Coalfield’s mission is to be a community based organization that provides quality and affordable homes, creates quality jobs, and generates opportunities for quality life for low income families in southern West Virginia.
It was formed in 2009 by local citizen leaders concerned that the people of Wayne County lacked adequate access to quality, affordable housing. However, the organization was, at first, very slow to develop having only volunteers to do its work. In 2010, Executive Director Brandon Dennison, first as a CommunityWorks in West Virginia Housing Intern and then as a volunteer director, became intimately involved with this organizing effort. Since then, Coalfield has rapidly expanded its efforts under Dennison's leadership into the regional entity it is today (having recently expanded into Lincoln and Mingo Counties), going from a donated corner in the Wayne County Commission Office, to an overflowing apartment unit serving as an ad-hoc office with a leaking roof, to a yet-to-be-determined new location (which hopefully will have a better roof).
Associate Director Niki Rowe-Fortner also came to Coalfield as a CommunityWorks Housing Intern. Since then, she has quickly established herself as a leader in the industry. Coalfield views a quality, affordable home as the foundation for creating a full life. Thinking about a job or an education is nearly impossible without the security of a safe, affordable place to go home to at night. Coalfield’s housing development efforts started small, with a memorable staff-wide Habitat for Humanity house-build in Dunlow, WV during a sweltering summer week in July. We were joined by volunteers from Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church. Since then, Coalfield has developed 12 “green” units of affordable rental apartments, is preserving 36 units of rural USDA 515 properties, and has 20 units of new construction in its current pipeline of near-future projects. Coalfield tenants are mentored and supported through our Quality Lives Initiative. The goal is to move tenants off of federal housing subsidy by supporting them in advancing educational and careers goals, and eventually even achieving home ownership.
Coalfield’s signature program is its Quality Jobs Initiative, an innovative on-the-job training mentorship program created by Chase Thomas (Associate Director) and Dennison. Thomas left the private sector in 2012 to launch this transformational program. In 2012, QJI had three participants in one county. By August of 2014, it will have 15 in three counties. As a licensed general contractor, Coalfield employs trainees full-time to construct affordable housing, to deconstruct dilapidated housing, and to build and sell furniture from reclaimed building materials. Deconstruction efforts have prevented over 175,000 square feet of building material from entering landfills so far. Recognizing the catalytic nature of Coalfields’ projects and programs, Enterprise Community Partners, a national entity, names Coalfield a partner-the only such partner in the state of West Virginia.
We are a “not-for-profit” company. Notice, we are not a “non-profit” company. While we are recognized by IRS as a 501(c)3 charity, we’re designed as a “social enterprise,” meaning we blend the efficiency and production of the for-profit sector with the compassion and purpose of the charitable sector. Our current model was developed by Brandon Dennison while studying at the Indiana University Kelly School of Business in the Social Entrepreneurship program and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs’ Nonprofit Management program. The result is a more effective, more self-sustaining, and more innovative organization. In 2013, Coalfield earned 42% of its revenue, and is on track to top this figure in 2014. While we will always push to be a successful business as measured by dollars-and-cents (certainly, we celebrate the value and goodness of for-profit business), we wake up in the morning and work harder than what is considered “normal” because of our commitment to the community-based mission of this organization. One day at a time, one tenant at a time, and one crew member at a time, our vision comes into focus a bit more clearly:
We envision a revitalized people thriving in a renewed, more prosperous economy that is grounded in Appalachian values.