Please welcome our volunteers who have stepped up to the plate to help us with this important, growing repository of unfiltered stories from the heart of Central Appalachia. You wouldn’t think many people would apply for a job with a description that reads, “No pay, no gas money, long hours. Meet people. See Appalachia. Passion required. Apply within.” But, we are happy to say you would be wrong. As we grow, we will be taking on a few additional hands, but without further ado, please meet your Humans of Central Appalachia team:
Site Sergeant; Laura Adkisson:
Laura likes Humans of Central Appalachia --- quite literally. She is the chief comment appreciator, and frequently shares her pithy insights while interacting with community responses and questions. As moderator, Laura makes sure that comments about our subjects are respectful and kind. Nobody wants to see comments that are counterproductive to our approach of silencing the Appalachian stereotype, right? She is the seventh generation of her family to plant her garden in Harlan County dirt. She began collecting stories as a little girl when she begged her great-grandmothers to tell her "true" scary stories. Her love for stories brought her to her position as youth services librarian for the Harlan County Public Library. She is an actress in the Higher Ground community theater series and a board member for the Artists' Attic in Harlan. Laura also admits to plying people with homemade baked goods to coax stories out of them.
Social Butterfly (Takes Care of Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter}; Jennifer Molley Wilson:
Jennifer used to be a Word Wrangler, but because she is deaf in one ear, and can’t hear out the other, it was considered a good move to reassign her to a position that required less interpretation on her part. Now, she manages the Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media accounts, serves as co-editor for the page, and travels the amazing Appalachian region with Malcolm J. Wilson watching out for those transmitters. She was born in Harlan, Kentucky, a full month earlier than expected, arriving as a gangling slip of a human. The family’s big weekly event was packing her down to Mack’s grocery store where the butchers would place her on the meat scale so everyone could see how much weight she was gaining. Jennifer grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee, graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School, and subsequently spent several years in California where she went to college, got married and had a daughter, not necessarily in that order. In 1984, she moved to Bristol, Tennessee where she has been ever since, making the world a better place through a long career in marketing, advertising and communications. She is a writer, photographer, vegan, gypsy, collector of people, rescuer of critters and the Public Information Official for the City of Bristol, Virginia.
Someone has to magically turn all those Appalachian voices into actual Appalachian words so they can become posts to the page. That’s where our Word Wranglers come in. They listen to hours of interviews, typing away until every audio “i” has been dotted, and each “t” crossed.
Dusty Caudill is originally from Blackey, Kentucky in Letcher County. She graduated from Whitesburg High School and Southeast Community College. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Radiological Sciences from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas and is currently pursuing a Masters in Adult and Higher Education from Morehead State University. Dusty has spent the majority of her healthcare career in education. After fourteen years in Lexington, Kentucky, she returned to the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky with her two sons. Dusty currently resides in Middlesboro and serves as the Clinical Coordinator for the Pineville Radiography program at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College.
In April 1966, Anna’s mother happened to be cleaning the bathroom on her hands and knees when she went into labor. That set her on a course in life: she loves to clean to this day. She grew up wild and free roaming the Appalachian hills, and learned to appreciate the earth from watching her dad take gentle care of the space they took up wherever they were. She went to various schools between West Virginia and Kentucky--finally graduating high school in Clintwood, Virginia. After 27 years in Asheville, North Carolina, she moved back to Clintwood last year. According to Anna, “I live to be close to these mountains--it’s hypnotic rhythm of shadow and light--it’s drone of sounds and music swells, deafening your thoughts. People here carve themselves into the hollers and ridges with their love of land and kin and transform the lay of the earth. Hardship and stubbornness are never in short supply. It’s a cursed and bittersweet life that Appalachians share. I’m grateful to live here and take part of that song sung by so many voices before me and those yet to sing.” Welcome to our choir, Anna.
Stephanie Khani is originally from Louisville, Kentucky and graduated with a Bachelor’s in English from Berea College, a small school in the foothills of the Appalachians. This is where Stephanie first experienced and fell in love with Appalachia. From the people to the scenery, the food to the peaceful quiet, she’s always longed to get back. After finishing school, she wound up far away from the mountains and has been living in London, UK since 2009 with her British husband. Though she’s had many amazing experiences, including many trips to Spain, France and Morocco, she’s grown tired of big city life and the never-ending racket that comes with it. Stephanie and her husband moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, late last year. She looks forward to experience a whole new area of the foothills of Appalachia, and to some rambling around the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Hoskins is a native of Hoskinston, Kentucky, where she still resides today. Retired from the Kentucky State Police as Office Supervisor, Post 13, Hazard, she also worked as a paralegal. She is an active author, traveler and photographer documenting the Appalachian region, and beyond, with both words and photos. A life-long learner, Kathy is a graduate of Leslie County High School, and has furthered her education at Morehead State University, Lincoln Memorial University, Eastern Kentucky University, University of the Cumberland and Hazard Community College. Passionate about the preservation of Appalachian culture and mores, Kathy is a frequent participant in a variety of workshops and retreats centered on the importance and perpetuation of the mountain lifestyle, and preventing it from being catapulted into obscurity.
