I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Coal Country in the last year and it is an area of the country that fascinates me. This region of Appalachia that stretches from far southeast Ohio down to the Carolinas and the very far north of Georgia is full of rich history and tradition. The mountains are majestic and the woods are full of game and recreation opportunities. Families that live there have often been there for generations and the whole area can sometimes seem frozen in time. Unfortunately, times are often tough in Appalachia. Poverty is rampant, which is doubly sad because poverty was usually what drove these families there to begin with. The opioid epidemic is taking a huge toll on the area, although the problem started when miners with genuine chronic pain got hooked on prescription pain pills. The years have taken their toll on buildings and houses and many are slowly dilapidating into the ground giving many areas a “ghost town” like feel, but if you look closely you can see that this wasn’t always the case. There was a time that these buildings were brand new and that these communities were thriving. As the coal seams have dried up and mining has become more mechanized, there hasn’t been much industry to take its place. Many people have just picked up and moved away while others are fighting to stay. These areas are remote and hard to get to, despite the transportation links which once brought millions of tons of coal to market. Many of these communities across the region are aging and struggling and some have all but given up the ghost. In Kentucky’s Coal Country though, there are rays of light as these communities are trying to rediscover themselves and reinvent themselves and move boldly towards the future. While I have loved visiting communities across the region, it is those in southeast Kentucky which seem to be pushing the hardest for new ideas and change. While this entire region is deeply religious and many communities have just leaned back and put their faith in God, Kentucky’s towns seem to know that God helps those who help themselves. I was impressed with a lot of the efforts I saw in my time there and wanted to share some of those today.
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