By Kyle Lovern
WILLIAMSON – Brandon Dennison, Executive Director of the Coalfield Development organization based in Wayne, W.Va. was the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority.
Dennison was accompanied by Wayne County Delegate Don Perdue. Dennison, born and raised in West Virginia, is the social entrepreneur driving the Coalfield Development Corporation, a 501(c)3 community development corporation in Wayne County.
Dennison’s group is growing by leaps and bounds and he would like to expand into Mingo County. He said his organization is three-fold and provides quality homes, quality jobs and quality lives.
He told the MCRA members that the Coalfield Development Corporation’s mission is to be a community based organization that provides quality and affordable homes, creates quality jobs, and generates opportunities for quality lives for low-income families in coalfields of West Virginia. Improvement in these areas will be the gears generating real change in Appalachia.
“People cannot be fully self-sufficient without the means to provide for themselves and their families. Therefore, the Coalfield Development Corporation strives to lay the foundation needed for the people it serves to have self-sustaining incomes, which also make them contributors to the local economy,” Dennison said.
“Homes and jobs are essential, but they are only foundations for people. At Coalfield Development Corporation, we work to build the whole person. Many of the people we serve need assistance in various life skills or need positive outlets for spending their time and energy. We build beyond the foundation, creating a positive structure for individuals and communities,” Dennison added.
“We believe the foundation for anyone’s mission toward self-sufficiency and a full life is having literal foundation below his or her feet. We begin assisting the people we serve in helping them find safe, affordable, quality housing,” Dennison said.
In 2008, the Coalfield Development Corporation was founded as a Community Housing Development Corporation (CHDO) by local citizens concerned by the lack of quality affordable housing. The organization was slow getting started, struggling against long-entrenched barriers. However, Brandon Dennison, the founding executive director, saw the potential in this organization for creating an active, grassroots movement capable of achieving larger-scale change. While serving in Wayne County as a Community Works in West Virginia Housing Intern, Dennison wrote the business plan for our innovative and entrepreneurial flagship program, the Quality Jobs Initiative (QJI).
Through QJI, CDC provides high school graduates in economically distressed communities with full-time jobs, training in high-demand sustainable construction and deconstruction trades, and mentorship for full, rounded lives. Operating as a social enterprise, CDC then uses resources generated through QJI, and support from partners to improve affordable housing and address other community needs.
Perdue mentioned one project that the CDC has done in downtown Wayne. They renovated and old general store making it into apartments and a coffee shop. Some of the tenants will run the coffee shop. This project provided both housing and created jobs, as well as a better quality of life for low income residents. The building was built in 1924 and many thought it would just be demolished.
The CDC crews demolish older dilapidated buildings. Many times they are able to salvage some of the old wood in these houses and resell it to companies who use it to build new structures. One of the CDC’s best clients that use the old, rough wood is in New York City. They love some of the antiquated old wood found in certain buildings.
Dennison gave one example of where they tore down a house, but it had great old chestnut flooring. They were able to sell this, which helps the organization be self-sufficient. They also get certain grants.
The MCRA was impressed by Dennison’s presentation and they commented that they would like for him to expand into Mingo County. In July he will interview for a crew chief and crew members for this area.
For more information on the CDC you can check out their website which is coalfield-development.org.
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242, ext. 33 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)