The grim specter of a down turned economy raised its head Sat., June 13, during the Lions Club of Logan’s 75th Anniversary. According to National Public Radio over the past six years more than 5,000 coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky have lost their jobs and that job loss has been taking its toll of communities across Appalachia.
Special guest Beth Vorhees of West Virginia Public Broadcasting whipped out a microphone and began asking people in the room questions about life in West Virginia, including how the current downturn in the coal industry has affected their community.
Glen Ables said when he came to Logan County in 1973 it was a bustling community and that good paying jobs were plentiful.
“The dollars have diminished due to the loss of coal mining and related jobs,” he said.
Roger Perry said his father was a coal miner and his mother was a teacher and that in his lifetime he had also been a teacher before going to law school. Perry said in those days the coal industry was able to provide meaningful employment for many people. Perry said as hard times came to the coalfields he saw how it affected people in his job as a Circuit Court Judge when he dealt with abuse and neglect cases and noted that peoples lives were affected when they lost work and had difficulty finding it.
“There used to be plenty of jobs,” Perry said.
Ken Nunley — who has been a president of the club several times in his 30 years of membership — said that fundraising for Lions charitable works used to be easy, but it isn’t anymore thanks to the dramatic loss of jobs over the course of the past several years.
“It’s harder now,” he said. “We want to do more but our hands are tied. We would like to help more people but what money we have only goes so far.”
Susan Perry said she did not believe there was a single family in the region that had not been affected by substance abuse and pointed out that many people turn to drugs and alcohol when they feel they have lost all hope.
“When people do not have a job or money they do bad things,” she said. “It’s a byproduct of the loss of jobs.”
“When coal dies everything else dies with it,” said Jay Nunley explaining that many jobs in the region are dependant upon coal even though they are not mining jobs. “There has always been hard times in Logan County. But now Logan County is hard times.”
Voorhees also brought along a documentary about longtime US Senator Jay Rockefeller which will air on WV PBS in June, and had a brief preview.