Dr. Michelle Foster is the President and CEO of The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation (TGKVF). Before joining TGKVF, Michelle was the CEO of the Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action, Inc. (KISRA), a community-based, non-profit organization that strengthens West Virginia families through health, employment, asset development, and learning initiatives. Michelle’s original career was as a chemical engineer, most recently at Union Carbide Corporation.
Michelle’s chemical engineering undergraduate degree was conferred at City College of New York. Additionally, she has a doctorate in community economic development (CED) from Southern New Hampshire University and two master’s degrees – one in CED from SNHU and another in engineering management from Marshall University. Her doctoral dissertation was entitled, “The Contributions of Pre-Incarceration Experiences and Prison-Based Programs to Post-Release Employment Acquisition, Retention and Recidivism.” Most recently, she completed additional university-level studies in impact investing at the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School as well as in nonprofit management and leadership at Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Through the years, Michelle’s work has been recognized locally and nationally. She has received many awards including the Woman of Achievement Award from the YWCA (2020); Living the Dream Award from the WV Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission (2016); Woman on a Mission Award from Union Mission (2016); Civil Rights Day Award from the State of West Virginia, Office of the Governor (2015); Dr. Martin Luther King, Humanitarian Award from the Saint Albans Ministerial Association (2015); Fatherhood Champion of Change recognition from President Barack Obama at the White House (2012); National Association of University Women, Charleston Branch, Leadership Award (2012); Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Theta Psi Chapter, Citizen of the Year (2012); Charleston Police Department, Award for Community Service (2011); U.S. Small Business Administration, Minority Business Champion (2009); and West Virginia State University, President’s Award for Community Service (2009).
Michelle lives a life of community service and is actively engaged with several organizations in West Virginia and the Appalachian region. She is a member of the WV Workforce Development Board and the Charleston Rotary. In the philanthropy sector, Michelle serves as a co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Appalachia Funders Network, board member of Philanthropy West Virginia, and founding member of African American Philanthropy in Action (a giving circle). She is the President of the Charleston-Institute (WV) Chapter of the Links, Incorporated and has been a member of the organization since 2011. Additionally, she has served as the Minister of Administration of Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church since 1997. Over the years Michelle also served on the boards of the WV Community Development Hub, Kanawha County Library, WV Center on Budget and Policy, WV Non-Profit Association, and Our Children Our Future.
Jennifer Wells, MSW, is both an experienced organizer and social worker. With an extensive background working in child welfare, juvenile justice, community services, program development, and fundraising, Jennifer brings a skilled and multi-layered lens to her social justice and organizing work.
Having joined Our Future WV (then, WVHKFC) in 2015 as an organizer leading the Shared Use public health campaign, Jennifer later transitioned to youth development and leadership work as director of the Young WV program, before stepping into the role of executive director of OFWV. As a Black woman raised in the South (New Orleans, specifically) by a single mother, Jennifer brings her lived experience, passion, and knowledge to the work that not only gives her life but is her joy.
Jennifer serves as state chair for Care International and board president for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. In 2018, she was named Social Worker of the Year by the West Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Jennifer resides in Huntington, WV, with her amazing husband David. Traveling, eating, and listening to live music are favorite pastimes.
Kelly Allen is the Executive Director for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. She is a lifelong West Virginian who joined the WVCBP team in 2018. She holds a B.A. in political science and communications from West Virginia University and a Master of Public Administration from Penn State University. Kelly engages with residents, stakeholders, and lawmakers on health policy and issues that impact women and families. She leads the WVCBP’s federal safety net work to protect Medicaid and other vital public programs. Kelly represents the WVCBP on several coalitions and manages the Summer Policy Institute and the WVCBP’s advisory committee.
