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Eastern Kentucky gets $1 million grant for SOAR initiative

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

PINEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - More than one million dollars is on the way to Eastern Kentucky to help with the Shaping Our Appalachian Region, known as SOAR initiative.

Officials from Washington D.C. joined Congressman Hal Rogers (R-5th District) and Governor Steve Beshear (D-Kentucky) on Monday, July 7th for the announcements at the Pine Mountain State Park in Bell County.

During the meeting, Wendy Spencer told Congressman Rogers, Governor Beshear, and 100 others the Corporation for National and Community Service is investing more than one million dollars in an Americorps VISTA project in Eastern Kentucky.

It will bring 52 Americorps workers to Eastern Kentucky to work full-time. Their goal is to improve the economy and quality of life.

"To make sure Eastern Kentucky doesn't get left behind but thrives, and thrives in the future and has a good foundation and a lift for its citizens," said Wendy Spencer, CEO of Corporation for National and Community Service.

"If they believe in it and they will embrace it, then we're going to make changes that will better everybody's lives," said Governor Steve Beshear (D-Kentucky).

Marcus Plumlee is one of the Americorps workers. He is from Augusta, Georgia but went to college at Berea. He has already started working in the region.

"That's what's going to help in Eastern Kentucky is having people there working with the people already in the communities, just helping them achieve their visions," Plumlee said.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration also announced $312,000 dollars for job creation in the region.

Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, said in a news release the grant will provide technical assistance in the formation and implementation for the SOAR initiative for job creation and private sector growth in the region.

"EDA is pleased to support the collaborative SOAR initiative," said Williams. "This vital EDA assistance will help SOAR in its mission to help eastern Kentucky capitalize on its strengths to diversify, innovate and implement job-creating diversification strategies."

Congressman Rogers said they are also seeking other funding sources for SOAR.

"It's going to take the philanthropy of hundreds, thousands even, of donors of people who are giving in a charitable way," said Rep. Hal Rogers (R) 5th District.

However, leaders believe it can be done and help get nearly 8,000 who lost jobs in the coal industry back to work long-term.

Also during the SOAR meeting, Governor Beshear announced he is speaking at a White House luncheon on July 24th to 500 investors about investing in Eastern Kentucky.

Congressman Rogers announced the director for the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Thomas Frieden will tour our region with Congressman Rogers in August.

The tour marks the first time that the Director of the CDC has visited Eastern Kentucky.

"Our people have long suffered from high rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other health disparities, so Dr. Frieden decided to make a house call to eastern Kentucky," said Rogers. "This is a rare chance to bring a world-renown leader in health care to our doorstep. We will look to Dr. Frieden for help in diagnosing our high risks, as well as his prescription for how we can improve healthy living and morality rates."

The SOAR Health Impact Series is free and open to the public.

· Aug. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Center for Rural Development

· Aug. 5 at 10 a.m. at the Hazard Community and Technical College

· Aug. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Ramada Paintsville Hotel & Convention Center

· Aug. 6 at 10 a.m. at the Morehead Conference Center

Space is limited for the SOAR Health Impact Series, but individuals can reserve a seat by contacting Cheryl Keaton at 606-657-3218 or at ckeaton@centertech.com.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A national community service organization is investing $1 million in eastern Kentucky to help the region recover from the downturn in the coal industry.

The money from the Corporation for National and Community Service will hire 52 full-time workers to recruit volunteers for 16 nonprofit groups on issues ranging from education and poverty.

It is one of the first initiatives of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region, an initiative founded by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers to help eastern Kentucky. Beshear and Rogers also announced Monday $312,000 in technical assistance from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Eastern Kentucky has lost more than 7,000 direct coal mining jobs since Jan. 1, 2012.

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