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Community Resource Mapping

Sharon Thompson

Sharon Thompson likes to joke that she holds “a degree in domestic engineering.” Born and raised in the Coal River Valley, Sharon considers herself a homemaker and is active in her community. Her father was a logger, and Sharon says he taught her values of sustainability by replanting the trees and hauling fallen logs by horse.

Sharon sees small businesses, training a skilled workforce, and developing the valley's renewable resources as pillars of a prosperous Coal River Valley. The river could be cleaned up and parks built. Personally, she would like to see consignment shops alongside mechanic garages, pressure washing businesses, house painters to employ youth, and skilled carpenters. To support these small businesses starting, she would like to see a small business development center with access to small business loans. She would also like wind energy and solar power to provide the area's electricity consumptions.

Sharon combines her skills in self-sufficiency, many of which she considers basic home making, with secretarial skills. She serves as bookkeeper for her husband's excavator business and the Horse Creek Community Association. Together, she and her husband own 27 acres of land, much of it wooded, and equipment with which to work the land.

Sharon thinks that the Coal River Valley is a beautiful place, full of good, peaceful people who are generally concerned for each other's well being. Drugs are a problem for the community, and Sharon thinks it is intertwined with the overarching challenge of poverty. She sees men on drugs move in with young women on welfare, and have children they are not able to support. Coal and timber are the primary businesses, but she thinks the coal industry's practice of mountaintop removal ought to stop. She thinks it is a symptom of people's short-sightedness.

In Horse Creek, Sharon has an example of a local institution that has successfully organized to keep some of the wealth generated by coal mining in the holler. Unlike other unincorporated villages, Horse Creek incorporated through the Horse Creek Community Association, and uses a modest local tax base from the mines to support those in need. She's also seen the valley's social institutions decay and close, such as the Vocational Technology center in Pettus.

She wishes the Pettus Vocational Technology center would reopen, because it would address one of the main barriers she perceives – access to classes for basic work skills, such as carpentry.