The Courier News
10 January 2010

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When it’s all said and done ...
Foundation marks 10 years of working for the kids


How do you put “Hope” into words?

What exactly is it?

Is it the smile and giggle of a fourth grader as he watches trout hatchlings swim in a stream that was once the bane and agony of a community?



Is it in the looks of admiration bestowed on others who sat where you’re sitting now?

Is it the knowledge that, with just a little help and a little direction, you have accomplished something nobody thought would ever be possible?

Is it learning about your history and finding the pride hidden within?

Or is it as simple as knowing someone cares?

Ten years ago Barry Thacker, P.E. and CEO of Geo/Environmental Associates Inc., and his small staff found a recipe for hope when the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation was formed.

“Yeah, it was a small weekend project,” Thacker laughed when talking about the Foundation Thursday morning.

“But once we started and people saw that we were helping children, it just took off.”

“Took off,” could mean embraced with open arms as well as it could mean has accomplished much.

The idea, at the time, was to do a volunteer water quality project in Coal Creek as a service project.

But what started out as a project for better water and reclamation of abandoned mine land has turned into a quest of betterment and education for the children of Briceville.

The Foundation is circular — it kinda feeds on itself.

The Coal Creek Watershed Foundation started a scholarship for children who graduate from Briceville Elementary.

To be eligible for the scholarship — which has helped 22 students so far — you have to take part in community service projects.

Simply put: It’s a requirement to get the scholarship.

Luckily, the Foundation provides the solution.

Talk to Thacker about the Foundation and within 15 minutes he’ll say, “kids,” “students,” and “college” at least 15 times each.

“Everything revolves around those kids …” Thacker said. “Getting those kids to college.

“You go to schools these days and most times the kids are indifferent and apathetic. But not there (Briceville Elementary). Everytime you do something for these kids, they come back and give you a hug,” Thacker said. “They appreciate every little thing.”

Along the way the volunteers have formed friendships that will last a lifetime. They have truly become part of the community.

Carol Moore, an active volunteer and employee of Geo/Environmental wrote about her 10 years with the Foundation: “That idea snowballed — Not to mention making lots of new friends and establishing relationships and blessing my life in many ways.”

The Foundation has done a lot.

Through its work, Coal Creek has been cleared of debris, many of the creek’s banks have been stabilized it has been restocked with trout.

It has also literally dug up the rich mining history of the region and put it on display.

“Right now we’ve got Militia Hill and we’ve been working on that,” Thacker said. “In fact, we have a parking area completed and we’re working on the historical markers.”

Fort Anderson on Militia Hill was the “base camp” of miners opposing the use of convict labor in the late 1800s.

The area is rich with the history of the Coal Creek War and the men and women who lived and died by the coal mine.

Another project underway is the portal of the Fraterville Mine, site of the 1902 mine cave in.

But the proudest accomplishment is the scholarship program.

“That’s what it all boils down to,” Thacker said.

“When the scholars come back to the school and these elementary school kids can look at them and realize that they are sitting in the same seats, attending the same school, as these young men and women who are now in college, or have degrees … It’s truly amazing.”

See, it’s not so hard to be a nice guy.

For more information on the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, go to 


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