Connecticut Local 1871 Breaks Annual Turkey Drive Record

Thanksgiving dinner baskets await distribution at the IAM Local 1871 Food Pantry in Groton, CT.

IAM Local 1871 in Groton, CT, is in the middle of their 24th year of providing Thanksgiving baskets for out-of-work members, needy families in the community and others in need. In what has also become a tradition, they are set to break last year’s record.

Volunteers hope to distribute baskets to nearly 120 families. Each basket includes a complete Thanksgiving dinner, supplied at no cost to working families who might not otherwise enjoy a traditional holiday dinner in the current economy.

The idea grew out of a food pantry that began in a garage during a 1988 strike. Known as the Gemma Moran United Way Labor Food Center, it is the only continually-operating food pantry in the country founded and run by union members. Local 1871 prides itself on providing everything from the pie to the pan, making sure a complete dinner is provided, right down to the “Made in the USA” aluminum roaster to cook the turkey.

“I’m extremely proud we continue to be able to help as many families as we have over the last few years,” said Local 1871 Vice President Jim Underhill. “Our success also means that there are still far too many people struggling to make it, day to day in many cases, much less on a holiday.”

Underhill heads up the drive with other volunteers from the local, taking in the donations, stocking shelves, and assembling the baskets. IAM members and others working at Electric Boat in Groton, as well as other union members including the Metal Trades Council and Marine Draftsmen’s Association/United Autoworkers make the baskets possible through donations. The effort has grown to also include many community businesses.

“Jim is just a blessing, and his dedication to this effort, week in and week out, makes this possible and successful,” said Local 1871 President Pat Buzzee. “Because of Jim and all of the volunteers, a lot of families that might not have the traditional holiday meal get to share not only the necessities, but things they might not have been able to enjoy this year.”

This year’s Turkey Drive will also reach beyond the Groton community, up to the small town of Hadley, MA. Buzzee and his wife Julia recently supported a picket line there, where IAM Local 447 members are locked in a bitter strike.

“I met the members while walking the picket line, and all of them were young family men,” continued Buzzee. “It was pretty obvious that after sanctions by the employer, combined with being out on strike, these families weren’t going to enjoy much of a Thanksgiving this year. Arrangements were made; my wife and I will drive up and deliver a traditional meal to these families.”

“This is exactly what we should be doing in the labor movement,” said IAM District 26 Directing Business Representative Everett Corey. “Union members everywhere can do exactly what these volunteers are doing here and we need to do more. They have made this a labor of love and in the true IAM spirit of ‘Service to the Community,’ my thanks and appreciation go out to each of them.”

The food pantry plans to provide Christmas dinners. If you’d like to donate to the effort, contact Local 1871 Secretary-Treasurer Jon Papski at 860-445-8619. Donations in the form of a check can be made out to IAM Local 1871 with “Turkey Drive” in the memo line.

Please send all donations to:

IAM Local Lodge 1871
Attn: Secretary-Treasurer Jon Papski
18 Pleasant St.
Groton, CT 06340