This monthís cover story is an account of the Friends of Coal march on the State Capital in WV. Friends of Coal is a volunteer organization consisting of both West Virginians and residents from other states. Membership is free and the levels of involvement by members is at their own discretion. Friends of Coal is dedicated to inform and educate WV citizens about the coal industry and its vital role in the stateís future. The goal is to provide a united voice for an industry that has been and remains a critical economic contributor to WV and the country.
    The origin of the organization dates back to the summer of 2002 when the WV Coal Association held a strategy planning session to consider the most effective means of communicating its concerns and enhance its public relations efforts to the people of WV. Warren Hylton of Beckley pointed out that there are a whole lot of friends of the coal industry who would help if they were asked to do so, and Friends of Coal was born. It was thought that by working together, good jobs and benefits could be provided for future generations, which would keep children and grandchildren close to home.
    Through word of mouth, direct mail, and the internet, members of Friends of Coal receive information about the coal industry and its importance to WV. The information also includes updates on the activities of the group and upcoming events. As a member of Friends of Coal, it is vital to the success of the group that each member also recruit family members, neighbors and fellow workers to join, whether or not they are directly involved in the coal industry.
    Friends of Coal, usually including Coach Don Nehlen, the popular retired football coach of the WVU Mountaineers, the organizationís official spokesman, has appeared at numerous events including the WV State Fair, the Bluefield Coal Show, WVU football rallies, and a wide variety of company picnics and civic group meetings. The Friends of Coal Rally at the State Capital in Charleston, WV was only one of the many events where Friends of Coal is making its presence felt.
    Already, there is an interest in Friends of Coal in states outside WV and Friends of Coal may become a model for public relations in the 25 states, which produce coal. The coal industry has a good story to tell of greater safety, improved reclamation and the contribution to the standard of living of each American due to inexpensive electric energy from coal and this story must be well told. Coal Leader applauds the efforts of all those involved in Friends of Coal, and wishes them continued success in the future. 


Bill Reid



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