Anne Blakeney first learned of the New Opportunity School for Women in the late 1980s. She says she was “awestruck” by the difference the program could make in a woman’s life.
Anne grew up in Morristown, Tennessee. Her early career took her to Louisiana and then North Carolina. After she came to Eastern Kentucky University in 1984 to teach occupational therapy, she began attending events at Berea College and reconnecting with her Appalachian heritage.
She heard about Jane Stephenson and the program she had started for Appalachian women. “It seemed that with such a few small efforts—when you consider the whole scheme of challenges women face—it could make a huge difference and change somebody’s whole life,” Anne says.
When she designed a class on providing health services in Eastern Kentucky, focused on the structures that lead to poverty and a lack of services, Anne invited Jane Stephenson to speak about the challenges under-resourced women in the mountains face.
Anne continued to follow the work of NOSW and made donations over the years. When she retired from EKU after 27 years of teaching, she wanted to get more involved. She signed up as a monthly Sustainer in 2021. “When I thought about it, I felt like I was able to, and I wanted to use my money to make a difference,” she says.
Earlier this year Anne invited NOSW staff to speak at her local Rotary Club, and now she’s working on a grant to help the school purchase computers. She hopes to get even more involved with NOSW as a volunteer.