This year has been one of juxtapositions for the Appalachian Impact Fund—laughter and crying, celebrations and grieving, innovation and destruction, stability and transitions—but we move into 2023 as a stronger and more united community. As many of you know, after five years of founding, growing, and leading the Appalachian Impact Fund as its Executive Director, Lora Smith transitioned to Chief Strategy Officer with the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky. I then stepped in as Executive Director full time on July 1, 2022, just several weeks before devastating floods ripped through Eastern Kentucky. I was no stranger to the work of the Appalachian Impact Fund or the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, having worked closely with both to found Invest 606, Eastern Kentucky’s only accelerator and pitch contest.
So, we hit the ground running after a seamless leadership transition and focused on accomplishing two impact investments, one with trusted partner Housing Development Alliance and another with a new successful coffee shop in downtown Hazard. For Housing Development Alliance, AIF provided flexible low-interest non-securitized capital to build nine new affordable homes. With Hazard Coffee Company, AIF provided the capital needed to significantly expand operations in a new prime location directly on Main Street in Hazard, Kentucky. We celebrated these investments with our partners and looked forward to expanding our capital investments to small businesses and nonprofits in Eastern Kentucky.
Then, a few weeks later, from July 25-30, devastating storms centered squarely on the adjacent counties of Breathitt, Perry, Knott, and Letcher led to destructive flash flooding that killed 39 people and destroyed thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses.
With the systems, teams, and funds already in place to respond to such crises, the Appalachian Impact Fund (AIF) and the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky immediately began crisis aid efforts. AIF focused efforts on providing immediate flood relief to small businesses and nonprofits. Within a week, we set up a process and team to review requests to the already established Appalachian Crisis Aid Fund for Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Social Enterprises. Fatefully, the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky in partnership with AIF had established the Crisis Aid Fund after the flooding of March 2021, specifically to “provide immediate relief to individuals, families, businesses, nonprofits, and social enterprises impacted by such disasters as flooding, fires, severe storms, landslides, mudslides, and other disasters.” Over the next three months, we processed hundreds of applications and awarded 119 businesses and nonprofits $860,050 in flood relief grants. The businesses, nonprofits, and social enterprises represented $70 million in annual revenue, 515 full time employees, and 156 part-time employees. Nearly 50% of the businesses were owned by women.
We have turned the corner on immediate emergency flood relief and are now looking towards long-term recovery that envisions a vibrant and diversified economy with safe, quality, and affordable housing.
Executive Director, Appalachian Impact Fund