By CARL GREEN
Granite City – Even with some improvement evident at Granite City Steel, hundreds of workers there and at American Steel/Amsted Rail are still laid off, which means hundreds of union families still need help.
The community has been providing a major boost with a weekly food pantry just for the Steelworkers, held from about 1 to 3 p.m. on Fridays at the Grievance Hall at 2334 E. 25th St., which is also the former Local 67 hall.
Terry Biggs, a labor liaison for the United Way of St. Louis, operates the food pantry by doing the shopping and bringing the food to the site. The biggest contributor has been the SOAR Chapter 7-34-2 steelworker retirees group, which collects canned goods at its monthly meetings.
Now Biggs is seeing a new group of contributors – the food pantry’s former customers.
“We’ve actually found members who were coming to the food bank when they were off, and now that they’re back to work, they’re donating food and dropping off money,” he told the Labor Tribune. “The majority of the donations come from the community and SOAR.”
PARKING LOT FULL
The project started off informally, as many things do, last fall and over the holidays as SOAR and the Steelworkers’ locals collaborated to provide food and gifts. They got the word out over Facebook and other social media. At the time, some of the families were running thin on supplies.
“I’d get there and the whole parking lot would be full and waiting for me to open the door,” Biggs said.
The most popular items include some meat or protein – ravioli, chili and tuna – although one retiree gave $250 to buy fresh fruit. Some donations of big bags of dog food have been popular, too.
Some of the steelworkers have been willing to accept help from this pantry but not the larger community food banks, he said.
“A couple of them would see some of the people who were in line and think that those people were worse off than they were, so we got the idea of starting our own to see if more would come, and they do,” Biggs said. “I’ve got guys who come every week. I see new faces every week.”
Jeff Rains, president of the SOAR chapter, said group members have often collected at their monthly meeting for area food pantries but decided last year it was time to collect for their own.
“They’ve always been real good,” he said. “It’s a considerable amount.”