Photo courtesy of Coal Miners Underground MC

A few of the members of Coal Miners Underground MC stand outside after a 2014 event. Over the weekend, the club raised close to $1,000 during their 8th Annual Miners Memorial Ride — a round trip from Middlesboro to London.

Riding for coal miners in need

For members of Coal Miners Underground MC, paying it forward is what they do. On Saturday and Sunday, they did it again — taking a round trip from Middlesboro to London as part of their 8th Annual Miners Memorial Ride. The purpose of the ride was to raise money for coal miners in need.

For the ride on Sunday, Mitch Witt, a member of Coal Miners Underground MC, projected that around $1,000 was made. There were 43 riders at the event but approximately 200 people were involved. The bikers rode about 160 miles.

“We’ve done this for eight years now. Retired coal miners and people who has worked underground (sparked the idea behind the event),” said Witt. “Some of our members thought it would be a good ride with what we do, and we just started…having the rides each year — making money and giving it out to folks in need.

“It may be somebody that recently got laid off or having a hard time — maybe (someone) who ran out of unemployment. It’s just what we do.”

Layoffs in the coal mining industry have become way too common over the years. According to a report from the Kentucky Department of Energy, underground coal production decreased by 14.2 percent on a year-over-year basis. On the local level, coal production decreased by 16.6 percent in Harlan County and 5 percent in Bell County.

With the reduction in coal produced comes layoffs. Bell County saw a 2.3 percent decrease from the last quarter while Harlan County saw an o.8 percent decrease. The state as a whole saw a reduction of 421 jobs, according to the report. That is a 4.6 percent drop from the fourth quarter of 2017.

Those numbers make Coal Miners Underground MC’s job that much more important Witt said.

“We feel we need to do it because there are people who may not have food, they may not have their electricity bill money (or) they may not have a car payment and needs that for their family,” said Witt. “So, we give what we can. What we make, every penny goes to toward that because people need it in times like that.”

For many members of the MC, the negative impact on the coal industry hits home. Several of the bikers in the club are former or retired coal miners. Witt would be one of them.

“It was a rough job. I worked underground for about seven and a half years, but I’ve got about 15 years outside of a mine,” said Witt. “It was day in, day out. It was something you got used to. When you first go underground you’re scared, but after a little while you weren’t scared anymore. I guess you got tough. That’s just the way it was.”

Witt showed appreciation for everyone that showed up for the event over the weekend.

“We just had a really good time. Coal Miners Underground MC really appreciates everybody that was involved. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”