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Ryan M. Eller named executive director of Appalachia Funders Network

West Virginia Press Association

HAZARD, KY — Appalachia Funders Network (AFN), a network of more than 70 philanthropic institutions and organizations has announced the appointment of Ryan M. Eller as its new executive director. 

Since its establishment in 2010, the Appalachia Funders Network (AFN) has been a catalyst for cultivating meaningful connections and partnerships throughout the expansive six-state, 257-county territory recognized by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) as Central Appalachia. Through this collective effort, AFN has facilitated the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions,  enriching and empowering communities across the Central Appalachian landscape. 

Eller brings a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to the region’s prosperity. As a descendant of more than nine generations from Appalachia, Eller has dedicated his career to driving social change and community empowerment. He has been serving AFN for months in the interim role while also serving as the president of Beloved Community Foundation, an organization focused on racial justice and  community organizing. Previously, Eller held leadership roles at Define American, a narrative and culture  change organization, the Industrial Areas Foundation, and Change.org, where he spearheaded impactful  campaigns for social justice. 

From the Co-Chairs of the Appalachia Funders Network Steering Committee: 

“We are profoundly appreciative of the visionary and principled leadership Ryan has demonstrated  throughout this transition period. His passion and dedication to our mission have been truly inspiring.” – Garrett Blaize, Executive Director of Appalachian Community Fund. 

“Ryan’s skills, talents, and heart for the region made our decision easy and unanimous. The future is  bright for our Network.” – Laura Nixon, Program Director for Reproductive Health and Justice at The  Educational Foundation of America. 

In his new role, Eller will lead AFN’s efforts to accelerate an equitable Appalachian transition by  convening funders for learning, analysis, and collaboration. His appointment marks a significant step  forward in AFN’s mission to create a healthy, equitable, and vibrant region through strong partnerships,  civic engagement, and leadership.

“I’m deeply honored to step into the role of Executive Director at the Appalachia Funders Network at this  pivotal time,” said Eller. “AFN’s mission is personal, and I look forward to bringing my passion, dedication, and vision to this position, as we strive to enact a transformative impact in Appalachia. Our region boasts a rich history of powering the nation, and its resilient spirit positions us to lead and ultimately reshape the narrative of our region. With an unwavering commitment to equity, we have the opportunity to highlight the beauty of our landscape and cultural heritage, while charting a course toward prosperity that respects our people, resources, and communities. At AFN, we are dedicated to ensuring a just transition for all. This entails confronting challenges head-on and forging pathways to sustainable and inclusive well-being. The Appalachia Funders Network will serve as a cornerstone in facilitating this transition, nurturing long-term partnerships, fostering shared leadership, and helping to  shape strategic investments that honor our region’s essence.” 

Eller’s appointment comes at a critical moment as the region navigates economic transition and seeks to  capitalize on new opportunities for sustainable growth and development. The announcement also comes just before the Network’s annual Gathering, where stakeholders from across the region will convene to discuss strategies for driving positive change and fostering collaboration in Central Appalachia. With Eller at the helm, AFN is poised to lead the way toward a brighter future for Central Appalachia. For more information about the Appalachia Funders Network, please visit www.appalachiafunders.org.

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