Labor steps up to help healthcare workers pressed for time to eat
By CARL GREEN
Metro-East Labor leaders had high hopes when they launched a campaign to provide on-the-go foods for overworked healthcare workers who don’t have time for meals. But they still were flabbergasted by the great response they have received.
In its first week, “Snacks to Go – to Fight COVID19” raised more than $10,000 in cash and donated items, and its organizers were beginning to deliver the food items to hospital workers.
After two weeks, the total was close to $15,000, and hard-pressed health workers throughout the region were feeling both honored and relieved.
B. Dean Webb, president of the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor, who came up with the idea, said they hadn’t expected to raise so much money so quickly, but he was also expecting more donations to come in.
“Man, that’s a lot of stuff,” he said, gazing over a collection of the food at the East Alton Machinists’ Hall. “This is awesome. We’re pretty happy with the results right now.”
Deliveries began May 4 at most of the region’s hospitals. Webb said his original thought was to just have a friend drop them off in her car. “Apparently a car isn’t going to be enough,” he said. “It has definitely been a team effort.”
That team also includes the United Way Labor liaisons, the Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council, the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council and individual unions such as UFCW and the Carpenters.
The health-care centers that received deliveries included:
- St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, O’Fallon.
- Memorial Hospital (West), Belleville.
- St. Anthony’s Health Center, Alton.
- Anderson Hospital, Maryville.
- Jersey Community Hospital, Jerseyville.
- Gateway Regional Medical Center, Granite City.
- Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis.
- Alton Memorial Hospital, Alton.
- Touchette Regional Hospital, Centreville.
- Red Bud Regional Hospital, Red Bud.
- Sparta Community Hospital, Sparta.
Scot Luchtefeld, president of the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council, led a group that headed to Diebergs one night to do some serious shopping.
“It’s better than we had hoped,” he said. “There are great things happening in the Labor Movement.”
He credited UFCW Local 881 Secretary-Treasurer and International Vice President Paul Schafer and Local 881 business reps Mike Roberts and Jeff Collier for negotiating at-cost arrangements with Dierbergs and Schnucks, which have also helped with packing. They are the two grocery chains in the Metro-East with union workforces.
STILL TIME TO GIVE
It’s not too late to contribute to the project. Much of the money has been raised on a Go Fund Me page at this address: gofundme.com/f/afl-cio-snacks-to-goto-fight-covid-19.
The website collects a fee when you donate, so don’t be surprised.
Donations may also be mailed to:
- Greater Madison County Federation of Labor Defense Fund, 161 N. Shamrock St., East Alton, IL 62024.
- Southwestern IL Central Labor Council Workers Relief Fund, P.O. Box 8091, Belleville, IL 62222.
For either, indicate on the check and envelope that they are for “Snacks to Go.” The only fee is a postage stamp.
The groups also held collection points for food or monetary donations on April 28 and 30 and May 5 and 7, at Machinists Lodge 660, East Alton, and Laborers Local 459 Hall, Belleville. They were not planning to continue the drop-off points beyond those days; most of the giving was in checks and online.
‘A GOOD PROJECT’
On May 8, members of the Labor Council and the Trades Council, plus United Way Liaison Terry Knoth, were at the Laborers 459 hall to collect a few more donations.
“It’s a good project, doing a lot of good things,” Knoth said. “Those health-care workers may or may not be getting breaks, or just short breaks. All their resources are stretched, and they’re short on protective gear. So all of these donations are critical for them to do their jobs making sure our loved ones are taken care of.”
He has seen community members contributing gladly.
“There’s a lot of support from Labor and the community,” he said. “Individuals drive by here, from the neighborhood. They don’t have much, but they give $5 for the cause. People get it and understand it.”
Jeff Collier, UFCW Local 881, was on hand and predicted that the need will continue.
“We just want to get the items to the hospital,” he said. “It’s been a blessing to be a part of it – the collecting, the shopping, the separating. It’s a lot of work.
“But if this pandemic isn’t over by the time you read this, we’re going to need help out here, because we want to be consistent,” he added. “We don’t want to be a charity, but we want to be a consistent presence of relief in a time of crisis.
He added, “When you stock a shelf now, you’re not just stocking for the dollar amount anymore, you’re stocking because somebody absolutely needs it.”