‘Every child deserves a little Christmas!’

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Kane County Toys for Tots used Pipefitter Local 597 training center in Aurora as this year’s warehouse and distribution site. This holiday season, more than 28,000 toys were donated to nearly 40 organizations that request toys and found loving homes with Kane County children. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

Donations can be mailed to:
Toys for Tots
1921 W. Wilson St. #129
Batavia, IL 60510

To learn more or make an on-line donation, visit Kane County Toys for Tots

AURORA — More than anybody, Patrick Kackert understands what it means to rely on the generosity of others. As the Kane County Toys for Tots Coordinator, he is on the hunt every year for donated warehouse space to house and organize the almost 28,000 toys donated for Kane County Toys for Tots. A best case scenario would put his team in a warehouse mid-October.

But after hearing, “no, sorry,” 30 times, Kackert, a Marine reservist, was left wondering what he was going to do. That’s when fate put him together with organized labor. Specifically, Scott Roscoe, president of the Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council and a business representative for Pipefitters Local 597.

After Roscoe, a Marine, Kackert, and mutual friend Brian Dolan initially looked at a spot that was too small, Roscoe suggested space at Pipefitters Local 597 Training Center on Farnsworth Avenue in Aurora. Used for training students in welding and HVAC, the school is usually bustling with students, but it was temporarily empty so the floor could be redone and refinished. For Kackert, the timing couldn’t have been better.

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Volunteer Doris Bolin works on filling an order for Elgin’s Community Crisis Center, which is one of Kane County Toys for Tots biggest clients. This holiday season, it sent the center nearly 6,000 toys. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

“I told [Scott], ‘this is perfect. It’s exactly what we needed.’ We couldn’t do this without the space, and it was all donated by the pipefitters,” Kackert said. He was used to last year’s 35,000 square-foot facility, but it was a blessing to find a 15,000 square-foot facility at the last minute.

The final person to sign on was 597 Training Director John Leen, who was enthusiastic about the opportunity to help Toys for Tots.

Come next year, Kackert will be on the hunt again. He understands the pipefitter’s training facility will probably be bustling with students and not available, but every year brings additional connections, and more opportunities.

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Volunteers at the warehouse facility help unload trucks that are transporting boxes of toys, sort toys and fill orders for organizations. Organizations are responsible for picking up toys. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

In the mean time, volunteers spent the week of Dec. 12 filling orders for Kane County Toys for Tots nearly 40 organizations that request toys.

Kackert’s passion extends to his family. Not only does his wife, Toni, help, so does Kackert’s 79-year-old father George, a Marine.

Beyond family, volunteers at the warehouse facility help unload trucks that are transporting boxes of toys, sort toys and fill orders for organizations. Organizations are responsible for picking up toys.

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After orders were filled, toys are packed in blue bags, indicating they are ready for pick up. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Volunteer Doris Bolin spent hours working on filling an order for Elgin’s Community Crisis Center, which is one of Kane County Toys for Tots biggest clients. The center provides comprehensive services to individuals and families in crisis due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or economic/ financial difficulties.

“It takes a lot longer than you actually think,” she said regarding ‘shopping’ for toys to fill orders. Her goal was to pick out toys for 250 boys, aged 10 to 14 — the age group that receives the least amount of donated toys.

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Not every toy makes it to a child. There was a spot under the Christmas tree by the front door where Booger Balls, Chunky Crunch and a rifle scope lay. “Sometimes we get things that have toilet humor, but the rifle scope — I don’t know what someone was thinking,” Warehouse Manager Dorothy Holland said with a laugh. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Monetary donations to the Kane County Toys for Tots organization goes to purchase toys specific to the 10- to 14-year-old age group.

The warehouse is divided down the middle: boy toys on one side, girl toys on the other. If you ever forget, each side it’s clearly visible with the stark contract of pink and blue colors. Bolin noticed Barbies were popular for the girls, and Star Wars toys for the boys.

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Warehouse Manager Dorothy Holland reminds volunteers to not always think gender-specific. “I tell them to think about including Lego kits and science toys for girls,” Holland said.

Not every toy makes it to a child. There was a spot under the Christmas tree by the front door where Booger Balls, Chunky Crunch and a rifle scope lay. “Sometimes we get things that have toilet humor, but the rifle scope — I don’t know what someone was thinking,” she said with a laugh.

There’s also a spot for ‘misfit toys,’ which are used, torn or unusual donations, like Tattoo Art, and a box of 4-inch Kewpie dolls, each dressed as a character of the Wizard of Oz with a $99 price tag.

“It’s really a judgement call on these items whether or not to give this to a child, but we’re not giving away VHS tapes,” Holland said.

Unions provide families the means for a holiday meal

The Fox Valley United Way’s Holiday Assistance program gets help from organized labor with donations.

The Fox Valley United Way’s Holiday Assistance program gets help from organized labor with donations. From left, Laborers’ Local 582 Representative Jeff Frost, Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council President Scott Roscoe, North Central Illinois Labor Council Representative Jeff Carr, Pipefitters Local 597 Business Representative Adam Swan, UA Local 130 Business Agent Charlie Seibert, FVUW Director of Community Engagement Denise Blettner, FVUW Director of Operations Deborah Collins-Rudel, ADC 1 Business Agent Ruben Collazo, Laborers Local 582 Representative Jose Martinez, PDC 30 Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer Ryan Anderson, Finishing Solutions Network Representative Brian Dahl, Roofers Local 11 Business Agent Larry Gnat and SMART Local 265 Business Representative John Hopp. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — Every year, when the holidays approach, the Fox Valley United Way (FVUW) sees organized labor as its very own secret Santa.

It’s because the Fox Valley Building Trades, along with the North Central Illinois Labor Council, joined forces and made monetary donations to the FVUW’s Holiday Assistance program, which provides toys, clothing and gift cards for grocery purchases to families who do not have the financial means to provide gifts to their children.

Money donated by the unions goes towards purchasing food gift cards, which clients can use to buy a holiday meal.

The Fox Valley United Way’s Holiday Assistance program gets help from organized labor with donations.

Bags of toys and bikes await pickup as part of the Fox Valley United Way’s Holiday Assistance. Fox Valley Labor News file photos

“We can’t express enough gratitude to the building trades. When you see the faces of these mothers, it gives you an amazing feeling to know that what they’re doing is very much appreciated by many in the community,” said FVUW Director of Operations Deborah Collins-Rudel.

Bins of donated hats, scarves and mittens, right, are also given to children. Fox Valley Labor News file photos

Bins of donated hats, scarves and mittens, right, are also given to children. Fox Valley Labor News file photos

Representatives of the building trades visited the FVUW Dec. 2, where they presented Collins-Rudel with $2,350 in donations, and 10 $50 Jewel-Osco gift cards. A good chunk of the donated money comes from the Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council annual golf outing, the rest from union contributions.

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Christmas is more than just the gifts under the tree, it’s about being together as a family. “It’s a relief these families don’t have to worry if they will have a Christmas dinner — they will. Part of the Christmas celebration is about the meal,” Collins-Rudel said.

Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council President Scott Roscoe, who is a past FVUW board member, said the building trades have been involved with the Holiday Assistance program for many years.
“I can’t say enough about what [the staff] does at United Way. They’ve done great things in the community,” Roscoe said.

So far, the FVUW is helping 133 needy families with 313 children.