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Appalachian Ministry Network awards grants, hires consultant

Oct. 4, 2006

By Vicki Brown*

MANCHESTER, Ky. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Appalachian Ministry Network looks toward its 35th anniversary in 2007 amid financial struggles that have forced severe cuts.

At the Sept. 22-23 meeting in Manchester, the network approved a recommendation to make the executive coordinator part time, OK’d $14,500 in grants to fight hunger and poverty in the region, and hired a consultant to complete a strategic analysis of the organization, its mission and its funding.

The network was designated in 1972 by the General Conference to work with local, district, conference and church leadership to coordinate United Methodist ministries in Appalachia. Its vision is "a society free of injustice and exploitation, where Appalachian people are valued for who they are, where sustainable community is created and where each person has the opportunity to realize their God created spiritual, social and economic potential," according to its Web site.

"Appalachian church folk and some general church agency staff constantly tell me how valuable this regional organization is, yet we find it struggling for financial support to keep it moving forward," said Sharon Leatherman, who has been executive coordinator of the network for 12 years.

Funding declines

Last July, Leatherman told the executive committee that she expected additional giving from the denomination's annual (regional) conferences of about $13,700, which would not be enough to keep a full-time coordinator. The network approved the proposal that Leatherman go to half-time status through the end of the year to save about $10,000. At the same time, a consultant will begin studying the possibilities for the network’s future.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A Web-only photo courtesy of Sharon Leatherman

The network is “struggling for financial support,” says director Sharon Leatherman.
Since 2000, the organization has lost program funds that were provided through the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The General Advance Special Appalachian Regional Ministries, which provided funds for training and resourcing ministries, also declined from $14,034 to $4,181 in 2006.

Bruce Spangler, vice chairman of the network, said the organization’s work over the years has been an outstanding example of connectionalism in action.

"Over the next six months, we will engage a consultant to help us with reviewing and revising the network in order to assure the continuation and effectiveness of that project," he said.

He praised the work Leatherman has done and thanked her for her willingness to continue 21 hours a week at half-time salary. The consultant will be paid by a $7,500 grant from the Town and Country Ministry Office of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

The chairman of the network, Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the denomination’s Pittsburgh Area, could not attend the meeting, but spoke to the group by telephone and recommended accepting a consulting proposal from Drs. Monica and Mark Law of Larksville, Pa.

The consultants will evaluate the network, examine the potential for funding sources and decide whether funding streams can realistically be anticipated, undertake a strategic analysis of the future viability of the network, and determine the future existence of the organization.

This will be done through interviews and forums with key decision makers, stakeholders and personnel. The first piece of the analysis is expected to be presented to the network during its March meeting.

The network approved a budget of $53,500 for 2007, down from the original 2006 budget of $61,345. However, the 2006 budget dropped by about $10,000 due to the coordinator’s reduced hours.

The 2007 budget includes $28,339.62 for the coordinator's salary and benefits, down from $49,085. The budget did not drop by half because the new budget contains $6,610.38 for the Appalachian Regional Assembly in September 2007. An assembly is held every two years. The budget also includes $8,000 in income from grants, which the organization might not be able to get.

"Obviously, if we don’t get grants, that money will not be spent," Leatherman said. The network was incorporated as a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit this year so Leatherman could seek grants from sources outside the church.

The group spent time developing ideas for the assembly, which is a gathering of those who work with ministry and justice programs in the region. Plans call for the assembly to be held Sept. 19-22, but a site has not been selected.

Grants for ministries

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Vicki Brown

Members of the Appalachian Ministry Network meet to discuss the future of the organization.
A second focus of the organization's work is to administer funds from the Appalachian Hunger and Poverty General Advance Special. The grants are designated to ministries within the region that address the root causes of hunger and those that provide for basic human need.

Hunger and poverty grants were awarded to:

  • Community Development Outreach Ministry, Charleston, W.Va., $500, for a washer-dryer to establish a laundry facility for clients.
  • Community Enabler Developer, Anniston, Ala., $2,500, for food for the community emergency program.
  • Interparish Ministry, Cincinnati, $1,500, for food.
  • “Hope for Health,” Scotts Run Settlement House, Osage, W.Va., $2,500, for prescription drug ministry.
  • Of One Accord, Rogersville, Tenn., $2,500, for a refrigerator and kitchen equipment to expand the elderly nutrition ministry.
  • Partners for Life-Juvenile Division, Connellsville Area Community Ministries, Connellsville, Pa., $1,500, for general project support that builds systemic life changes for clients.
  • R.O.C.K. (Reaching Out to Community Kids), Altoona, Pa., $2,000, to support an after-school nutrition program.
  • Sleepy Creek Before and After School, Berkley Spring, W.Va., $1,500, to assist with supplies and snacks.

Visit to learn more about the network or contact the network at (301) 791-7355 or at

Donations may be made to Appalachian Regional Ministries, General Advance Special #982041 or to the Appalachian Hunger and Poverty General Advance Special #982039, and placed in church offering plates or sent to UMCOR — the United Methodist Committee on Relief — at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Donate online at

*Brown, an associate editor and writer in the Office of Interpretation, United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, serves as the board liaison to the network. She is a voting member of the network’s executive committee.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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