Wise County

Coal layoffs have families worried about holidays

WISE COUNTY, Va. - A deal between two companies is saving 500 jobs in the coalfield and could bring an additional 650 more when mines are reopened.

It is all thanks to an agreement between American Electric Power and Southern Coal Corporation.

However, while nearly 1,200 miners will avoid layoffs this holiday season, there are still hundreds of families who will not be as lucky.

It has been a coal family affair for as long as Chasity Meade can remember, and her husband was following in the same path. "[My husband has] worked in the coal industry his whole life," said Meade.

But after numerous layoffs in several companies, Meade knew they would not be exempt. "We kind of were expecting it. We were just afraid of the news, but we finally did get it and it was just heartbreaking," said Meade.

Meade tells News 5 she was not upset about her husband being laid off as much as the timing. "It hits even harder at Christmas time. It makes it even more heartbreaking than it would at a normal time," said Meade.

Now she worries about giving her child a good Christmas. "I'm an adult. I can go without a Christmas present. To look at your child and say, 'Dad's out of work and we cannot get you what you asked for,' that hurts," said Meade.

One group of women did not want coal families to worry about giving their children a Christmas. "We obviously live payday to payday, but we thought if we work really hard and do as many fundraisers as we can, maybe there is something we can do to just bring some joy to their lives for Christmas," said Kelli Honaker, president of Operation Coal Christmas.

Operation Coal Christmas was created by family members of miners; Honaker tells us through donations they would be able to spend $50 on each child, providing them with a coat and a few toys.

Donations came from all over the state and even across the country. "We had a lady from California send us $1,500 to go towards this, just to help the coal miners," said Honaker.

We have learned they will be assisting more than 100 families this Christmas and they told us they are still taking donations. You can find out how to help on the group's Facebook page.

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