An interview with Courtney Summers, the newest addition to The Hub team

Courtney Summers, Community Coaching VISTA Leader

We at The Hub are thrilled to announce the newest addition to our team, Courtney Summers. Courtney will serve as the Community Coaching VISTA Leader to help AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTAs) navigate their year of service as part of Hub communities. As someone who spent a year in service in Fairmont as a VISTA, Courtney is eager to continue serving in a larger opportunity to help make the VISTAs’ year of service the best it can be for them and their communities.

Courtney is working alongside Erin Susman, our Operations & VISTA Program Manager. Courtney and Erin connected for a conversation to share Courtney’s background, her passion for capacity building, why she believes in the work VISTAs do, and what VISTAs can do to build up West Virginia.

Erin Susman: Why did you want to grow within The Hub and transition from an external VISTA position to an internal VISTA position?

Courtney Summers: I really love The Hub’s mission and how they are working to uplift rural communities in West Virginia and change the narrative. All of the interactions I had with Hub staff during my first year were great. I could feel just how invested they were in others. The support I had received from Erin and Olivia from The Hub, in particular, made all the difference for me. I see so much potential all around me in this state and the work amazing people are doing every day. I wanted to be a part of that.

ES: What do you hope you can accomplish as Community Coaching VISTA Leader with The Hub that will benefit Hub communities?

CS: A lot of my work this year has me analyzing systems, programs, and resources. I’ll be diving into how VISTA members are being integrated into The Hub’s coaching work – building the capacity of The Hub’s AmeriCorps VISTA program and coaching programs by building systems to better support members, in turn facilitating the ability of members to better support their community-based coaching projects. I want to make sure the communities, and also the individual members, feel like they had a great productive experience by the time their VISTA member’s year of service is up. I’ll also be working on a resource hub for our VISTA members which will better equip them to benefit the communities they are working in.

ES: What happened during your time before being the Community Coaching VISTA Leader that made you want to keep growing your place with The Hub?

CS: Before this I was the Community Engagement Coordinator VISTA serving with Fairmont Community Development Partnership. I loved exploring the different aspects of nonprofit work and learning from Erin, Olivia, and the former FCDP executive director Kayleigh Kyle. The support I received helped me prosper and grow not only professionally but also personally. I have really learned a lot about myself during the past year. I really appreciate how much The Hub supports professional and leadership development. I had the chance to complete the Beginner’s Coaching Track last year, now known as Champions For Change Fellowship, and that helped me grow in my leadership skills. I wanted to continue on that path by working more closely with The Hub this year.

ES: How have you seen VISTA work changing the communities AmeriCorps VISTAs spend a year in service?

CS: It’s been amazing hearing the successes and wins, both small and big, of VISTA members every month during our VISTA calls. I’ve seen new programs started to benefit West Virginia communities and resources created to uplift others. Community gardens, budgeting toolkits, and clean-up events all help the community. Recently, for our 9/11 Day of Service Project, we helped the Kelly Miller Community Center. They had received about 6,000 books in donations for their new community library. We helped them get dozens of boxes and hundreds of books onto their newly built shelves. It was amazing to be a small part of the project that will bring so much growth and opportunity to those in the community. Members of the community were also involved. That is another big part of VISTA work, building those relationships with the community and getting others involved so the work can continue.

ES: What inspires you most in this service work?

CS: I love knowing that what I am doing is making a difference. It was amazing to see the reactions of community members last year when I showed up at their door with free emergency preparedness starter kits. Being able to really work within the community and make those relationships has been life changing. Anyone can work to make a difference and promote positive change in their community.

ES: What do you tell people interested in spending a year in service as an AmeriCorps VISTA?

CS: Just do it. You’ll learn so much about yourself and the community. The experiences you’ll have will stay with you forever. It really is a unique experience. You’ll also get the chance to make incredible friendships with other VISTA members and with members of the community.


Courtney Summers is The Hub’s Community Coaching VISTA Leader. You can reach her at c.summers@wvhub.org.

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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.