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Rural Blog: Kentucky native Lora Smith works to help Appalachian nonprofits with innovative impact fund

Community builder Lora Smith is working to help Eastern Kentucky with a unique approach: a first-
of-its-kind impact fund that gives a financial boost to nonprofits serving the area. The organization also invests directly in communities through real estate acquisition and development to improve dilapidated small town downtowns.

“Smith co-founded the Appalachian Impact Fund with Louisville philanthropist Brook Smith (no relation) in 2016; the organization opened its doors in January 2017 in a former hardware store the fund purchased on Main Street in Hazard,” Kathie Stamps reports for The Lane Report, a Kentucky business news outlet. “The three-story building serves as headquarters for the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, Appalachian Food Summit, Appalachian Arts Alliance and other nonprofits.” They offer lunchtime yoga on Mondays to locals, and will soon offer co-working space and venue rental space.

Smith also worked with three other organizers to found the annual Appalachian Food Summit in 2013, which focuses on sustainable agriculture and regional food systems. “I think that sustainable agriculture and local food businesses are incredibly important to creating a sense of place, supporting healthy communities with good food access, and can be a real economic driver in Kentucky,” Smith told Stamps. “It’s community and culture that holds us together and sustains us during difficult times . . . And it’s our unique natural and cultural assets that are creating an exciting and bright future in the mountains.”

The Corbin native has family stretching back seven generations in Whitley County. She studied anthropology at New York University and folklore and documentaries as a grad student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but came back home, saying she “could never stay away too long from Kentucky and the mountains.” She, her husband and their two children live on a 120-acre organic farm in Jackson County.

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.

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