Since 2014, Mountain Watershed Association has been distributing small grants via our Direct Support Fund to support grassroots groups organizing in the face of shale gas development in their communities.
The Fund has been very impactful on organizing work throughout the region. We’ve provided on-the-ground resources and support to the groups we fund, such as helping them with mailings, event planning, educational programs, community monitoring initiatives, and more. Many groups we supported now have strong and growing membership bases and are even 501(c)3’s themselves. Since the inception of the fund, we’ve awarded nearly $210,000 to 128 grassroots projects.
Not only is our region continuing to face the impacts of shale gas development, but now communities are also seeing the expansion of the petrochemical and plastics industries. The petrochemical industry poses significant threats to the health of our communities and would lock our communities into a future of continued shale gas drilling, pipeline development, and more in order to fuel infrastructure like the Shell Cracker Plant. As a result, we have expanded the Direct Support Fund to better support organizers who are working to bring awareness to these issues.
As part of this process, we have expanded the Direct Support Fund Committee to be more regionally inclusive, incorporating organizers from West Virginia, Appalachian Ohio, and eastern Pennsylvania. These organizers have unique relationships to both local community work and broader regional campaigns against shale gas and plastics development. The Committee consists of eight organizers in total, and it is facilitated by Mountain Watershed Association. These eight organizers use their relationships to grassroots organizing campaigns to identify areas where a small grant can make a significant difference.
Help us in welcoming our new Direct Support Fund Committee, and thanking those who have previously worked to uplift grassroots leadership! Previous members have represented Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Berks Gas Truth, Protect Our Children, and Shalefield Stories, and our current representatives are below.
BJ McManama – Save Our Roots Campaign Organizer, Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) (Seneca/Welsh) Brenda Jo has been involved with Indigenous and environmental issues for over 25 years, beginning in the early 1990s working with WV State agencies on NAGPRA, opposition to mountaintop/strip coal mining & public education. For the past 14+ years she has contributed to IEN’s mission in different capacities ranging from graphic design/web administration to media coordinator and campaign organizer. BJ was a member of two Indigenous cultural delegations who traveled to the jungles of Peru and central Mexico to collaborate and strengthen alliances with traditional Mayan community leaders. The focus of these exchanges was to share cultural information and current shared mitigation, restoration, and subsistence challenges centered on forest and aquatic regions. BJ is a member of the International Campaign to Stop GE Trees steering committee and works closely with both Indigenous and Front Line community organizations on forest protection, opposition to genetic engineering of trees for biomass/biofuel production, climate justice, and subsistence rights. Her work at home in West Virginia includes supporting local grassroots leadership and front line organizations whose focuses include protecting water resources and forests from encroaching extractive industries, climate and social justice issues, along with advocating for organic farming, food security, and local economies.
Briann Moye is an Environmental Justice Organizer with One Pennsylvania — working to build power with multi-racial working class folks in Allegheny County who have been impacted by environmental injustices. Before re-joining OnePA, Briann was a Regional Organizer with The Climate Reality Project, where she worked with chapters across the Ohio River Valley to educate the broader public about the petrochemical buildout and how it relates to the climate crisis. Born and raised in Washington County, she knows what it’s like growing up in a community where the fossil fuel industry is both pervasive and hidden. Outside of her job, Briann serves on the Board for Center for Coalfield Justice and the Steering Committee for Pittsburghers for Public Transit — continuing to work at the intersection of economic and environmental justice.
Cheryl Johncox received her Bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources management and policy from The Ohio State University. She has spent more than 12 years working to protect Ohioans and our land, air, and water from polluters. In her current role as part of Sierra Club’s National Beyond Dirty Fuels team, Cheryl works to move Ohio and Pennsylvania beyond dirty fossil fuels. Originally from the Cuyahoga County area, Cheryl, and her family live in rural Union County, Ohio. Cheryl was a candidate for Ohio’s 86th House District in 2012. In 2005, Cheryl was the recipient of the National Conservation Achievement Award, from the National Wildlife Federation for her work on International Sustainable Development.
Dustin White is a project coordinator with the Huntington WV based OOhio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC). A lifelong WV resident with deep roots, Dustin grew up in the “coal fields” of Southern WV and now lives in Charleston WV. His work with OVEC started as a volunteer fighting the extreme form of coal mining known as Mountaintop Removal and other coal mining related issues then coming on staff to continue the work. Now, his focus is on the new threat of the petrochemical monstrosity known as the Appalachian Storage and Trading Hub in the Ohio Valley/Appalachian region. He hopes to one day see a future of Appalachia where the people and places he love are no longer exploited and sacrificed for fossil fuel profit.
Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck has spent her adult years as an educator, community organizer, pastor and counselor. She serves on the Advisory Board of Regenerate Lancaster, a non profit committed to moving Lancaster County to zero Carbon by 2030. She also serves on the board of the Pennsylvania Community Rights Network, and is a founding executive member of Lancaster Against Pipelines. These three non-profits together deeply involve her in environmental and community rights activism. She is the Associate Pastor of Children & Young Families at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster. The values of justice, care of creation, peace and nonviolent solutions to conflict guide and shape Malinda and her Lancaster community.
Malinda’s passions lie in community building. She seeks to walk alongside others as they seek to discover who they are and how to live that out in the world with integrity and conviction. She is committed to non-violence in all things.
Melissa Marshall is the Community Advocate with Mountain Watershed Association (MWA). Melissa joined MWA in 2016, after graduating from the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law. Her practice centers primarily around empowering communities in the southwestern Pennsylvania area to protect themselves from the impacts of natural gas and coal extraction. She has also worked as a legal intern at Food & Water Watch and at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Prior to that, she worked on corporate accountability issues at the media outlet CorpWatch.org and at a plaintiff-side personal injury law firm that brought class action suits against toxic pesticide manufacturers.
Michael Bagdes-Canning is an activist by accident – he intended to retire, garden, bicycle, travel, hang up his protestor shoes and give his sign making materials to younger people. Then fracking came to Butler County, he became a grandparent, and Karen, the love of his life, decided that her children’s and grandchildren’s futures were at risk. What else could he do?
Michael is a husband, father, and grandfather, retired teacher, elected official, agitator, and community organizer. He sits on the Planning Group of Marcellus Outreach Butler (aka MOB), organizes with Better Path Coalition, and is part of the Coordinating Committee of the Pennsylvania Poor Peoples’ Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival. He was co-organizer of Tour de FRACK. He is an advocate for using all the gizmos in the activist toolbox, including nonviolent direct action / civil disobedience. He is committed to systemic change and building resilient communities. He lives with Karen in a passive solar earth-bermed home on 30 acres in northern Butler County where they have a large organic garden. He loves giving other people’s money away.
Sarah Martik is the Campaign Manager at the Center for Coalfield Justice, an environmental justice nonprofit serving Washington and Greene Counties. A resident of Coal Center, PA, she enjoys work on issues related to legacy coal mining and the connection between the Appalachian petrochemical buildout and increases in fracking in southwestern PA communities like hers. Sarah is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Policy, a slight change from her undergraduate degrees in Theatre and Spanish.