Submitted photo From left, Bishop Charles Shaw, Cabell County; Jessie Spaulding, of Fresh Start in Mingo County; Julie Greenlee, STEM teacher in Clay County; Jocelyn Shepherd of Appalachian Botanical Company in Boone County; Michelle Martin of Trash your Kayak in Kanawha County; Billy Strasser and Kim Maxwell of New River Gorge Trail Authority in Fayette County; and Chuck Toussing of Richwood Scientific in Nicholas County all received Power of Performance Awards at the Nov. 18 Small Communities, Big Solutions Conference in South Charleston.

From left, Bishop Charles Shaw, Cabell County; Jessie Spaulding, of Fresh Start in Mingo County; Julie Greenlee, STEM teacher in Clay County; Jocelyn Shepherd of Appalachian Botanical Company in Boone County; Michelle Martin of Trash your Kayak in Kanawha County; Billy Strasser and Kim Maxwell of New River Gorge Trail Authority in Fayette County; and Chuck Toussing of Richwood Scientific in Nicholas County all received Power of Performance Awards at the Nov. 18 Small Communities, Big Solutions Conference in South Charleston.

Seven recipients were recently honored with Power of Performance Awards for their efforts to change lives, put people to work or revitalize their communities. The awards concluded the Second 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 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 at BridgeValley’s Advanced Technology Center in South Charleston on Nov. 18.

Award categories and recipients

changing lives

Jesse Spaulding, of Mingo County, was recognized with a Changing Lives award for using his personal experience with substance use disorder to encourage those participating in the Fresh Start program, as well as advocating for assistance from various organizations to support the development of positive life skills for those in recovery.

Also recognized in the Changing Lives category was Julie Greenlee, business marketing and STEM teacher at Clay County High School. Greenlee teaches her students leadership skills, strategic planning, marketing and workplace skills as they operate a food truck and catering service for various events in the community.

Putting people to work

Jocelyn Sheppard, president and founder of Appalachian Botanical Company (ABCo) in Boone County, was recognized in the Putting People to Work award category. With a seven-person crew, ABCo started a commercial lavender farm on reclaimed mining land in Boone County in April 2019. Today, more than 30 people work for ABCo, and nearly all of them are from Boone County.

Chuck Toussieng of Richwood Scientific, Inc., was also recognized for his organization’s efforts in the Putting People to Work category. The nonprofit organization in Nicholas County, which is funded by Toussieng’s company, West Virginia Silicon Holler, has trained more than 300 students in a free 12-week coding camp that prepares them for entry-level computer programmer and developer positions.

Revitalizing communities

The New River Gorge Trail Alliance in Fayette County was recognized in the Revitalizing Communities category. The Alliance builds and maintains a regional trail network to spur economic growth and promote active and healthy lifestyles.

The NRGTA clears and maintains 250 to 300 miles of trail annually with a large network of volunteers.

Also recognized in this category was the Trash Your Kayak River Cleanup Crew from Kanawha County. Formed in 2016 to clean up rivers throughout Boone, Lincoln and Kanawha counties, the volunteer group has removed more than 3,000 tires and 3.5 tons of trash from the Little and Big Coal rivers and the Elk River.

“These awards are to honor the unsung heroes that don’t often get recognized for their efforts to improve their communities,” said Stephanie Tyree, West Virginia Community Development Hub’s executive director. “By lifting these POWER performers up, we hope to encourage the conference participants to continue the good work they do, and perhaps inspire others to start projects in their own communities.”

Small communities, big solutions 2020 advocate

The seventh award, the Small Communities, Big Solutions 2020 Advocate Award, was presented to Bishop Charles D. Shaw, pastor and founder of Real Life Christian Church Center in Cabell County. The award recognizes Bishop Shaw for his lifelong dedication to connecting low income individuals with job training and educational opportunities. His life’s mission is to help people find purpose and maximize success in all areas of life.

He is dedicated to serving his community by volunteering as a board of directors of several organizations, including Recovery Point WV, President of Huntington Black Pastors Ministerial Association, Region 2 Workforce WV, United Way Of The River Cities, Recovered Solutions, Fairfield Community Development Corporation and Faith Coordinator of the Quick Response Team (QRT) in Huntington.

“These are some of West Virginia’s best and we are showing our thanks and encouraging them to never stop doing what they are doing,” said Sara Payne Scarbro, Alliance’s Operations Council Chair. “There is a power performer in every community, and we had an amazing opportunity today to highlight seven of them.”