HAZARD – Dozens of area children received an early Christmas last week as Coal Mining Our Future hosted its annual Shop With a Coal Miner event at the Hazard Magic Mart.
Haven King chairs the Coal Mining Our Future board of directors, and said in all the organization purchased gifts for 170 kids from Perry, Breathitt, and Leslie counties on Thursday, giving each child more than $100 to allow them to purchase whatever they wanted for Christmas. He said many of the children opted to purchase items other than toys.
“They bought a lot of clothes and stuff this year, and shoes,” he said.
The children who participated were selected based on need by the school resource centers in their respective school districts. King said Coal Mining Our Future spent approximately $20,000 during the day, which included a donation from James River Coal Company. Miners from Arch Coal, TECO, and James River participated, as did a handful of recently laid off miners along with employees from Whayne Supply in Hazard.
Shop with a Coal Miner was first held six years ago and was the brainchild of Ricky Campbell, a miner for Pine Branch Coal Sales.
“He knew what it was to be raised hard, as we would call it, and that was just something he wanted to do,” King said, noting the event is an offshoot of the organizations’ Coal for Kids program which provides services for area children each month. “We started it and it’s been doing well ever since.”
Though Coal Mining Our Future was able to increase the number of children participating in Shop With a Coal Miner this year, King said the downturn in the coal industry has been felt in his organization, which in addition to its Coal for Kids program and other efforts lobbies for coal interests in Eastern Kentucky. He said the board of directors reprioritized its budget this year and began a tighter focus on community service.
“We changed the priorities so that we’re going to help children with food and clothing, and we’re going to help our senior citizens, and we’re going to help our veterans,” he said. “Those are our three main things right now.”
There is more need in the community than there ever has been since Coal Mining Our Future began its Shop with a Coal Miner event, and despite the downturn in coal King said his organization will continue to help where it can, and helping out the area’s youth in need is good reminder of the priorities they set.
“Stuff like that will humble you,” he said. “We can’t feed the world. We know that. We can’t clothe the world, but we can do what we can do.”