Meet Us

Our Mission Statement

The Keepers of the Mountain Foundation aims to educate and inspire people to work for healthier, more sustainable mountain communities and to end Mountaintop Removal. We believe a better future requires everyday people to come together and recognize their power to make long-term, lasting change. We envision an organization, led by West Virginians, with real power to move beyond an extraction based economy and put in its place an economy that values people, land, and mountain heritage.

Meet Our Board Members

Abraham Mwaura is the Coordinator of Warehouse Workers for Justice, a campaign to improve conditions and bring dignity to warehouse and logistics workers in the greater Chicago region. Prior to that he worked with the United Electrical Workers (UE).  Abe organized for five years with Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) helping to grow a base of coalfield residents to resist mountaintop removal, win successful grassroots campaigns for access to clean drinking water, and organize impacted residents to pass state legislation. He has roots in West Virginia and Kenya.  Abe is currently serving as a board member.

Bill DePaulo has been in the private practice of law since his 1973 graduation from the Georgetown University Law Center, and a 1974 clerkship with the Hon. John A. Fields, Jr. of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In Washington, DC, he practiced before the US Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Since returning to West Virginia, his law practice has included representation of environmental interests, including individual land owners, in administrative proceedings before the Public Service Commission, in civil litigation at the Circuit Courts and in appeals before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Bill has served as a member of the Executive Committee of the WV Chapter of the Sierra Club, and is currently the Sierra Club representative on the board of the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation, a non-profit corporation to fund environmental mitigation efforts.   Bill is currently serving as the Treasurer of our Board.

Chuck was born and raised in Sylvester, WV, along the Coal River. He is serving as the Vice President of the Keepers of the Mountains Foundation, is on the Coordinating Committee for the Alliance for Appalachia, and is a member of the Sludge Safety Project. He was awarded the West Virginia Environmental Council's Laura Foreman 2008 Activist of the Year, and was awarded by the Ohio Citizen Action, along with Larry Gibson, the 2010 Enduring Courage Award.  This award is to recognize community activists who have exemplified unwavering courage in fighting for their communities. He appeared in the documentary film "Coal Country". He also testified in Cape Cod where they eventually won a battle for wind farm to be built in Nantucket Sound. For nearly thirty years he worked as an underground coal miner, and is a proud member of the United Mine Workers. He spent an entire year on the picket line as a union member, when Massey Energy refused to allow union miners to work. After being forced into retirement, Chuck found himself an unlikely activist and organizer after watching Massey Energy blow the top off a nearby ridge. He has fought for the abolition of slurry injections and slurry impoundments, which is the process of injecting coal waste into old mine shafts or into dams, both of which contaminate drinking water supplies and have actually taken human lives, and put communities at risk for flooding, and catastrophic life threatening events.

Donna Branham lives in Mingo County, WV. She has been an active member of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition for over 5 years. Donna and her husband Charles live on a farm and enjoy the quiet country living. Donna and her family are dedicated to maintaining our mountains, protecting clean healthy water and educating others on the adverse effects of mountaintop removal and the devastation of irresponsible coal mining. Donna has filed numerous petitions and written many protest letters against mining permits that would present harm to the environment and her community. Donna is a proud West Virginian and a natural organizer.
Larry Gibson has been fighting for his mountain, calling for an end to the destruction of the Appalachian Mountains  through Mountaintop Removal coal mining for more than the last twenty years.  He is an internationally known voice who has been named one of CNN's "Heroes", has appeared on ABC's 20/20, appeared before the United Nations, and has spoken to thousands of community, church, and university groups across the country.  He has most recently been honored by Ohio Citizen Action, which awarded him the 2010 Enduring Courage Award.  Larry is currently serving as the President of our Board.

Patricia Feeney began organizing as a Compton Mentor Fellow in 2005.  As one of five college graduates in the country to receive this fellowship, Patricia used the opportunity to support local efforts for clean water in West Virginia and to organize the first Appalachian Coalfield Delegation to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.  She has been a Community Organizer with the Sludge Safety Project in Mingo County, WV through the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and is currently a student at the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.  Patricia is a lifelong activist, dedicated to working with Larry Gibson and others for justice in Appalachia.  Patricia is currently serving as the Secretary of our Board.

Paula Swearegin was born in Mullens, WV but spent most of her youth in Yadkin County, North Carolina. She is a single mother currently residing in Glen White, WV. The reason she wishes to preserve our mountains and environment is simple. The Appalachian Mountains are some of the oldest and most beautiful in the world. She brought her children back here in hopes of sharing their beauty and her heritage only to find out they were being destroyed. As a mother, she feels it's her obligation to her children to have a voice against the negative impacts of mountain top removal on two of our most vital needs for survival; clean air and clean water.

