Many southern Illinois families are feeling the effects as coal mines downsize or even close. One man recently reached out for support on social media and found thousands of others like him.
His viral call for support is now calling for change.
It’s been a whirlwind week for Bob and Kelly Sandidge. Last week, they were wondering how long Bob’s contracting business could keep going with area coal mines downsizing or closing.
"Last year, we would keep probably 70, 75 people working. We're down to about 30 people today," Bob said.
Upset and overwhelmed, Kelly had the idea to use social media to show their support for mining families. They created the Facebook page last Saturday, and by Sunday it had more than 1,000 likes. By Monday, more than 17,000 people from all around the country clicked "like" on the Coal Miner's Movement.
"The response on Facebook's been phenomenal,” Bob said.
The page is filled with stories of people hurt by downsizing in the coal industry.
"It's heartbreaking to hear some of the responses that people come in with. One guy's even down to living out of his car," he said.
Seeing a groundswell of support from people looking for change, Bob and Kelly say they’re also getting support from local leaders and lawmakers looking to lend a hand.
"We expect to help people. Well, how do you do that? Ultimately, it's getting a voice in Washington," Bob said.
Bob and Kelly say they’re hoping to use the momentum to create meaningful change that can help families move forward.
State Rep. Brandon Phelps is also speaking out in favor of the Coal Miner’s Movement. Phelps says he feels like he’s one of the few pro-coal legislators in Illinois, saying he wants to work with the Sandidges to help make it better. The Sandidges will move the movement from social media to town hall forums, starting with a meeting on Feb. 25 in Harrisburg. Phelps says he plans on being in the audience.
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