Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Pennies of Promise: Pathway to a Brighter Future--because every child deserves a safe and healthy school in their own community.

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Charleston WV to DC Walk: Pennies Of Promise

August 2, 2006
Photos by Vivian Stockman
Grandfather Wants Safe School for Elementary Kids

On a sweltering mid-summer morning, grandfather Ed Wiley set out on  a 455 mile walk from Charleston, West Virginia to Washington, DC. About 30 supporters helped Ed kick off his walk, while over a dozen reporters and cameramen documented the event.

While walking to DC, Wiley--representing the Pennies of Promise campaign --hopes to raise awareness about the situation at Marsh Fork Elementary, in Sundial, W.Va., where his granddaughter is a student. Ed will also raise funds for a new school in the kids' own community while calling out Gov. Joe Manchin for his inaction on ensuring the school kids' safety.  You can help Ed by scheduling speaking events along the way and / or donating to the Pennies of Promise campaign.

In DC--where he expects to arrive by September 12--Wiley hopes to meet with Senator Robert C. Byrd, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, and a representative of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, as well as others. He'll deliver letters regarding the problems at Marsh Fork Elementary School to various officials and ask them to pressure Gov. Manchin to take action.

Marsh Fork Elementary School sits just 225 feet from a coal loading silo that releases coal dust associated with coal processing. A recent study of dust samples from the school confirmed residents' suspicions that the coal dust was getting into the school and children were breathing it. (Click on "the Science" here to read more on the dust study.) In addition, an earthen dam permitted to hold 2.8 billion gallons of toxic coal waste sludge looms just 400 yards upstream. Previous efforts through the local school board and Governor Manchin have been met with inaction. In 2005, Manchin told Wiley that he would look into citizens' concerns. To date, no state agency has tested the school's air for coal dust or begun a health survey of the students.

"Joe Manchin is putting a price on these kid's heads, he's letting coal profits come before the safety of these children," Wiley stated. "I just can't understand why on earth he won't see it in his heart to make sure these kids have a safe and healthy place to learn, right here, in their own community."

Some community members felt betrayed when Joe Manchin repeatedly backed out on his word to do "everything in his power" to "ensure the safety" of the children at Marsh Fork Elementary.

"We've had just about enough of Joe Manchin's bologna, he's obviously not interested in the health or welfare of our children," said Bo Webb of Naoma, WV "He's broken one too many promises, it's clear we'll have to go elsewhere if we want to see results on behalf of our children."

The issue of safety at the school has garnered international attention on ABC World News Tonight, in Vanity Fair and O Magazine. Pennies of Promised has accepted 85 pounds of pennies from the Bank Street School in NY, a "sister" school, $5.00 from as far as Wales and has even been supported by Edward Norton and Woody Harrelson. The public can check on Wiley's progress and sponsor the walk at www.penniesofpromise.org.

Ed Wiley and his wife Debbie Jarrell on the State Capitol steps, surrounded by supporters and media as the Pennies of Promise walk is about to begin.
Ed Wiley and his wife Debbie Jarrell on the State Capitol steps, surrounded by supporters and media as the Pennies of Promise walk is about to begin.

Ed and Debbie face a swarm of media.
Ed and Debbie face a swarm of media.

Ed makes a point--it's for the kids!
Ed makes a point--it's for the kids!

The t-shirts make the point too.
The t-shirts make the point too.

The banner, hung above the highway by the WV State Capitol
The banner, hung above the highway by the State Capitol reads:
All Talk, No Action
Makes Joe Machin A Bad Boy
Build a New School
For Marsh Fork Kids Now!

Long-legged Ed set a brisk pace and was miles out of town, along Rt. 119 headed toward Pinch, just hours after the walk launched.
Long-legged Ed set a brisk pace and was miles out of town, along Rt. 119 headed toward Pinch, just hours after the walk launched.

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