By SHERI GASSAWAY
Arnold, MO – Phil Amato, a longtime friend of working families, has been named president of the Arnold Food Pantry and Thrift Store’s Board of Directors, and Butch Cooley, a union veteran, has been appointed to the position of vice president.
Amato replaces Roger Horn who recently retired to spend more time with family. Amato has been involved with the pantry for 10 years, most recently serving as vice president of the board.
Both Amato and Cooley are Arnold city councilmen and members of the Jefferson County Labor Club. The two have a combined 30 years of service on the city council.
Although Amato has never carried a union card, his support of the Labor Movement is unwavering thanks in part to his uncle John and many other relatives who worked in the trades.
Amato was first elected to the Arnold Council when he was 25. That’s when his uncle, a construction worker and active union organizer, sat down with him and explained the importance of fighting for working people.
“Uncle John told me that as a councilman, I would be faced with making important decisions like whether people would eat,” Amato said. “He told me to always side with the working people so they can put food on their table.”
“Between public buildings, roads, factories and shopping centers, Arnold has brought in a half billion dollars of work for labor in the last decade,” he said. “My voice is my tool.”
Cooley, who retired from Operating Engineers Local 513 in 2011, has volunteered at the pantry since it moved to its new location in 2012. He started out plowing snow off the organization’s lot.
In addition to his work at Local 513, Cooley also ran a landscaping business as a side job. “People helped me by referring business my way with the landscaping business, and now it’s my time to give back,” he said.
UNIONS HELPED BUILD PANTRY’S NEW LOCATION
In 2012, Amato approached the Jefferson County Labor Club seeking help to renovate an old warehouse distribution center that would serve as the pantry’s new location at 2024 Key West Drive.
Local unions and their members donated $280,000 in cash, work and materials for the new pantry. It was one of the club’s largest projects ever undertaken at a time when unemployment among union members was at an all-time high.
“Without the help of labor, we would have never been able to move in and complete the renovations,” Amato said. “We’re forever grateful for their generosity and continued support.”
The Arnold Food Pantry, which serves residents in Arnold and portions of Fenton and Imperial, is the largest non-denominational food distribution center in the St. Louis region that does not receive city, state or federal government funding. It feeds about 320 families each week.
Amato said one of his dreams is for the pantry to be able to offer other services to those in need including counseling and housing options.
“Unfortunately, no dream or plan to better the pantry can be done without my biggest fear for the pantry being accomplished,” he said. “The pantry owes about $450,000 to retire the debt on the building. That is what I go to bed worrying about.”
There are two upcoming events to benefit the pantry: the Run Against Hunger on July 4 at Arnold City Park at 1 Bradley Beach Road in Arnold and the Taste of Arnold on July 28 at Immaculate Conception Catholic School at 2316 Church Road in Arnold.
For more information on the events or to make a donation, visit wefeedthehungry.org or call 636-287-FOOD (3663).