The large meeting hall at District 70 in Wichita, KS is once again hosting the Annual Spirit of Labor Christmas Program, a joint effort with the Wichita/Hutchison Labor Federation to bring the holiday spirit to over 850 area children that wouldn’t otherwise have a Christmas.
The District receives “Angels” from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program for children under 14 from families that are struggling. It includes a code for a family, a child’s first name, and three recommended toys the child wants for Christmas. Members and locals also donate money that is used to buy gifts. The angels are distributed among union members in the plants. Members purchase the gifts and bring them to the District, where they are bagged and processed for the Salvation Army to deliver to the families. Spirit of Labor will provide a Christmas to 858 children this year.
“It’s been a labor of love for us,” said District 70 Confidential Bookkeeper Jill Mason, who organized and spearheaded the program for many years at the District, along with Sarah Cooper of the Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation. “We make a lot of difference in the lives of children in the city, and it brings a lot of joy to our hearts as our union hall is transformed into Santa’s workshop. We’re all running around like members of the Elves Guild! We also put an IAM logo sticker on every gift we ship out. The success of the program wouldn’t be possible without the energy and time of our wonderful union volunteers, who support this program year after year by giving of themselves and their time.”
Besides the Salvation Army program, Spirit of Labor also helps provides gifts to families of union members that have hit hard times, whether from layoff or illness. “We never forget our own, and we make sure they have a Christmas, too,” said Mason. “The Labor Liaison for United Way of the Plains in Wichita, Mario Cervantes, always brings names of children that he has found who need a hand at Christmas, so we make sure to help them, too.”
“District Lodge 70 is always there for their community,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “I’m so proud of our members, whose hearts are so big and who give back so much. They show that the Spirit of Christmas and the Spirit of Labor are one and the same.”