlight the doers and celebrate their successes. Indeed, they are helping to build stronger West Virginia communities.”
The Minority Health Institute, which is operated by Dr. Anthony Woart, Dr. Georgiana Logan and LaDawna Walkter-Dean, was recognized with a Changing Lives award for the organization’s work to improve an protect the health and well-being of racial and ethnic minorities.
Also recognized in the Changing Lives category was Misty Martin, founder and program director of Marie’s Recovery House, a federally recognized sober living and treatment facility for women in Wayne. Martin engages the local community in the recovery process, which helps the women participating in the program to achieve their goals of sobriety improving their lives.
Putting People to Work
Dan Conant, president and founder of Solar Holler in Huntington, was recognized in the Putting People to Work award category. Solar Holler’s 40 employees have brought affordable solar electricity and family-sustaining jobs to West Virginia communities. In addition to residential installations, the company has installed panels for churches, libraries, schools and other community organizations.
Todd Cope, CEO of CentralApp was also recognized for his organization’s efforts in the Putting People to Work category. CentralApp trains people in technical skills and works to connect companies in need of tech talent with qualified workers from throughout the Appalachian region. Cope resides in Putnam County.
Statewide Student Leaders
A new award for high school and college student leaders was introduced at this year’s first student leadership conference. Four students who have a passion for West Virginia, are active in their communities, have unique ideas or projects and show qualities of a rising leader in the Mountain State received #WVSolutions Seekers — Rising Leader awards. Each student received a $250 scholarship made possible by Kroger, a customized, lighted award designed by RCBI and a certificate.
#WVSolutions Seekers — Rising Leader awards
Brooklynne Hanshaw is a junior at Huntington High School and is a loving advocate for making positive change in her hometown. She is actively involved in the “Love your Block” Campaign sprucing up community spaces in the West Huntington Area. She is youth leader for United Way’s Prevention Empowerment Partnership addressing the issues and dangers of vaping. She as co-authors a quarterly newsletter, “Voices of Youth” that focuses on substance prevention.
Brooklyn Johnson is a junior at Cabell Midland High School and has had a substantial impact on her community starting at an early age. During the refugee crisis of 2014, Brooklyn’s bake sale for the cause raised more than $300 from her driveway. Brooklyn has only continued to make a difference as an active member and leader, in many clubs and extracurricular activities During the Pandemic she has worked tirelessly to create solutions to continue to reach her peers concerning substance misuse as well as sewn and donated more than 200 masks.
“In a year as tough as 2020, the many problems facing our communities can feel totally overwhelming,” founder and CEO of Coalfield Development Brandon Dennison, said. “However, learning from these leaders is truly inspiring. They are leading the way and showing us that West Virginians are master problem-solvers.”
#WVSolutions Seekers Educator of the Year
Ben Eng is an assistant professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at Marshall University’s Lewis College of Business. He is also the co-founding director of the Innovating for Impact Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (iCenter). Eng has spread design thinking, the cutting-edge innovation technique popularized in Silicon Valley, throughout Southern West Virginia. Through grants from the WV Department of Education and the Appalachian Regional Commission, Ben has taught Design for Delight (D4D), Intuit’s version of design thinking, to Career and Technical Education (CTE) students in many counties in West Virginia.
More than 600 participated throughout the two conferences. To learn more about the conference agenda, planning committee, partners and sponsors, visit www.wvsolutions.net.