For 28 years IAM Local 1871 in Groton, CT, has provided Thanksgiving baskets for out-of-work members, needy families and others in the community.The idea, which grew out of a garage food pantry that began during a strike in 1988, has since become an annual community service event.
Local 1871 prides itself on providing everything for a traditional dinner, making sure a complete dinner is provided, right down to the “Made in the USA” aluminum roaster pan to cook the turkey. Lodge President Jim “Sparky” Underhill heads up the drive with other volunteers from the local, taking in the donations, stocking shelves and assembling the baskets.
The pantry, known as the Local 1871 Gemma Moran United Way Labor Food Center, is the only continually-operating food pantry in the country founded and run by union members.This year they distributed 150 complete Thanksgiving dinner baskets at no cost to working families who might not otherwise enjoy a traditional holiday dinner.
“Union members from District 26 all across Connecticut and Rhode Island support this effort every year,” said IAM District 26 Directing Business Representative Mike Stone. “Our members are at the forefront in providing assistance where needed in the communities we live and work. A big thank you goes out to Business Representative Pat Buzzee and Local President Jim Underhill for all their efforts in making this a success.”
“Union members are always at the front of the line when it comes to giving back,” said Eastern Territory General Vice President Jimmy Conigliaro, Sr. “Our members know that making a difference in the lives of the people around them is how we all succeed. Nobody wins unless we all win.”
“I’m extremely proud we are able to continue to help as many families as we have for all these years,” said Underhill. “Unfortunately the demand increases every year, but because of the hard work by all involved, we’re able to meet that demand, even exceed it which enables us to distribute more baskets for future holidays.”
IAM members and others working at Electric Boat in Groton, as well as 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.