"We're more than ecstatic about his contribution," said
"He's very dedicated to promoting the area's history, and he put his money where his mouth is," she said.
Thacker founded the
It's an impoverished area pockmarked with abandoned coal mine portals.
The foundation's mission evolved to include ongoing efforts to improve the quality of life for residents.
The idea of a coal miners museum, bantered about for years, took on a new life last summer when
While the goal is to open the museum by September, several challenges loom.
To date, Wells said that coupled with Thacker's contribution, only
There's a fundraiser planned
Thacker said local donations are needed to qualify for potential matching federal and state grants.
"If you want a museum that's going to bring in tourism revenue and jobs, you can't get something for nothing," he said. "You have to invest some of your own money."
Thacker for years has been researching and publicizing the area's colorful coal-mining history and the Welsh miners who settled and died there -- many in horrific coal-mining explosions.
He said new standards in high school American history requires the teaching of the Coal Creek War, when miners battled over the practice of using state prisoners leased to coal mine owners to work in the mines.
Those mandated lessons should boost museum attendance and interest in the area's coal-mining history, Thacker said.
Many of the artifacts planned for exhibit in the museum are now stored in the
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