Can you describe your journey to working at The Hub? What brought you to this chapter of your life?
I honestly can’t remember how I learned about The Hub, as, like many West Virginians, I’ve just probably been in The Hub’s orbit for as long as I’ve been in West Virginia. I knew that The Hub was instrumental in the formation of Create Buckhannon through HubCAP, and I became involved with Create Buckhannon when I began working in the Center for Community Engagement at West Virginia Wesleyan College about 10 years ago. As a community member, I saw the very real impacts of community development as they manifested themselves in my community through the transformation of Jawbone Park, Festival Fridays, public art through Art 26201, increased river and trail access, and more.
I joined the WV Hub Board of Directors in 2016. It was at this time that I got a more robust understanding of The Hub’s work across the state beyond my view in Buckhannon. I learned more about the community coaching program, as well as the policy and communications work.
I departed West Virginia Wesleyan College to join Barbara Wyckoff and Kent Spellman at the One Foundation, a WV Hub partner. As both a funder-partner and board treasurer, I had a unique view of The Hub’s work and organizational structures. I was engaged through the strategic planning and community development network processes, and I always felt like my input and perspective were valuable to The Hub’s strategy and vision for West Virginia communities. When the opportunity to join The Hub team manifested itself this spring, it seemed like a natural fit for my skills, interests, and my prior knowledge of The Hub’s work. I’ve always been an admirer and cheerleader on the sides, but now I have the opportunity to roll up my sleeves alongside the incredibly talented Hub staff, and I feel immensely grateful for the opportunity to join the team.
What does community development mean to you?
Even though I’ve been in and around this work for some time, this is still a hard question to answer. Community development can take many forms and the story is different for every community. Essentially, community development to me is about a group of people–people who are willing to step into a leadership gap without self-serving motivations–working together to increase the livability and inclusivity of a place. It can look like public art, access to local food, recreation opportunities, small business development and support, main street redevelopment, community gathering events, or something else entirely. It’s about looking at the assets that exist in your community and asking how they can be leveraged, lifted up, or expanded to increase quality of life for community members or even attract new residents to the community.
Why is leadership development crucial to community development work?
Leadership development is crucial to community development work because people are the heartbeat of any community. The work of community transformation isn’t possible without a group of people who are willing to take on the mantle of leadership responsibility.
Many community volunteers that I’ve met through this work are very humble, salt-of-the-earth people. They started doing something because they just saw something that needed to be done, and often, no one else was around to do it. They don’t necessarily see themselves as leaders at all. Eventually, good work gets noticed and other people will join you. At that point, a humble volunteer needs to learn how to lead with others in order to increase their impact. Empowered leaders empower others, and it is this kind of momentum that has led to great success in communities around the world throughout history.
What efforts are you excited to work on moving forward? What excited you most about this work?
Honestly, I’m really excited about increasing efficiencies in The Hub’s operations and financial management systems so the organization can reach new levels of impact and visibility in the region and on the national stage. I hope to bring my perspective and my years of experience in leadership and partnership development to The Hub. I do my best work when I can lift up others’ efforts, and that’s why I took the opportunity to work with an incredible team of thoughtful, determined, and compassionate leaders.
I see The Hub’s work every day as a citizen-leader in Buckhannon: I am engaged in Create Buckhannon; my family enjoys Festival Fridays throughout the summer; and I deeply appreciate our public art, bustling Main Street, local businesses, and recreation trails. When sitting in Create Buckhannon or Upshur County School Board meetings, I see people listening, trying to understand, compromising, offering solutions, and continually seeking opportunities to make our community better and stronger. This is what community is all about to me, and I hope that my work at The Hub will help others to feel as connected to their community as I am to mine.
Katie Loudin is The Hub’s Director of Strategic Development. You can reach her at email@example.com.