By TIM ROWDEN
Caseyville, IL – Helping to ensure needy children in St. Clair County have a gift for Christmas, Steamfitters Local 439 members recently donated 26 bicycles to Gifts from the Heart, a charity run by St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and his wife Erin.
“We usually try to do something every year for someone,” said Steamfitters Local 439 Business Manager Mark Thomas.
Last year, Local 439 donated groceries to food pantries in East St. Louis and Granite City. Thomas said they will likely do that again this year.
“Our members donate all year long for different charities,” Thomas said. “They do work for free, donating manpower and materials. I want to thank all of the members because it was unanimously approved that we do this for the kids.”
Other recent donations have included constructing goal posts for the midgets football league and batting cages for the local high school.
“We try to give back to the community as much as we can,” Thomas said. “I would just like people to remember what all the union guys do in the community. We live here, we work here. And again I want to thank my members for always being so gracious to donate back to the community where we live and work.”
GIFTS FROM THE HEART
Kern, his wife Erin and a group of dedicated volunteers started Gifts from the Heart in 1997 with an annual event to raise funds to purchase toys and clothing for St. Clair County families in need. This is the group’s 25th year.
“The Steamfitters have always supported us,” Kern said, “but I think this is the biggest gift ever.
“We probably help around 1,000 kids every year with toys through our program,” he said.