Kathy Mullins Dingus:
Kathy Mullins Dingus was born in Abingdon, Virginia. Both parents were born and raised in Clintwood, Virginia, deep in the heart of the Appalachian culture. Her father was a man born near the mountains, who never strayed far from their statuesque beauty. Her mother is a strong woman, who worked hard from sunup to sundown steadfastly caring for her family. Kathy’s family also includes her husband, Thomas O. Dingus, and three collegiate children: Hoyt, Ariel and Holden. Kathy has always loved history and listening to stories from anyone with a story to tell of times growing up in the Appalachian Mountains. She took to heart the words of her father: “You never know where you are truly going in life unless you understand where you come from.” Building upon those words, Kathy collected stories and wrote a book entitled, Dancing on the Mountaintops. She is an active community volunteer serving currently on the Board of Directors of the Dickenson County Historical Society, Inc., volunteers for the Clintwood Steering Committee and serves as Regent for the Sandy Basin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She loves genealogy and often helps others find their link to the past. Kathy also co-directs a yearly play, Diamond in the Wilderness, under the auspices of the Historical Society. Recording the stories of those peaks and valleys of life in these mountains is a very important calling for Kathy. The Appalachians are teeming with life and daily struggles for all who live here. There is also joy in abundance and a deep abiding pride in our unique heritage. Time can be captured in a faded photograph, a cassette taped song replayed on an old recorder, sung by her family at meeting time, and in the rise and fall of the sun each day enveloped in the mountains she calls home.
Emily Earl is a cultural anthropologist who grew up with her time split between the beaches and midlands of South Carolina and the mountains of North Carolina. Recently, when she hasn't been planning her wedding in Black Mountain, NC, she's been working on her dissertation research on books and reading in hard-to-reach places in the U.S. At present, the focus is on people in prison's access to print books in Southwest Virginia. Some nice people at a bookstore in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, have been letting her work for her keep there while she gets her bearings in the region. Emily holds degrees from schools in Annapolis, MD, Washington, DC, Santa Fe, NM, and is currently working on her PhD from the University of California, Irvine. The Appalachians are, by far, her favorite place to live. Especially since there's water here.
Misty Skaggs, full time writer and part time hermit, was born and raised in the backwoods of Elliott County, Kentucky. Her poetry and prose are rooted firmly in Appalachia and have been published in literary journals like Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Still, New Madrid, Inscape and Limestone as well as online at friedchickenandcoffee.com. Skaggs has also self-published two chapbooks, glue stick and copy machine style. Her interests include junk shopping, porch swinging, and cats. You can also find her writing and photography online at backwoods, baby...
Grace McLain lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and works at Windstream Communications. She is a 1993 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in English. Her parents grew up in New York City during FDR's presidency, and her early life was spent in Massachusetts. She moved to North Carolina when she was 12 years old. She loves her adopted state and living in the South. What impresses her the most about HOCA is the depth and breadth of the profiles and how well presented they are. "I like that the stories are long and interesting and there is a seriousness that I appreciate. I am glad to help 'wrangle' so more stories can be told," she explained.
Matthew Kingesly grew up in St. Paul, a town in the the Southwestern corner of Virginia. He received degrees from Emory & Henry College and New York University. As a writer, his work has appeared most recently in Still: the Journal. Matthew lives in New York City where he works as a technology specialist with nonprofit organizations. He enjoys assisting with Humans of Central Appalachia as one way to stay connected to the people, places, and stories of the mountains.
Dexter’s fourth great-grandfather, William Alexander, married Mary Hargis in Pulaski County, Kentucky in January 1800. William came from North Carolina and settled in the County’s Bent Community, on Buck Creek, and the family began a two hundred year migration from the farm to town. Dexter was born in Somerset, the first in his immediate family to be born in a hospital. Dexter lived in Morehead, Kentucky and Morgantown, Kentucky, but mostly he has lived Somerset, where he graduated from Somerset High School. Dexter and his wife Linda have two children, John, a veterinarian in London, Kentucky and Elizabeth, a teacher’s aide in Louisville. They have five grandchildren Dexter holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Kentucky; a Master of Business Administration degree from Eastern Kentucky University; and a PhD in Studies in Higher Education from the University of Kentucky. After retirement from Somerset Community College, Dexter taught courses for Morehead State University’s Master of Public Administration program, including a course in Appalachian History. He formerly was a banker, and a soldier. Dexter plays (fitfully) mountain dulcimer, rides (slowly) a bicycle, and is a licensed amateur radio operator, holding station call sign W4DLA.
Nina Vinson comes from a multi-generational mountain family, with roots in western North Carolina and east Tennessee. Her parents grew up in the same small community in western North Carolina, and were the first in their families to leave for college and to (mostly) raise their children outside the mountains. Switching back and forth between the city and the mountains, and trying to assimilate into non-mountain life was challenging - but made for an interesting childhood. Nina says it’s been a joy to come home, alongside her parents and brother, all of whom have been long re-settled in western North Carolina. Nina enjoys genealogy and family stories, gardening, hanging out on the Roan (aka Roan Mountain), volunteering for the rape crisis center, playing in creeks as her knees allow, and occasional arts, crafts, and writing. She has a master’s in public health from Emory University and does research, program evaluation, and report writing for a large health care non-profit in Asheville. She takes gleeful delight in occasional opportunities at her job to be subversive and collect stories from western North Carolina locals about their health experiences and lives.
Thanks to this fine group of inaugural Appalachian volunteers for being part of our initiative. We have other volunteers who have come on board, who have yet to supply us with their bios. Watch for their introductions in the coming weeks, and for other great things just over the mountains.