By: Tina Bryson
HARLAN COUNTY, Ky. — Hundreds of coal mining families in Harlan County have been left in dire straits since the bankruptcy declaration of their employer Blackjewel LLC a few weeks ago. The court action taken with no forewarning to workers, left many without a way to put food on the table, to buy clothes for their families, or to purchase school supplies for their children in preparation for the start of school. Staff at Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) are joining with other local organizations to distribute essential items on Tuesday, Aug. 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Harlan Center. Miners do not need to reside in Harlan County to qualify, bring a paycheck stub from Blackjewel and a photo ID. Truckloads of food, drinks, and other essential items will be given away.
“When we heard the story about these miners who had their paychecks bounce, we wanted to help,” said Ben Ridner, manager of CAP’s Operation Sharing Program in Corbin, Ky. “Harlan County is already a very impoverished area. We wanted to provide essential items that could help take some of the burden off their shoulders.”
Operation Sharing collects donated goods from partners and corporations including food, paper goods, and household supplies. CAP staff and community volunteers will bring several tractor trailer loads of goods to provide to miners and their families in need. There are nearly 2,000 miners impacted in four states.
“In our daily work, we provide goods that help other organizations help local residents across Appalachia,” Ridner said. Operation Sharing has delivered more than $1.5 billion dollars’ worth of donated materials to more than 1.5 million people across all 13 Appalachian states, Arkansas, and Missouri in 30 years. “We wanted to help these miners because we are all working to do the best we can to take care of our families. This is an opportunity for our staff to be directly involved and not just supplying the items. This is not only a great way to help others in responding to a crisis situation, but it is a great reminder of why we do what we do. Each day we seek to fulfill our mission – to build hope, transform lives, and share Christ’s love through service in Appalachia.”
CAP is working directly with Dan Mosley, the Harlan County Judge Executive, to coordinate efforts in the community. Partners like “With Love from Harlan” have also joined this endeavor to bring hope to families facing difficulties through no fault of their own. No jobs mean no health insurance or other benefits; no way to pay off mounting debt from bank overdraft fees generated from bounced paychecks; no way to pay mortgages, rent, or utility bills. The community is joining together to support relief efforts.
“We could not do this work without partnerships,” Ridner added. “Judge Executive Mosley was very supportive from the very beginning and has worked so hard to coordinate everyone who wants to help. That is what connects us to each other in Appalachia – when you see your neighbor in need, you come together to help. That’s what we do for one another. We want the miners and their families to know that they are not alone.”