My name is Keena Mullins and I’ve been hired as membership and outreach coordinator at OVEC. My educational background is in biology, and after many years of living in a city complaining about how there are no “jobs” back home, I realized what mattered more to me is that there is a lot of “work” to be done in central Appalachia. I moved back to join my community and neighbors in this important work.
Although you know us as OVEC, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, I want to stress that there’s a lot of power in the fact that many of us throughout Appalachia are fighting battles that intersect with one another. Social justice and environmental justice go hand in hand.
I was raised in central Appalachia, in the heart of the coalfields of Southwest Virginia, and I’ve seen first-hand what happens to a community when it’s no longer profitable for the coal industry to keep the mines open. Regardless of what caused the decline of coal, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who thinks the practice of packing up shop while leaving behind messes and unemployment and retirees without benefits is anything but criminal.
All those years ago our legislators let us down when they didn’t insist on a diversified economy, and failed to prepare for the inevitable decline of the extraction of a limited natural resource from our mountains. Now we have crippling unemployment, water that has been contaminated, limited access to infrastructure to support those struggling with addiction or mental illness, and politicians who are still being bought and sold in the public blind-spot, leaving many of us disenfranchised and underrepresented.
What we’re left with is a shared set of struggles and the opportunity to join together, empower each other, and prevent the second wave of boom/bust, extraction-based economics in Appalachia.
It’s in this spirit that I’m asking you to reach out to me and become involved in our effort to improve the quality of life for Appalachians. While you can join OVEC in the traditional way by paying dues, I want to be certain that you know you can “pay” dues through our sweat-equity program. While we have basic volunteer tasks that help us function and programs in place that we need help with already, I’m really interested in getting to know each of you as individuals and working together one-on-one to come up with a way for you to be engaged in our efforts, while doing something that you find fulfilling and important.
I’m so excited to have joined OVEC on the cusp of our 30 year anniversary, and we aren’t losing momentum now. Our roots were built in community empowerment, environmental stewardship, and promoting a sustainable economy in central Appalachia.
It’s only fitting that we have expanded our physical roots in an up-and-coming section of Huntington’s downtown with our recently remodeled office space on 14th Street. You can find me there most Tuesdays and Thursdays until 2 p.m., or by appointment.
If you are already a member or volunteer, please send your best email and mailing address information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can make sure our database is current.
I hope you are as excited as I am to be a part of the OVEC community!