Our team is made up of not only the folks who currently live and work at Big Laurel year round, but also of all those who have joined us throughout the past 44 years. Many individuals have dedicated years to the vision of Big Laurel. Our current community is just a small snapshot into one season of Big Laurel.

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Sister Gretchen Shaffer

Sister Gretchen Shaffer

​Sister Gretchen is a Sister of Saint Joseph, a native West Virginian, and a founding teacher of Big Laurel School. After serving as the director of Big Laurel for many years, Gretchen is a wealth of knowledge and tradition. Gretchen is a talented storyteller and is able to hold almost any audience captive for hours of heart-warming and adventure-filled tales. Famous for her homemade oatmeal bread, “better” butter, and Big Laurel applesauce, Gretchen has fed many visitors over the years. She currently lives with Sister Kathy, their three cats, and three dogs at the St. Joe’s House.

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Sister Kathy O'Hagan

Sister Kathy O'Hagan

Sister Kathy, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, moved to the ridge in 1976. She was instrumental in starting the Big Laurel School and has remained a vibrant member of the community for 43 years. A primary teacher and animal lover at heart, Kathy currently serves as the Notre Dame AmeriCorps site director and coordinates Big Laurel’s community outreach. You can often find her rounding up the ponies on her 4-wheeler, preparing her signature baked spaghetti, or performing at special events disguised as Dolly Parton. She makes her home at the St. Joe’s house along with Sister Gretchen, their three dogs, and three cats.

Grace Williams
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Grace Williams

Grace serves as the director at Big Laurel. She lives in the main guest house with her dog, Rosie, and the resident mouser, Tashi. Grace first visited Big Laurel in 2010 on the wood chopping trip as a Wheeling Jesuit University student. After earning a degree in communications, she joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and moved to New Orleans, where she honed her passions for food justice and youth outreach. Grace moved from Louisiana back to West Virginia in 2016 to serve as a Notre Dame AmeriCorps member at Big Laurel. She began her role as director in 2018. In her free time, you can find Grace cooking, biking, hiking with Rosie, learning guitar, or skating with the Chemical Valley Roller Girls. 

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Rebecca Hooker

Rebecca Hooker

Rebecca first came to Big Laurel on a Project FACTS  retreat. She then joined the community in 2014 as a Notre Dame AmeriCorps member, during which time she served as a teaching assistant at Kermit Pk-8. Rebecca has a heart for animals and currently lives in the Baker House with her dog, Murray, and her cat. Rebecca volunteers in the community and is a talented cook. Famous at summer camp for her chicken fajitas and brownie fudge sundaes, she loves to host and prepare meals for guests of all ages.

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Angel Estepp

Angel Estepp

Angel Estepp, a lifelong resident of Marrowbone Creek, West Virginia, is serving as a Notre Dame AmeriCorps at Big Laurel Learning Center for the 2021-2022 school year. Angel grew up around Big Laurel and has fond memories of attending summer camps as a kid. In her free time, Angel enjoys fishing, ATV riding, and spending time at the lake with her family and friends. She appreciates the kindness and caring that she experiences in the Big Laurel community. Angel is looking forward to continuing to meet new people and learning about the environment and the economy. 

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Tony Smith

Tony Smith 

Tony Smith, originally from Pensacola, Florida, joins Big Laurel for the 2021-2022 school year as a Notre Dame AmeriCorps. Tony has worked in different professions until recently rekindling his passion for service work in 2019. This year marks his 3rd year of AmeriCorps service. Tony has a Cajun background and enjoys cooking and eating different foods. He also likes listening to music, going to concerts, kayaking, camping, reading fiction, playing video games, and enjoying nature from his hammock. Tony is most looking forward to hosting and cooking for groups and helping children succeed in learning.