Five-year-old Christopher White, a student at Walkertown Primary School in Hazard, was one of the children who participated in the program Monday.
As he and Randy Claunch, a miner with Pine Branch Coal, checked out he said he was looking forward to taking his new bicycle home for a ride.
“It’s cool,” he said as he sat on his new bike.
“It’s a good deal,” Claunch added. “I don’t have no kids myself, so it was kind of a treat for me.”
Sponsored by the group Coal Mining Our Future, Shop With a Coal Miner was the brainchild of Ricky Campbell, a miner with Pine Branch Coal, who said he got the idea while watching television.
“I saw it on television with the Shop With a Cop program and I saw what a good thing was happening with the kids and stuff. I just thought it was something the coal companies could do to put together,” Campbell said.
Campbell said it turned out a lot better than he thought it would with the participation of a few other companies.
“These kids, they’re really enjoying (themselves) getting all these gifts,” he added. “There’s a lot of these kids that are less fortunate. It’s going to be hard for them, especially the way the economy is and everything, it’s going to be hard on a lot of these kids to have a good Christmas.”
Katie Davidson, a student at A.B. Combs Elementary, shopped in the toy section of Walmart with Perry County Judge Executive Denny Ray Noble.
“It’s awesome,” Davidson said as she and Judge Noble stopped at the end of an aisle. “I’m not gonna wait to open them. That’s the good part about it.”
“It’s a great thing for coal companies to come out and help us some,” Noble said, adding that the fiscal court has partnered with Coal Mining Our Future in the past and he thinks support for coal mining needs to continue. “The guy that came up with this idea, it was a very brilliant idea.”
The program wasn’t only a good day for the children, but it was a bright spot for the coal miners as well, said Haven King with Coal Mining Our Future.
“They think it’s great,” he said. “People say you can’t get coal miners out, but man they’ve come out. We’ve got probably close to 50 kids.”
Representatives of Coal Mining Our Future, which consists of the companies James River Coal, Pine Branch Coal, ICG, TECO, B&W Resources and Emeco, set the program up by contacting personnel in the school districts’ central offices, who in turn reached out to the resource directors of each school who saw that the children were present for the event. And while many coal miners turned out to shop, some of their spouses were also present to lend a hand as well.
Monday’s program was the first step in what the group says they hope to do every month. Danny Pelfrey, who told the Herald last week that the group is working on a plan to get a program up and running that would benefit local children with an event each month, said so far interest has been high, but the main point is that these miners simply like to help people.
“These miners are hard working, eastern Kentucky folks that’s got good morals and good values and that’s what they like to do. We like to help people,” he said.
“This is what Christmas is all about,” King added. “Christmas is about giving.”