Meet Our Staff

Danny Chiotos is the Keeper of the Mountains' Operations Director and has lived in West Virginia for the past eight years.  He moved to West Virginia in 2002 to attend Shepherd University where he helped found the Shepherd Progressive Action Committee which got him involved with the WV Collegiate Environmental Network and Student Environmental Action Coalition.  Through these groups, he was introduced to Larry Gibson and first saw Mountaintop Removal from Kayford Mountain.  He has never looked back and making West Virginia a better place for all has been his mission ever since then.  He has served as the President of the WV Environmental Council and has co-founded such organizations as Build It Up, West Virginia and the West Virginia Youth Action League.  He is excited to be a part of the struggle for justice in the coalfields and is dedicated to helping to build a vibrant movement to improve West Virginia.

Meet Our On The Road Again Speakers

Adam Hall of Glen Daniel, WV

Adam is a U.S. Army veteran who has lived in the Mountain State his entire life. Upon coming back home from working up North, he discovered the irreversible and devastating effects of mountaintop removal. Since learning what this destructive coal mining practice has done to his family and neighbors in the past, Hall has dedicated his life to combat surface mining and fights for what he calls: "The God-given right to drink clean water."

Amber Whittington of Ameagle, WV

Amber was born and raised just outside of Charleston about 2 to 8 miles from the DuPont Plant in Belle and went to school about 5 to 10 minutes from the plant until she graduated from Riverside High School in 2008. Right after graduating she went to West Virginia University for a year and then moved to Ameagle, W.V in spring of 2009 switching from one community effected by a form of dirty industry to another that's effected by another form. After moving to Raleigh County, she began to go to meetings at Coal River Mountain Watch and began learning the effects that corporate greed and destructive practices can have on not only the enviroment but on human lives as well.

  Debbie Graff of Ghent, WV  

She was born and raised in West Virginia.  She graduated from Ohio University with a BA in English and later with a post graduate certificate in paralegal studies from UCLA.  She was only vaguely aware mountaintop removal while growing up and living in Kanawha County and knew nothing of the devastation mtr leaves in its wake until moving to Raleigh County a few years ago.  She wants to help educate the public on just what is happening out here to the folks living in the mountains of West Virginia and get things changed.

Junior Walk of Whitesville, WV
Junior is a 20 year old resident of Whitesville West Virginia. He attended Marsh Fork Elementary (The one beside the coal prep plant and slurry dam), and then due to consolidation had to be bussed an hour away to go to high school. He grew up in Eunice West Virginia where he had poisoned water due to coal company practices. Once he graduated high school, he eventually went to work as a security guard on a mountaintop removal site, disgusted with what he saw he started volunteering with Coal River Mountain Watch. Not long after that he was offered a job at Coal River, after some thought and internal debate he decided to go for it. Because he chose to speak out his parents had to kick him out of their house (His dad works for Massey Energy) and he has faced hostility from relatives and neighbors.

Sid Moye of Rock, WV

Sid lives on a small farm near Rock, WV in Mercer County. His grandfather and father were both coal miners. Although Sid has never worked for the coal industry he has lived under its influence. He has seen and continues to watch the effects that this industry has had on, not only his family and friends, but the negative social, ecological, and economic impacts brought on by out of control corporations and corrupt politicians. For the past two years he has dedicated himself in both direct and indirect actions to bring about the end of surface and mountaintop removable mining in hopes that someday his beloved Appalachia will be returned to its once pristine condition and to its rightful owners.

Wendy Johnston of Athens, WV

Wendy Johnston is a 1986 graduate of Matoaka High School in Mercer County, West Virginia and a 1990 graduate of Berea College where she learned that being an Appalachian was something to be proud of. After ten years away from southern West Virginia she returned in 1995 determined to raise her three children on a farm and instill in them the love she had for the mountains of her ancestors. In 2009 while working at the local library she discovered a surface mine permit for the mountain above Weyanoke, WV one mile from where she went to high school and two miles from her parents’ home. From that minute she knew that she must join the struggle to end mountaintop removal in the state where both her grandfather and great-grandfather had worked as underground miners. She now lives in Athens, WV on a 100+ acre farm with her husband Steve, son Matthew and a multitude of four –legged critters. Her other two children Rachel and Billy who were both home schooled attend school at East Tennessee State University and Emory & Henry College respectively where they are both honor students. Her parents still live near Matoaka, WV where the threat of mountaintop removal is ever present in the mountains near their home.