For the last twenty years, Reverend James Patterson has led the Partnership of African American Churches (PAAC) as its Founder and President/CEO. PAAC is a 501c3 collaborative, nonprofit, faith-based community development corporation, based in Charleston, WV. While the organization serves all communities, it intentionally targets African American communities throughout West Virginia. Through his work with PAAC, Reverend Patterson focuses his attention on improving individual and community well-being by empowering individuals and congregational communities to achieve positive policy change. In addition to his experience as a nonprofit leader and community change agent, Reverend Patterson has been a pastor for more than 32 years. He received his MA in Sociology from Marshall University and his BA in Sociology from WV Institute of Technology. He also holds a Master’s of Arts degree in Applied Community Change and Conservation. Reverend Patterson is an ordained Elder of the Church of Nazarene. He serves as a director on multiple community-based boards, including Habitat for Humanity, WV Center on Budget and Policy, and the American Heart Association. He is the founder of the Saving our Children Program.
Charlie Loeb is a member of Jackson Kelly PLLC, where he leads the Firm’s Commercial Law Practice Group. Charlie is a member of TGKVF’s Board of Trustees and former Chair of the Board. In addition, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the CAMC Foundation. A former At-Large Charleston City Councilman and a former Chairman of the Charles M. Avampato Discovery Museum, he also has served as a member of the boards of directors of several community organizations.
Jane Powell joined The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation in 2012. After a career in retail management, Jane now puts her marketing skills to work as the Foundation’s Communications Director. Jane is responsible for directing and administering all aspects of TGKVF’s marketing and communication programs as well as management of the Foundation’s special events. A native of Charleston, Jane grew up on the city’s East End and is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon. She is active in her community through volunteer work with several organizations, including the YWCA of Charleston and the Kanawha County Master Gardeners Program. Jane can often be found working in her garden or, as a contributor to regional publications, writing about her garden. She is also steward to a Little Free Library, which spreads her love of reading throughout her neighborhood and surrounding areas.
Stephanie is the Senior Program Officer of The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation. She received her BA from West Virginia University and her MA from the University of Georgia. Prior to her work at the Foundation, Stephanie directed a small, basic needs assistance agency and before transitioning to the social sector, Stephanie taught composition and rhetoric to college freshman. In her current role, Stephanie leads the Foundation’s education and arts initiatives by working with nonprofits to convene stakeholders, leverage resources, and improve the lives of Greater Kanawha Valley residents. Stephanie is a 2017 class member of Leadership WV. She is co-chair of Philanthropy WV’s Education Affinity Group, a board director of Charleston Montessori School, and co-chair of the Appalachia Funders Network’s Arts & Culture Working Group. As a certified instructor, she volunteers at WV Health Right and Recovery Point of WV to guide participants through yoga and stress management. Outside of her community-driven activities, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and traveling.
Lida Shepherd, American Friends Service Committee – WV
Lida Shepherd is co-director of the WV Economic Justice Project, a program of the American Friends Service Committee, where she works statewide on issues affecting low-income and working people. Her work focuses on
policy advocacy, popular education training, restorative practices, and coalition-building in support of economic justice. She graduated from the University of California-Berkeley with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. Lida lives in Charleston, and in her spare time likes biking on rail trails with her family in search of good swimming holes.
Rev. Ronald English was licensed and ordained under into the ministry by Drs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. where and served as Assistant Minister and offered the prayer at the funeral of Dr. King.
In June of 1972, Rev. Ronald English was called to the pastorate of First Baptist Church of Charleston, West Virginia where reserved for 21 years and initiated the Black Heritage Cultural Series as the first such project funded by the WV Arts and Humanities Council and the Division of Culture and History.
He has taught courses in African- American history and leadership studies as adjunct instructor at West Virginia State University and Wheeling Jesuit University. In 1989, he participated in a delegation of African American ministers invited by Bishop Desmond Tutu to South Africa on the release of Nelson Mandela.
Rev. English was awarded the Living the Dream for Peace in 2012 by Martin Luther King Holiday Commission and currently serves as a Restorative Justice Facilitator with the American Friends Service Committee.