By MARY ANN O’TOOLE HOLLEY
For about 10 years, the Tri-County Labor Club has made Christmas truly a time of charity, helping needy children at area schools with can drives and donations, making sure the youngsters have food when they need it.
The Labor Club also contributed $500 to the current “$5 for the Fight” Fund to help union members facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic or other issues.
In past years, the club has hauled truckloads of canned goods to the O’Fallon schools, but this year, with so many struggling to keep food on the table, club President Steve Bailey and club President-Elect Joe Mueller walked into Dardenne Elementary School with this year’s donation, holding only a small Christmas gift bag.
“Our club members really came through,” Bailey said. “We collected $2,710 in food gift cards from Schnucks and Dierbergs to help the children and families of Dardenne Elementary School.”
School Principal Jackie Hottelman, Assistant Principal Mike Kelly and the school’s crisis counselor Renee Nowakowski were thrilled with the donation, saying it will help families survive well past the holidays.
“This is wonderful,” Hottelman said. “We appreciate the Tri-County Labor Club’s contributions so much. Their donations really take a lot of worry away from how we’ll help feed our students.”
Hottelman said the gift cards will allow the school officials to buy needed perishables like meat and produce for the needy families.
“Canned goods and non-perishables are great, but families often can’t even afford to buy milk or bread. This gift from the generous members of Tri-County Labor Club will make a huge difference in helping the families,” he said.
Hottelman said the Tri-County Labor Club is the main contributor to the school’s student meal program.
Dardenne has become the Tri-County Labor Club’s adopted school, because of the unusual need. More than half the students at Dardenne Elementary are on free and reduced lunch assistance.
Hottelman said the food is discretely placed in the needy children’s backpacks before they leave school on Fridays, so they have enough to eat over the weekend.