By DON McINTOSH
It’s a massive undertaking: As many as 150 local union volunteers raise funds, purchase and collect gifts, and package and deliver them to union families facing hardship. It’s called Presents from Partners, and it’s an annual project of Labor’s Community Service Agency (LCSA), a nonprofit supported by local unions and the United Way.
This year, Presents from Partners helped about 180 union families, including about 500 kids, says LCSA executive director Shammra Lacy. Recipients are referred by their unions, when union reps learn that members are facing tough times due to a death or illness in the family or a cut in hours. Oregon Tradeswomen also refers families when moms are struggling to make ends meet while they start careers in construction.
The recipients fill out forms listing their kids’ ages and things they may want or need. Then on Dec. 17, a volunteer arrives with great big bags full of gifts, with a total value of about $400: toys, games, and art supplies for the younger kids, gift cards for the older kids, and even gifts for the grownups, like housewares, tools, and makeup. Deliveries also include a bag of food for a holiday dinner: turkey, potatoes, carrots, rolls, cranberry sauce, and mac and cheese, prepared at a steep discount by unionized Spin Catering. The Oregon Laborers training trust lends its facility as the staging area where volunteers load in gifts for delivery by volunteer drivers.
The campaign is a giant collective effort, and union training centers have a friendly competition to see who can contribute the most gifts. This year’s winner was the Iron Workers Local 29 training trust. IBEW Local 48 was another standout, providing a $100 Fred Meyer gift card to every one of the recipient families.
LCSA is based in Portland, and most of the recipient families were in the Portland area, including 30 in southwest Washington. But this year LCSA was also able to deliver to a dozen families in more remote areas, including Junction City, The Dalles, and Hermiston.