Food Drives for Miners Also Help Drive Local Economy

Volunteers unloading food from boxes
Volunteers are assembling boxes for food distribution.

It’s always a struggle to lose a job unexpectedly, but it’s especially hard right before the holidays. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to 350 workers at the Shoal Creek Mine in Walker County, who found themselves out of work in October.

“That’s 350 people who thought they had a job on October 1st only to find out three days later they didn’t have an income for the next several months,” said Larry Spencer, Vice President of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) District 20. “Three hundred, fifty people not able to spend money in stores has a huge impact on the community.”

But the local UMWA stepped up to help these out-of-work miners, initially approaching the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama for assistance with food drives.

“The Food Bank was able to help us for one food drive, but we knew that they were overwhelmed with demand, so we reached out to United Way,” said Spencer.

United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) gladly answered the call, sending in Community Services Labor Liaison David Clark to coordinate efforts for another food drive through United Way Hands On, the volunteer center for UWCA. Further support, including monetary donations, came from Warrior Met Coal, Inc. and the Drummond Company, individuals and numerous labor groups. Donations were used to purchase food at a discounted rate from Son’s Grocery in Jasper, further helping the community by supporting a small business. The Society of St. Andrew Gleaning Network distributed fresh produced at no cost to the pantry.

Volunteer placing food box in client's trunk
Volunteers work to keep everyone safe with contactless delivery.

“Son’s Grocery has always helped the community and supported coal miners,” said Spencer. “We were glad to have the opportunity to help them help coal miners.”

The UMWA food drive, held December 11th, provided 175 out-of-work mine workers and their families with food, such as bread, hot cereal, pasta and a variety of canned goods. To limit risk of exposure to COVID-19, it was strictly a drive-through event, and all volunteers wore masks. “The safety of our community is our number one priority,” said Spencer.

Spencer said that District 20 plans to continue to support the out-of-work miners with food drives twice a month until the mine reopens, and UWCA is proud to support them. “After all,” said Clark, “it’s our mission to fight for health, education and financial stability of every person in every community.”

True: it’s United Way’s mission, but it’s also our passion. Helping those in need, especially in times of overwhelming crisis, is simply the right thing to do. And it’s all made possible through the support of a caring community that shares our passion for providing hope when it’s needed most.