Following a chance social media interaction, SMART Local 46 (Rochester, N.Y.) apprentices are helping provide the gift of mobility to hundreds of children across the world, according to — showcasing both the values and the craftsmanship of union labor.

Bellas Bumpas Limited is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization run by husband-and-wife team Marty Parzynski and Rebecca Orr that provides free, hand-crafted mobile chairs for children with physical disabilities. The charity’s mission, WNYLaborToday reports, is to not only help children gain “the mobility that has eluded them, but provide them with the opportunity to take part in a variety of activities that many children and their families take for granted.”

A crucial part of the wheelchairs, Local 46 Training Director Allen Mort told WNYLaborToday, is a metal axle that needs to be cut precisely to length, with holes drilled on either end to attach the wheels to each side of the chair. That’s where the union sheet metal apprentices entered the equation.

“[The charity] was looking for help with constructing wheelchairs and they needed metal pieces [to attach the wheels]. I called them to inquire about what they needed,” Mort — who originally saw Bellas Bumpas’ call for assistance on a neighborhood app — told WNYLaborToday.

“Their apprentices’ help takes a lot off my shoulders,” Parzynski said in the same article. “It gives me more time to work on other parts.”

“[Local 46’s apprentices] are helping disabled kids,” he continued. “Families who have a disabled kid have tears in their eyes, because they’ve never gotten anything like this. There was nowhere else to go [to get the metal axle made], and we couldn’t do anything without them. Then [Local 46] stepped in. It’s an absolute godsend.”

In addition to its donation of union labor, Local 46 helped spearhead a wave of financial assistance. Following the apprentices’ work, the Rochester Building & Construction Trades Council donated $16,000 to Bellas Bumpas, and Local 46 contributed another $1,000.

“When [the apprentices] learn that it’s so meaningful, you can see it in their faces,” Local 46 Business Manager Troy Milne explained to WNYLaborToday. “They take a bit of extra time because they know where it’s going. … They care.”

“I’m proud of them, as well as our entire membership, to give back to our community. We’re not just tin-knockers,” he added.

SMART-TD Local 445 members dedicated a Friday to serving their community in October – the start of what Local 445 Chairperson A.J. Lewis says will be an expanded effort to volunteer in the area.

“Rocky, Mike and myself volunteered for a shift at the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Joliet on October 13, 2023,” Lewis explained. “We packed 504 cans of food, which contributed to the 7,146 pounds of total food packed during the shift. This provided 5,955 meals for Joliet and surrounding communities.”

In addition to packing food, the three Local 445 members loaded cars with boxes of food to be delivered to those in need who can’t access transportation to the food bank.

“Next year, we will be posting dates when our local will be covering shifts at the Northern Illinois Food Bank,” Lewis added. “We will be extending this invite to any union brother or sister who would like to volunteer their time.”

Young people from around Kentucky braved rainstorms to spend several hours honing their fishing skills on Saturday, May 20, during three separate Take Kids Fishing Day events hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), SMART Local 110 (Louisville, Ky.) and the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Services.

While the weather may have dampened the venues — Jacobson Park in Lexington, Waverly Park in Louisville and Bob Noble Park in Paducah — it didn’t lessen the kids’ spirit or excitement, according to event organizer and Local 110 Business Manager Mark Adams.

“Every child received a free rod-and-reel from the USA and got the chance to catch a few fish,” he said. “Everyone had a fantastic time, despite the weather.”

In all, 75 children participated in the three events, learning how to bait hooks, cast a line and land catfish, bluegills and trout under the mentorship of Local 110 members who volunteered their time to coach the budding anglers. In Lexington, members of the Cadentown Mission Baptist Men’s Group joined union volunteers in helping kids catch fish.

From the planning stage through the close of each event, union members donated 110 hours of their time to this community outreach program.

“This is the third year we’ve held the Take Kids Fishing Day events,” Adams noted. “Our local members are sportsmen and women, and they know what they’re doing. Our focus is on helping each kid catch fish, especially if it is their first time holding a fishing rod.”

Recruiting new people into the sport of fishing, and hopefully igniting an interest in preserving and conserving the country’s valuable natural resources, is only part of the goal in hosting events like these for the community, Adams added.

