An interview with Jorge Rodriguez-Stanley, the newest addition to The Hub team

Jorge Rodriguez-Stanley, Communications Associate

We at The Hub are thrilled to announce the newest addition to our communications team, Jorge Rodriguez-Stanley. Jorge will serve as the Communications Associate to help with storytelling and uplifting the work being done in Hub communities around the state. He was raised in Florida and started his career in storytelling in Los Angeles but is no stranger to West Virginia. Jorge has spent a lot of time visiting his husband’s family in Greenbrier County and has relocated to Ronceverte, where he has already spent years working with the community to develop and grow The River City. You can expect new content uplifting community leaders, community teams, and everything that makes community development and The Hub’s work come to life.

Jorge is working alongside Emma Pepper, our Director of Strategic Network Communications. Emma and Jorge connected for a conversation to share about Jorge’s background; his passion and work in his own community, Ronceverte; and what he is excited about in the months to come.

Emma Pepper: What led you to working with The Hub and moving to West Virginia?

Jorge Rodriguez-Stanley: I am one of those people that had their perspective and life changed because of Covid. I worked in Latinx media for years in Los Angeles and loved the work I was doing but realized that my path needed to change to something that made a real impact. My husband is from West Virginia so I have visited the state regularly and fell in love the first time I made the trip out here. There is an energy in the Mountain State that I haven’t experienced anywhere else and it is inspiring.

I had two friends send me the job description for The Hub when I was still in Los Angeles and something kept bringing me back to it. I knew that it was something that would get me to the place I wanted to be where my work can have a real impact. I am so in awe with the organization and the work done by The Hub to uplift communities and their leaders to make their towns everything they know it can be.

EP: Why is community development so important to you and what does it mean to you?

JRS: Community development is so important because it gives people in their communities a chance to take charge of their towns. You can see a change in people when they are given a chance to step into leadership roles when they never thought they could. I love seeing people realize that they can lead the charge in helping their community.

To me, personally, community development is so important. I currently live in Ronceverte in Greenbrier County and have been active in community development before joining The Hub. My husband and I have taken part in group discussions about what the community needs and how  we can work together to get Ronceverte to the next level. Like so many other communities in West Virginia, Ronceverte has fallen on hard times and it took a little push to activate a team of community members who are eager to see Ronceverte thrive again.

EP: How do you approach storytelling, especially when in communities you are not familiar with?

JRS: I love storytelling. It is the backbone of my career and my passion. I love meeting with people I have never met to learn from them about what they are doing, what they need, and what they want to talk about with me. My motto when it comes to my storytelling work is to meet people without pretense. I am not there to tell the story I want to tell. I am there to tell the story people I am talking to want to tell. I walk into spaces and allow myself to be in a place with the understanding that I don’t know the full story. I am not in the community so I am always learning while gathering the content to tell the story. I see myself as a vessel for telling the stories that people want to share and I am excited to bring my skills to The Hub to start spreading the good news and good stories brimming in West Virginia communities.

EP: What excites you most about working with The Hub and the work the organization does?

JRS: What excites me most about working with The Hub is first and foremost the incredible staff. I am so impressed with the team of people dedicated to working within communities in West Virginia to make positive changes at the local level by empowering communities. I can’t express enough how impressive I find the staff to be.

I am also very excited to get into the work of telling stories of communities making a difference in their cities. West Virginia deserves accurate storytelling highlighting the positive work happening around the state. Great things are happening in West Virginia and it is crucial that organizations and communities within West Virginia lead the charge in telling the stories and getting them out to the national audience. People need to know what is really happening in West Virginia, not the current narrative highlighting only the negative stereotypes.

EP: Why are you committed to working with West Virginia communities to highlight their work?

I love West Virginia and the people that make this state so great. There is so much kindness and community involvement all throughout West Virginia and I am so excited to be part of telling this story by highlighting the people and communities making it happen. I consider this to be something that gives my work real meaning and I cannot wait to meet the wonderful Hub communities and tell their stories.


Jorge Rodriguez-Stanley is The Hub’s Communications Associate. You can reach him at j.rodriguezstanley@wvhub.org.

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redefined is a storytelling project on a mission.

Watch real stories of West Virginians who are bringing hope to their communities.

For too long, who and what it means to be a West Virginian has been defined for us. It’s time to redefine the Mountain State in our own words and in the eyes of the world. West Virginia can be anything we want it to be – let’s redefine it together.

