When the miners at Willow Lake got the news on Nov. 27 that the mine was closing they continued to support two holiday charitable programs started in 1990 by Tony Young, a Willow Lake blaster and dynamite expert.
Young got involved with charitable programs while in high school working on an FFA project in 1968. His chapter of the FFA started a Thanksgiving Food Drive at South Hopkins High School in Nortonville, Ky. He started charitable programs at mines he worked at in Kentucky.
When Young moved to Southern Illinois in 1990 he started programs at Drake 2, Drake 3 and Drake 4 mines. Young worked in Missouri for ten years and started programs at his mine in that state. He returned to Illinois and started programs at three more mines.
"You have to give some of it back," said Young. "I couldn't have done it without the help of the fine men and women that I have worked with. I am no hero or anything like it. There should be a picture of all 400 miners who supported the programs."
One program was for Thanksgiving and the other for Christmas. The mine owners supplied the turkeys and the miners supplied the trimmings. The leftovers went to the local food bank.
For Christmas the miners teamed up with Department of Children and Family Services and provided toys for needy children and they supported Shop With a Cop.
This year the miners supported the Thanksgiving Food Drive but support is lower for the pair of Christmas programs.
"But giving up is not in my vocabulary. Next year I will do everything in my power to keep them programs alive. Me and my buddies will do everything we can."
"My heart was broken because this year we couldn't do the Share Your Blessings program like we used to. Many of these miners have wives and kids at home. They are out jobs and it is only natural that they would cut back their giving some," said Young.
"But some of the miners are still contributing to Shop With a Cop," Young said.