With an unemployment rate almost one and a half percent above the national average, Lincoln County, West Virginia may be running short of jobs, but not of driven people engaged in creative problem solving--with their minds and their hands. In a county with a long history of innovators, craftspeople, and hard workers, the talents of generations gone by have not passed without leaving a legacy. That's where Coalfield Development enters the picture, helping people hone and capitalize on their skills and talents in today's economic environment.
For about a year and a half, Matthew Allen Hensley, 22, of Ranger, Lincoln County, has been busy crafting a variety of high-quality, handcrafted home decor products at Saw’s Edge Woodshop, an enterprise of Coalfield Development's Rediscover Appalachia. Like many throughout West Virginia, Matt, who graduated from Lincoln County High School in 2015, has never been a stranger to hard work. “After graduation I worked at Kmart as a janitor for $200 a week,” Matt said. A call from a former high school teacher led him to a job interview with Coalfield Development--a life-changing interview. After coming on board with Coalfield’s Revitalize Appalachia and trying his hand at construction, he realized he had another calling: fine woodworking. This led him to a position working at Coalfield’s Saw's Edge Woodshop in Huntington, West Virginia, a division of Rediscover Appalachia. Matt explained, “My stepdad was into woodworking as a cabinetmaker. My real dad was a railroad worker and woodworking was his hobby. It's what I'm good at and love to do."
At Saw's Edge Woodshop, table saws buzz and drills spin as Matt and other crew members design and build furniture and home accessories, utilizing a wide variety of tools and skills. “Everyone does everything,” explained Matt, who appreciates the learning experience, the opportunity, and especially the camaraderie. “When we come into the conference room, we talk about safety and projects we're going to work on each day," Matt explained.