“Young Machinists”at Machinists Local Lodge 63 — and some older ones too — helped brighten Christmas this year for 110 teen-age foster kids in East Multnomah County.
The Young Machinists group was organized a little over a year ago to get members ages 35 and under more involved with their union. The group is comprised primarily of members employed at Boeing Co. They were brainstorming for ways to serve the community when one of the group’s leaders — Scott Lacey — and Local 63 President John Kleiboeker had a chance encounter with the owner of KBR Custom Motorcycles in Boring, Oregon, who mentioned that he was looking for a good cause to donate some trees from his parents’ Christmas tree farm.
Lacey and Kleiboecker told him about the Young Machinists and their search for a community project, and the owner agreed to donate 200 trees for the group to sell.
Shortly after that, Scott’s wife, Beth, an apprentice at Boeing and also a member of the Young Machinists, learned through her cousin that the Oregon Department of Human Services was having trouble filling an “Angel Tree” the agency had set up for foster teens this Christmas. Beth’s cousin is an intern at DHS.
The Young Machinists had found their community project.
Scott and Beth gave a report at their Local 63 union meeting, along with a request for some money to further help the cause. The union responded with a donation of $10,000.
The Young Machinists decided to buy presents for the teens, and include stockings filled with personal hygiene items and pencils, pens, and stickers with the IAM logo.
They dubbed it “Foster Care Christmas!”
The Laceys met with caseworkers to compile a list of “needs” and “wants” specific to all 110 foster teens in their care. With the list in hand, Beth started shopping on line on Black Friday. She continued shopping on Saturday, Sunday, on cyber Monday … until she had completed the list.
“I thought it would take a few hours to complete,” she said. “It took about a week and a half.”
Beth stretched the union’s cash donation eight-fold, looking for the best deals, rebates, and cash-back offers from area retailers.
“Over the years I’ve had training shopping strategically and creatively for our four kids,” she said.
On Dec. 14, a dozen Machinists — including IAM international Special Representative Gabrielle Rogano — and some of their family members wrap-ped all the gifts. Then, over the next 10 days caseworkers delivered the packages to their clients.
“This is a true blessing for them to do this for us,” said caseworker Anthony Lackey, explaining that oftentimes during the holiday season teens get overlooked as more focus goes to younger children.
“Our kids wouldn’t have much otherwise,” he said
“This won’t be a one-time deal, either,” Kleiboeker said.
The Young Machinists and Local 63, which represents workers at 12 shops, intend to meet with caseworkers throughout the New Year and beyond to arrange mentor groups to talk to the foster teens about careers as a machinist.
“It’s just the beginning,” Kleiboeker said.