Joe has been leading Rural Action’s Environmental Education Program since 2010 with a great deal of collaboration and fellowship from 20 Americorps members, fellow staff, and education leaders in the region like Dana White, John Winnenberg, and Diana McCauley, who carved out a niche for him and Rural Action in local schools. Regional EE gurus Paul and Cathy Knoop, and many others at Camp Oty’Okwa, have drastically accelerated his meager knowledge of natural history and of organizing people around beautiful and powerful ideas like empowering youth leaders and gathering educators together.
His own affinity to the natural world began when he was still diligently filling diapers; his dad took his brothers and Joe for walks in their local woods. They played in the stream and observed deer tracks in the mud. One sunny autumn afternoon a large buck stepped forth on a grassy hilltop and gazed down at him, ivory antlers shining above those wild eyes, and Joe has never been quite the same. A feeling of belonging to nature has pervaded his life since then and continues to guide the personal and professional aspects of his life.
Since 2010 Joe has interacted with more than 20,000 kids in Appalachian Ohio. Many of them Joe has been fortunate to observe holding salamanders, starting fires without matches for the first time, tossing homemade mud balls into Sunday Creek, or daring him to eat crawdads. It has been and continues to be one of the greatest honors he can imagine to share these wild and life-giving Appalachian streams and forests with their muddy faces and curious minds.