“They also help strengthen the bond between union workers and the people in their neighborhoods,” he explained. “They help us show the community what the union is all about, supporting our neighbors while providing secure employment opportunities for our members. I guarantee SMART 110 will be holding this event for a long time to come.”

“Too many children seldom get the opportunity to go fishing, or participate in any type of outdoor recreation,” said Cody Campbell, USA Conservation Coordinator. “The Take Kids Fishing Days we and volunteers from union locals in various states host every year offer hundreds of kids that chance, at least for a day. The mentoring that union volunteers provide will hopefully give many of them the confidence to pursue fishing as a fun, life-long pastime.” 

The SMART Local 110 events were part of a series of free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day events, organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program with support from USA national partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Union Plus, and Humana as well as founding partners UIG, ULLICO, Bank of Labor, AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation and Buck Knives.

In late July, Local 33 (northern Ohio) Business Agents Jim Jackson and Jamie Bostic spent a day volunteering to support the 2022 Local 33-sponsored charity Camp Mountain Heart. The camp is a free, week-long experience for children ages 8–17 with congenital or acquired heart disease, created to give camp-goers the opportunity to connect and forge friendships with others who have had similar life experiences. Camp counselors include physicians and nurses, helping Camp Mountain Heart maintain a safe environment for campers to experience independence and activities that are both fun and help build confidence. Local 33 is proud to support such a great cause!

As a way to help the homeless in the local community, SMART Local 20 (Evansville, Ind.) partnered with Aurora and Echo Housing to build the strike zone stand for the first-ever River City Wiffle Ball Classic, with members also participating in the tournament.

“Our donation and participation were a great way to show the community how Local 20 wants to do their part in helping the homeless in the Tri-State,” said Local 20 Business Rep. Kreg Homoky. “These strike zone stands will now be used for future tournaments throughout the years. I want to thank Jim Dempsey, Evansville Sheet Metal, Neil Hammelman, Grant Hammelman, Keith Irwin and Aaron Friel for their help and participation.”

Business Representative Josh Williams, West Franklin Elementary Principal Dr. Dawn Lauridsen, Local 24 apprentice Katie Fertig, Business Representative Jeff Hunley.

The SM Local 24 (southern Ohio) SMART Army helped area kids and families stay healthy as summer began with a food drive benefiting elementary-aged students at West Franklin Elementary School in the Southwestern City School District; the fourth-largest school district in the state. Organized by Local 24 apprentice Katie Fertig, the food drive saw the SMART Army partner with West Franklin Elementary Communities in Schools Coordinator Brooklyn Brown to put together more than 50 food kits to send home to families in need over the summer months — a time when many children in the community lose access to school breakfast and lunch programs.

Local 24 members are currently at work helping build and remodel several new school buildings, as well as other projects, for the Southwestern City School District. The local hopes to further grow its relationship with the district and expand its food drive effort in future years to continue supporting the community and keep kids and families healthy.

Business Representative Jeff Hunley, Business Representative Josh Williams, Local 24 apprentice Katie Fertig

On March 19, 2022, the SM Local 27 (Southern N.J.) SMART Army filled 42 contractor trash bags with litter during a trash cleanup spanning two miles of Silver Run Road in Millville, N.J. Local 27 Business Agent John Whittington and his son joined members Don Cooper, Ken Andeloro, Mike Mendez, John David­son, Pete Polumbo, Malcolm Hill, John Manera, Jaden Sheppard, Dave Cooper, Mark Weatherby, Clarence Harris, Organizer Greg Goble and Business Agent Matt Johnson for the effort.

As part of the Easter holiday festivities in their community, SM Local 33 (Toledo, Ohio) members worked with A.N.G.E.L.S Outreach to hand out 110 food baskets to local families. Founded in 1995, A.N.G.E.L.S Outreach provides food baskets to those in need of a helping hand during Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. SMART members who participated: Rod Graffis, Clint Dockery, Julie Price, Chris Monaghan, Bill Dukeshire, Nadine Dukeshire, Gary Schwartz, Laura Blackwell, Gail Mistiatis, Ray Schlagheck, Dick Schuller, Nick Koelsch and Jim Domanowski.

