Granite City – Steelworker retirees are a big part of life in Granite City, and the local SOAR (Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees) Chapter 7-34-2 has shown its generosity once again.
In late November, the chapter mailed 24 large postal boxes of gifts to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, including batteries, snack bars, raisins, coffee and more totaling 209.7 pounds.
Shirley Luffman, a chapter member who worked for 30 years at the Granite City Engineer Depot, started the giving in 1997 when her son, Jeff, was stationed in Kosovo, and she sent him holiday gift boxes to share with others. She has continued every year since then, and five years ago she asked the chapter members if they would like to join the party, which they did, and the amount of giving has grown each year.
Chapter President Jeff Rains noted that Madison County Associate Judge Sarah Smith, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves who is now a candidate for circuit judge, has been a major supporter of the project, helping pay for postage and shipping and providing names of service members to receive the boxes.
“All of this could not be done without Shirley or without the members of our SOAR chapter who so generously donate to our annual drive,” Rains said. “Associate Judge Smith has been a great friend, and we greatly appreciate the support she’s given to see these shipments through. I know it really matters to folks like Shirley’s son and others who give so much.”
The chapter also provides academic scholarships to the children and grandchildren of its members through a fund in honor of the late Jane Becker, a SOAR founder and the wife of former USW President George Becker. Last year, the Granite City chapter awarded three scholarships of $3,000 each.
The chapter donated $1,000 to the USW Charitable and Educational Organization, which helps USW members affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters. The chapter has also worked with United Way, St. Louis Area Food Bank, the city of Granite City and TWIGS to provide more than $75,000 worth of help to families affected by layoffs at the Granite City plants.