Regina Fairchild founded The Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary in 2007 as a nonprofit organization focused on the coal industry, coal miners and their families, but the organization now helps people in all walks of life.The Beckley-based auxiliary began with 2,000 members in West Virginia, but has grown to include more than 5,000 members nationwide, who all offer their time on a volunteer basis.
FOCLA, which is funded solely through contributions and sales through its online store, has worked to become active participants in charity, and the members have touched peoples’ lives at all stages.
The auxiliary has helped out with food pantries, veterans hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers and schools, in addition to providing assistance to families in need, unemployed miners and students. FOCLA has also helped children in foster care, supported military dogs and their handlers and provided scholarships to students.
The State Journal: How has the auxiliary’s mission or course of action changed to adapt to the changing coal industry since it was founded?
Regina Fairchild: Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, stated that although coal is down in southern West Virginia, it has seen an increase in production in the northern counties. This is due to the geological nature of the different types of coal and demands for each. However, he, along with coal operators, remains optimistic about coal’s future. There is still too much good coal in West Virginia. The FOCLA continues to find needs in the area related to coal or the results of coal mining. The FOCLA endeavors to teach more about coal, its heritage and what it means in today’s times.
TSJ: What has been the auxiliary’s biggest success?
Fairchild: We started “Coal in the Classroom” at the third- and fourth- grade level in 2008. These children are now approaching high school and thinking about college. So now we are in to promoting scholarships to these same children as well as other high school, and nontraditional students who come from coal mining background by giving them a helping hand in their education. We have to date given out over $13,000 in scholarships to eight students and 10 nontraditional students from eight different counties.
TSJ: What has been the auxiliary’s biggest challenge?
Fairchild: Funding. We never run out of requests from organizations, students, miners, underprivileged, volunteer groups and organizations asking for our help. We support our projects selling the “Friends of Coal” merchandise and are the only authorized distributor of their products. You can find us by going onto Facebook, online at friendsofcoalladies.com and/or contacting any our office or any member of FOCLA to purchase items for yourself, your friends, your family, by making an online tax exempt donation to our organization. By supporting coal you will be “keeping the lights on.”
From The State Journal