By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Although coal mining tends to remain a man’s world, there are no gender barriers in the coalfields among people who stand in support of the industry that continues to impact nearly every aspect of life in the region.
“The coal industry has a very big impact on our state and it’s economy,” Joy Stokley said. “Everyone who lives and works in West Virginia knows that when the mines are working, everyone works. When the mines aren’t working, it’s hard on everyone.”
Stokley is the public relations person for the Friends of Coal Ladies’ Auxiliary, an organization with about 5,000 members throughout the coalfields that works year-round to promote awareness about the positive aspects of the coal industry, to educate the public about the industry, and to work on projects that support veterans, scouting, youth sports, families dealing with serious health issues, and more.
“There are a lot of people who don’t know about us,” Stokley said. “We like to do things that help the coal industry and that help people understand what coal means to everyone.”
With spokesmen like Don Nehlan and Bob Pruett of West Virginia University and Marshall University respectively, the Friends of Coal gets plenty of ink in West Virginia. However, the organization’s ladies’ auxiliary is every bit as active.
Some of the auxiliary’s highlights include teaching “Coal in the Classroom” at area schools; working at the Friends of Coal Auto Fair in July; volunteering through the year at the Beckley Veterans’ Administration Hospital; providing Christmas cheer for 80 families through “Giving Hearts;” providing gun safety and self defense classes; assisting with the inaugural Rocket Boys Weekend in Beckley; providing GI phone cards to U.S. Armed Forces through the “Iraq and Afghanistan Projects;” providing aid to several coal mining families who were flooded out or lost their homes to fire; and much more.
“This year, we’ll be working the Bluefield Coal Show,” Stokley said. “We have gone down there every year since the auxiliary was established in 2007. We do membership drives, sell Friends of Coal Ladies’ Auxiliary items to raise funds and help promote the industry.”
Anyone who would like more information about the organization can call 304-255-1457, extension 20, or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The organization meets monthly on the last Thursday of each month at the Hylton Building, 144 Whitestick St., Mabscott, WV 25871. “Of course, membership is free,” Stokley said.
— Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com