blackjewel donation

Gilliam Foundation representative Ross Kegan presents a $250,000 donation to assist Blackjewel LLC miners and their families. Left to right are Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board business services Director Rachel Patton, Kegan, workforce board Chairman Andy Miranda and Wise County Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Rick Colley.

NORTON — A foundation launched by a former coal executive and his wife is giving big to assist miners and their families left in the lurch by Blackjewel LLC’s bankruptcy filing.

During a Monday afternoon event at the Virginia Employment Commission workforce center here, the Richard and Leslie Gilliam Foundation presented a $250,000 check to the Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board.

Last week, foundation representation Ross Kegan explained, the workforce development board identified 125 Blackjewel workers who had signed up for employment services assistance in Virginia. Thus, the donation will be divided into $2,000 of assistance for each family, he said.

Blackjewel filed for Chapter 11 protection July 1 in a West Virginia bankruptcy court, sending more than 1,000 workers home from mines in Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Employees were last paid June 28, but the paychecks bounced.

Before Kegan presented the check for Virginia assistance, he said, he had traveled to Kentucky’s Harlan and Letcher counties to make donations. Blackjewel mine families in Harlan County will divide up $492,000 and those in Letcher County will divide up$276,000.

Kegan noted that Gilliam, a Wise native, and his wife, a Jonesville native, had been involved in regional coal operations until 2010. Richard Gilliam had earned a reputation for being generous and caring to his employees, Kegan said.

Gilliam was “disturbed and moved” by the plight of Blackjewel workers and their families, Kegan said, and he wanted a means to put money directly in their hands.

Kegan said the foundation wasn’t certain of the quickest way to provide assistance. But a contact with Wise County Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Rick Colley led to the VEC and the regional workforce board.

The foundation learned that the workforce board and the two Kentucky county governments had already identified those in need. In Virginia, the workforce development board will be in charge of distributing the funds at the foundation’s direction.

The Gilliam Foundation invests in programs and initiatives that support education, health and wellness, community service, entrepreneurship and the arts, a press release notes.

Blackjewel employees who attended July workforce board rapid response events in Norton and St. Charles, or a job fair in Appalachia, are in the database used for the foundation gift. They were to be mailed checks by the end of this week.

Any Blackjewel miners who worked in Wise or Lee counties but did not attend the July events are urged to contact one of the following workforce development specialists for assistance:

• Wise County/Norton: Jason Marsingill, Career Works Center, 1725 Park Ave. NW, Norton; 276/325-3270 or

• Lee County: Monica Middleton, 119 Hill St., Jonesville; 276/346-0054 or

• Scott County: Sherry Tabor, The Pioneer Center, 225 Boone Trail Rd., Duffield; 276/431-3594 or