CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A union of painters and allied trades gave $5,000 to Reconnecting McDowell, a multifaceted effort to find solutions to economic and social problems in the Southern West Virginia county.
Officials involved with Reconnecting McDowell hope other potential donors take note of the gesture.
Delegate Dan Poling, D-Wood, presented a check from the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades during a Tuesday morning press conference at the state Capitol.
The American Federation of Teachers is leading efforts to raise money for the group in what is widely considered the state's most struggling county.
Poling, business manager and secretary-treasurer of IUPAT's District 53 in West Virginia, said, "We are appreciative of what the AFT has stepped up to do. We want to be supportive of that."
Christine Campbell, president of West Virginia's AFT chapter, said the AFT is thankful for the union's donation.
"I would encourage other labor unions to make contributions so we can step up our work," she said.
Reconnecting McDowell is a public-private partnership consisting of more than 100 labor, business and community partners and meant to improve the lives of children and families in the county.
Bob Brown, a longtime AFT employee and Reconnecting McDowell's project manager, said McDowell County coal companies would not return to what they were like in the mid-1960s.
McDowell County became the nation's largest coal-producing county during those years. In 1965, the county had more than 120,000 residents. Today, barely 22,000 people still have homes there.
"But some coal seams are left. There is enough coal left to sustain people still living there," Brown said. "Coal has always been a boom-to-bust cycle. It is going to boom again, but not like it was back then."