From Brian Coutu, Sergeant-At-Arms UNITE HERE NEJB, President NEJB Local 1554T:
The Christmas Giving Program is an annual event sponsored by the members of Local 1554T at Arkwright Advanced Coating Inc in Fiskville, RI. This program started in late November of 1992, twenty years ago, with a single person who saw that some local families were in need and asked if we could do something to help. That started a program with the purpose of helping as many families as possible in our community. A year later, four trees were put up around the plant with tags bearing the age and gender of a child.
Employees, both Union and management, picked tags from the trees and replaced them with toys. We were pleasantly surprised when we ended up with just over two hundred brightly wrapped packages containing toys that Santa Clause would distribute to needy youngsters that Christmas. It was also a surprise to find out that we were somewhat off the mark. While every child wants a toy, deprived youngsters need and want other things. Like coats and hats to keep them warm. Like clothes that don’t have holes in them. These kids wanted underwear and socks. And how about asking for something to eat? Imagine being hungry. And at Christmas? We had our eyes opened.
After some discussion we decided that we would try a more holistic approach. We would adopt and sponsor whole families. Once again we were amazed and pleased at the generosity of our co-workers. That season we provided food assistance and clothing assistance to all the members of the households, as well as some goodies to be left under the tree for the kids to find on Christmas morning. One of our members wanted to give heating assistance to a family in the form of 100 gallons of fuel oil. When informed that we had seven families that we were sponsoring and that he should pick the family to be so blessed he couldn’t make a choice. So he donated 100 gallons of fuel oil to all seven families!
As each year passed we found more and more people needing assistance and have also found more and more people willing to get involved. Each year we adopt as many families as possible and supply them with toys, clothes and food. Everything they need for a Merry Christmas. In addition, we are also able to distribute toys to other, individual kids who would otherwise have nothing.
Try to imagine how you would feel not being able to provide a Christmas for your family.
Over the years we have worked with various agencies to sponsor families from Coventry, West Warwick, Cranston, Scituate, Foster, Warwick, Providence, Westerly and Central Falls. In this time we have helped several hundred individuals and more than 50 families. Each year we adapt our program depending on the needs of the adopted families and our budget.
Throughout the year we host fund raising events and raffles. We also host a fund raising dinner. This year the annual Christmas Giving Tree Program Dinner will be November 3rd, 2012. At the dinner a raffle is held with the profit becoming a major part of our budget.
Local 1554-T is keeping the tradition alive. Once again the tree will go up and the tags will be on it starting the day after Thanksgiving. While our anonymous fuel oil-giver was certainly the most generous of our benefactors, each and every donation, whether cash, clothing, food or a toy donated to our “Annual Giving Tree,” no matter how large or how small, is greatly appreciated by the Officers and Executive Board of the Local.
Thank you in advance for your support this year. More than ever people will need help this holiday season. Together we can make it a special holiday season for families in our area.
President, Local 1554T
New England Joint Board – UNITE HERE