Pictured left to right are SMART Local 71 members Paul Holland, Nick Hoffman, Anthony Paris, Shilo Rogers, Dan Morino, Jeff Gatti and Ryan Hurley. As part of Local 71’s SMART Army and Apprenticeship Community Service programs, these members partici­pated in a cleanup of Raymond Klimek Veteran’s Park in North Tonawanda, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo. Spear­headed by Paris, a U.S. Army National Guard veteran, the beautification project took place on May 21–22, one weekend ahead of Memorial Day. Not pictured are Busi­ness Manager Paul Crist and Business Agent Timothy Benes, who also participated in the cleanup.

SMART members from Wisconsin and across North America teamed up to support the Associa­tion for the Rights of Citizens with Handicaps (ARCh)

On the morning of Thursday, June 9, SMART members from Wisconsin and across North America joined the Associa­tion for the Rights of Citizens with Handicaps (ARCh) to prepare the Menomonee Park lodge in Menomonee Falls, Wis., for ARCh Camp Pow Wow, ensuring area adults and children with disabilities could attend the annual summer camp. Additionally, SMART pitched in with a fundraising effort that brought in $33,000 for ARCh and Camp Pow Wow, including a $5,000 donation from Milwaukee Tool Co.

“This is what we’re all about: building better communities,” said SMART Local 565 Business Manager & Financial Secretary-Treasurer Jesse Buell. “Building better wages and benefits, and raising local standards. We are proud to take part in this effort to support our community.”

“SMART takes great pride in being able to assist ARCh Camp Pow Wow with their reopening,” added SMART Local 18 Business Manager/ President Mike Mooney. “Camp Pow Wow has been a staple with serving the needs of the community for many years, and SMART is honored to be able to assist them.”

ARCh Camp Pow Wow has been providing outdoor recreational activities for adults and children with disabilities since 1959. With day camp options for the area’s most vulnerable citizens, Camp Pow Wow offers swimming, fishing, gardening, fitness, arts and crafts, music and more. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Camp Pow Wow hadn’t taken place in person since 2019, and the site had fallen into disrepair. As a small nonprofit, ARCh did not have the resources to ready the site for return to camp — and SMART answered the call.

“We are thrilled and honored to benefit from the enthusiasm and expertise of the SMART Army,” said Kristen Lindahl, assistant director of operations at ARCh, ahead of the event. “This project shows how much good can be accomplished through a dynamic partnership of organized labor, county government and the nonprofit community. It takes this great ‘village’ to raise a camp!”

“This is what we’re all about: building better communities,” said SMART Local 565 Business Manager & Financial Secretary-Treasurer Jesse Buell. “Building better wages and benefits, and raising local standards. We are proud to take part in this effort to support our community.”

Members of SMART Local 18 (Wisconsin) and Local 565 (Madison, Wis.) — along with SMART delegates attending the SMART Production and Sign Council in Milwaukee the same week — arrived at Menomonee Park lodge early on Thursday morning, with more than 120 SMART volunteers providing over 400 combined hours of labor to make sure the lodge could safely accommodate guests of all abilities.

Members removed all the contents of the lodge, cleaned and sanitized the entire building – rooms, kitchen, common areas and more – and cleaned and sanitized every piece of equipment in the lodge before reinstalling all furnishings. Other SMART workers took care of basic landscaping, repair and mainte­nance needs for the lodge picnic area, music pavilion, tent boxes and swing sets: fixing picnic tables and accessible wooden walkways, setting up heavy-duty tents for campers to use, spreading woodchips, sanitizing toys and recreational materials, and more. At the end of the effort, SMART members presented a $33,000 check to ARCh Camp Pow Wow: a demonstration of labor’s lasting commitment to supporting local communities.

“Although they have been chal­lenging for everyone, the past two years have caused massive loneli­ness and frustration among children and adults with disabilities,” said Lindahl. “Thanks to the skill and dedication of the SMART Army, our campers can now safely and joyously return to the summer fun that they have missed so much!”