Monday, January 29, 2018

Fund redevelops rural and small-town properties to help fund nonprofits in Appalachian Kentucky

Community builder Lora Smith is working to help Eastern Kentucky with a first-of-its-kind fund to boost to nonprofits serving the area. The organization also invests directly in communities on Kentucky's 54 Appalachian counties through real-estate acquisition and development to improve dilapidated small-town downtowns.

"Smith co-founded the Appalachian Impact Fund with Louisville philanthropist Brook Smith (no relation) in 2016; the organization opened its doors in January 2017 in a former hardware store the fund purchased on Main Street in Hazard," Kathie Stamps reports for The Lane Report, a Kentucky business-news outlet. "The three-story building serves as headquarters for the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, Appalachian Food Summit, Appalachian Arts Alliance and other nonprofits." They offer lunchtime yoga on Mondays to locals, and will soon offer co-working space and venue rental space.

Smith formerly oversaw grants in Central Appalachia for the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, and worked with three other organizers to found the annual Appalachian Food Summit in 2013, which focuses on sustainable agriculture and regional food systems. "Sustainable agriculture and local food businesses are incredibly important to creating a sense of place, supporting healthy communities with good food access, and can be a real economic driver in Kentucky," Smith told Stamps. "It’s community and culture that holds us together and sustains us during difficult times . .  . And it’s our unique natural and cultural assets that are creating an exciting and bright future in the mountains."

The Corbin native has family stretching back seven generations in Whitley County, on the Tennessee border. She studied anthropology at New York University and folklore and documentaries as a graduate student at the University of North Carolina, but came back home, saying she "could never stay away too long from Kentucky and the mountains." She, her husband and their two children live on a 120-acre organic farm in Jackson County, near the northwest salient of the East Kentucky Coalfield.

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