WHITESBURG, Ky. (WYMT) The 2018 East Kentucky Leadership Award for Organization goes to an organization dedicated to fighting for the legal rights of Eastern Kentuckians.
Started nearly 20 years ago with only one lawyer on staff paid for by the centers own funds, the Appalachian Citizens Law Center has grown into a legal powerhouse fighting for rights of miners with black lung and other Eastern Kentuckians facing health problems.
"About 17 years ago we had one attorney me employed by the Appalachian citizen's law center and we got some fellowship awards that enabled us to have two other young attorneys work for us, that's what we started out with," said The ACLC’s Director Stephen Sanders.
For years they have been known as a perennial power in fighting for miners to receive benefits related to black lung. However, as the number of miners diminishes their work in that field does not.
“The miners that do remain working and there's still a lot of miners in a region still working, they deserve and safe and healthy workplace just like everyone else,” said Staff Lawyer and Assistant Director Wes Addington.
The ACLC has recently begun to fight for citizens caught in the middle of the Martin County water issues, deepening their portfolio of sticking up for the health rights of all of Eastern Kentucky.
"It gives miners and their families somewhere to go for legal representation that they otherwise wouldn't get in Eastern Kentucky," said Addington.
A not for profit legal center the Appalachian Citizens Law Center works hard to bring big results to the many often left defeated.
"I guess we've never really thought of ourselves as small. We have the ability to fight for justice for a lot of people in this area and so we do that," Addington added.
As the Eastern Kentucky scene changes, a constant will always stay the same in the region, it being the Appalachian Citizens Law Center. They will fight for the rights of everyone, refusing to back down no matter how tall the challenge.
"I think that we generally hear very much how appreciative they are," said Sanders. "So it’s been a really great opportunity and wonderful opportunity to provide the great services were able to provide."
The 2018 East Kentucky Leadership Award for Organization goes to the Appalachian Citizens Law Center.