Parsons

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Message from our Executive Leadership Team

Fifteen years ago, stakeholders building up local communities and economies in West Virginia convened to map a coordinated strategy to systemically grow community economic development activity in the state. From the shared vision and collaborative leadership of dozens of strategic partners across the state, the WV Community Development Hub was born.

Since that time, The Hub has grown into the anchor community development organization serving West Virginia. We have built upon the original vision to create a method for rural, community-led development strategies that is uniquely tailored to the needs and opportunities of our state.

As we have grown and developed a proven model for success, our partnerships with community and economic development practitioners, funders, and committed West Virginia residents have been foundational to every element of our work.

Over the past two years, the team at The Hub has adapted to the unprecedented challenges our communities have faced during the pandemic by leaning into our core strengths to deepen our impact. The Hub remains committed to tackling persistent challenges, and we have focused our attention on the most impactful elements of our work.

We are supporting community leaders to advance their visions for local development, creating new pathways for engagement and leadership growth through our virtual training platform, and leading strategies that lift up voices of community leaders to move forward solutions to long-held challenges to growth.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that nothing about the future is set in stone. While the coming year may present enormous opportunities for advancement in our state, they will also inevitably require significant capacity building, shared strategies that are grounded in trust-based partnerships, and extended efforts to support the leadership development of individuals and organizations who have been asked to do more during a time of extreme stress and strain.

The services that anchor organizations like The Hub provide are even more critical in this time, and we expect our work to scale significantly in the coming years ahead.

We look forward to continuing to do the work of putting into action the vision and the shared strategies envisioned by that core group of community economic development practitioners and funders fifteen years ago.

In Continued Accompaniment,

– WV Community Development Hub
Executive Leadership Team

Stephanie Tyree

Executive Director

Amanda Workman Scott

Director of Community Engagement

Emma Pepper

Director of Strategic Network Communications

Katie Loudin

Director of Strategic Development

Montgomery

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Smithers

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Kingwood

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Lewis County

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Meadow River Valley Region

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Monticello Neighborhood of Clarksburg

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Watch their community documentary.

New Martinsville

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Systemic Change

2021 became a time period of catalytic potential as we saw years of investment into our core strategies to enact systemic change yield new results. Our strategic focus areas include policy, communications, and supporting the community economic development system in leveraging unique financing opportunities such as the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative and Opportunity Zones.

In addition, through our strategic policy support role within the Abandoned Properties Coalition, The Hub successfully advanced two key objectives: the creation of a statewide land bank at the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation and extension of the state’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. 

Through the Opportunity Appalachia program, 6 catalytic community projects located in WV-based Opportunity Zones received $250,000 for pre-development technical assistance. Three projects received additional private funding as a result of program participation.

Community Coaching

In 2021, we accompanied 16 communities through our in-depth, professional coaching programs. In addition to leaning into coaching and financing opportunities offered through these programs, participating communities leveraged an additional $2.8 million in funding on their own for community economic development projects. While participating in our entry-level coaching program, Cultivate WV, Montgomery and Smithers realized momentum-building success through access to $40,000 in seed funding for projects like farmers markets, public art, wayfinding, community events, and development of a trail system.

Six communities, Lewis County, Kingwood, Meadow River Valley, Monticello neighborhood in Clarksburg, New Martinsville and Parsons, graduated the intermediate planning program Blueprint Communities* with strategic plans in place. We also launched a new round of HubCAP, our flagship community economic development program, in six towns located in the Monongahela National Forest region: Cowen, Franklin, White Sulphur Springs, Elkins, Marlinton, and Petersburg.

Elkins

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. 

A core team led by Woodlands Development Group also participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Franklin

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Marlinton

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Petersburg

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

White Sulphur Springs

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Charleston

A core team led by Crawford Holdings, LLC participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Huntington

Core teams led by Thundercloud, Inc. and the City of Huntington participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support community development projects located in Opportunity Zones.

Grafton

A core team led by Unleash Tygart, Inc participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Leadership Development

As hundreds of people began to engage in our virtual training activities in 2020, we saw a critical opportunity to scale and deepen our impact. This year, The Hub team developed an accessible, virtual platform with options for self-guided and group learning activities as well as professional coaching.

Kickstart Communities is now the crux of our efforts to bring new people into the work and grow their leadership. These activities now form the foundational stages of a Community Leadership Development Pipeline to move motivated residents from seeing the challenges in their communities to proactively collaborating to resolve them.

Cowen

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. Read their community case study.