Soon after he learned of OVEC’s dissolution, Allen Johnson, coordinator for Christians For The Mountains, sent this remembrance to OVEC staff member Vivian Stockman, and agreed to let us publish it here on OVEC’s blog. Volunteers will be maintaining this blog for the foreseeable future.
Last night I was restless as my thoughts kept swirling around the news that OVEC was dissolving. During this time of mourning, I began to think of how OVEC had been so instrumentally key to my life, especially the past 16 years. This is because so much of my life since spring 2005 has been intimately connected to Christians For The Mountains (CFTM). And OVEC has been directly and indirectly an integral support.
- First, I met Janet Keating, Dianne Bady, and you in the 1990s in various state environmentalist gatherings. I produced a weekly local radio program, Creation Song, that featured interviews with activists. I remember talking to you, Viv, after your return from protests at the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle.
- When Bob Marshall and I decided to try to form a religious-themed environmental organization for our Appalachian region, we turned to Janet to help us put together an invitation list for our convening conference in mid-May 2005. The two-dozen or so of us visited Kayford Mountain on Saturday where Larry Gibson gave us a tour. The following day, we formed Christians For The Mountains with a goal to serve the environmental and religious communities with a toolkit (our Mountain Mourning DVD), and tours for religious leaders, to publicize the desecration of God’s earth by mountaintop removal. Janet as a co-founder had very helpful ideas, and agreed to be on our Steering Committee (on which she still serves).
- We passed the hat around at that first meeting, starting off with a little over $100 and a willingness to serve as volunteers. We did get the DVD made on a shoe-string, and although we gave a lot away, we also sold some for income. We participated in events. And OVEC loaned us $5000 for us to hire Sage Russo for part-time organizing. A year or two later, OVEC said we did not need to repay the loan.
- I’m pretty certain that OVEC (likely Janet) encouraged a foundation to begin funding CFTM. I was so surprised one day to receive a handsome check from that foundation. The funding enabled me to leave my library administrative job for modest pay enabling CFTM to ramp up our organization, acquire two part-time workers and a VISTA volunteer, publish our Mountain Vision paper, and spearhead several years of door-to-door family health studies in mountaintop removal communities.
- Under the direction of Dr. Michael Hendryx, we utilized college student volunteers (mostly from conservative Christian colleges), to conduct the research that Hendryx later published in peer-reviewed journals as to the serious health harms in communities proximate to mountaintop removal. Restoring Eden, an organization led by Peter Illyn, was also deeply involved in the recruitment and training of the students. Many of the volunteer students had life-changing experiences, even in a few cases changing their majors. Also, the health studies spurred the introduction of the Appalachian Health Emergency Act (ACHE) toward ending mountaintop removal, a campaign CFTM was integrally involved with and office in Washington, D.C., and OVEC gave support.
- Janet also was involved in connecting me with Marz Attar and the One Foundation. The One Foundation provided crucial financial support for the health studies, including equipment for measuring pulse, oxygen, and respiration, and for logistical expense help on lodging and transportation costs.
- After CFTM began to follow-up on our promise to Larry Gibson to write his biography, Janet helped out considerably in conducting interviews, and is now a helpful resource for our biographer, Marybeth Lorbiecki, in reviewing the draft manuscript for accuracy and responding to questions.
- The initial relationship with the One Foundation led in more recent years to its considerable financial boost to the Larry Gibson Biography Project, such that Marybeth could conduct extensive interviews with almost 100 people, and drafting the book. Furthermore, Marybeth often accesses the OVEC website for historical information such as the extensive archives of OVEC’s “Winds of Change” newsletter.
- The top-quality photographs of mountaintop removal that you, Viv, have taken continue to be utilized by CFTM for our website work, newspaper, and often with media press inquiries. You are always so generous to share.
- The OVEC website is a treasure trove of information on environmental justice for our region that we often access. Please, I hope the body of knowledge of OVEC’s website can continue in some way. (I’m willing to host the archives if you need a place for it)
Viv, I could think of many other ways OVEC has helped CFTM (and me, personally). OVEC has always stood ready to encourage and help us and numerous other partners. The legacy of OVEC will continue positive ripples for the good in Appalachian and elsewhere for generations to come. Thank you.
With deep appreciation,
Allen Johnson, Coordinator, Christians For The Mountains