Sales of coal-themed candles raise $26,000 to help laid-off Harlan miners

bestep@herald-leader.comFebruary 24, 2014 

Kathy Bianchi stood with her granddaugher Makayla Fox, 8, next to a display of coal-themed candles at Southern Wholesale in Harlan. Profits from candle sales will be used to help laid-off coal miners.

A project to help laid-off Harlan County miners through sales of coal-themed candles raised more than $26,000, according to one of the organizers.

Harlan 20/20, the civic group sponsoring the project, used the money to help pay the electric bills of more than 100 miners in December, January and February, Rie Whitfield said.

"Look what $20 can do," Whitfield said, referring to the price of a candle.

Whitfield and Kathy Bianchi, members of Harlan 20/20, came up with the idea for the fundraiser. They settled on helping to pay electric bills because it was something everyone would need.

Goose Creek Candle Co. in Casey County made the candles and donated much of its profit. The decorative candles were dyed black to simulate coal.

The company sold the candles from its website. Businesses in Harlan also sold them, and Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington helped by ordering 500 to sell, Whitfield said.

All told, the effort brought in $26,649.48, Whitfield said. Of that, $7,400 was from donations and the rest was from sales, said Whitfield, who balanced the books Monday.

The coal industry in Eastern Kentucky is in a sharp decline. Nearly half the workers who had jobs in 2011 have been laid off.

Whitfield said Harlan 20/20 would make the last payment from the candle project this week.

She said she was proud that people from Kentucky bought candles to help others in need.

"If you can do a little to help, it can go a long way," she said Monday.

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1.

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