PRESTONSBURG – Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, located in Prestonsburg, has been a resource for many low income individuals and families in Eastern Kentucky. John Rosenberg is the founder of the organization known as AppalReD Legal Aid. This year, the non-profit law firm is celebrating 45 years of service. On Saturday, Rosenberg will receive the Muhammad Ali Kentucky Humanitarian Award during a fourth annual awards ceremony.
Rosenberg stated it only took one trip to the area in 1970 to realize he wanted to stay. AppalRed was made possible from funding by the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1970. He served as the director of non-profit program for over 28 years. Before retiring, Rosenberg worked as a trial lawyer and Section Chief in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, litigating primarily discrimination cases in the deep south.
“What we do is very important, we want to insure everyone’s quality of life is better and they can receive the services they need,” said John Rosenberg.
The mission of AppalRed is to promote equal access to justice, to encourage self-sufficiency, to empower and to improve the lives of low income and other vulnerable people and families in eastern and south central Kentucky by providing them high quality legal services. Rosenberg has devoted his life to this mission and as a result has helped countless families.
Rosenberg has received a number of awards for his work with the poor. In April 2015, Rosenberg was presented the American Bar Association Grassroots Advocacy Award for his longtime service providing access to legal services.
In May 2015, Rosenberg was presented with the Jewish Family and Career Services 2015 MOSAIC Award.
In November 2015, Rosenberg was honored by the ACLU of Kentucky for his lifetime work of leading AppalRed.
In October 2013, Rosenberg received the 2013 Difference Makers Award from the American Bar Association. The list goes on of the many awards he has been awarded for his work to improve the quality of life for the low income families in Eastern Kentucky.
During the early days of AppalRed, Rosenberg did not back down from tough case, even taking on powerful coal companies when coal was king.
Rosenberg was instrumental in the redevelopment of the town of David. Once owned by businessmen who were interested in collecting rent and nothing more, the town was deteriorating and falling apart around a group of residents who needed a place to live, but couldn’t do anything to combat their failing landlords. After several community meetings, the group incorporated the David Community Development Corporation and bought the town and the area surrounding it. In the years to come, the group worked with local renters to make their dream of home ownership a reality. The organized group went on to form a water and sewer system and supported the development of the David School, a separate non-profit organization.
Eastern Kentucky has benefited time and time again from his Rosenberg’s various work and it looks like he isn’t ready to slow down.
“Heading for 85, I don’t feel like my age or feel like I need to stop,” Rosenberg said.