Stapleton offers donation group a hand

PRESTONSBURG – Wendy Miller and her husband Matt didn’t exactly attend Chris Stapleton’s last of three nights at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg this past week, but they were there.

Miller, a former director of tourism in Paintsville, sat up shop in the main lobby of the MAC to accept donations for her new instrument donation program, US 23 C.O.M.M.O.N. THREAD.

Millers says the goal of thread can be found in its acronym – Children Of Mountain Music Obtain Necessities – adding that, for many children in the mountains, music is a much of a need as anything else.

And officials at the MAC agree, allowing Miller and her husband to use their facility for the time being.

“Right now the MAC is initially going to let us use their place as a drop-off point,” Miller said Saturday. “But we’re reaching out to other businesses that might let us use their facilities and have a volunteer pick up the donations from there for maintenance.

As of Thursday, one local business – Behavioral Health Group in Paintsville – had agreed to have their business work as another drop-off station for instruments of all kinds for local kids.

Miller cites the talent that has come from a single stretch of U.S. 23 as second to none in the nation, including names such as Ricky Skaggs, Dwight Yoakam, Gary Stewart, and, of course, Chris Stapleton, among others.

“The rule of practice makes perfect is unreachable for a child who loves music yet doesn’t have the needed instrument,” continued Miller. “That old guitar, sax or banjo you never take time for would be a treasured gift in the hands of a child who would otherwise not have an opportunity to hone their talent.”

And Chris Stapleton, who grew up in Johnson County, agrees.

Miller said she spent the better part of last week attempting to catch up with Stapleton’s management team to see if he would be interested in helping in some way. She had handled his Country Music Highway induction ceremony while working in tourism in Paintsville, and hoped he would remember that time. However, she didn’t hear back immediately.

“I just kind of got in contact with his crew, but didn’t hear anything back right away,” Miller said. “Then, about 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the day before his first show here at the MAC, one of his management team members called and said Chris had just found out about the program and that he had went to the website and that he would do whatever he could to support it.”

From there, Stapleton then went to his Twitter account, tweeting to his growing number of fans there about Miller’s donation program.

“That was a huge help,” she said, smiling.

For those interested in donating to US 23 Common Thread or for those seeking further information, call (606) 793-1074, or email at

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