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Service + Solidarity Spotlight: The Season of Giving: Labor Brightens the Holidays for Hundreds of Illinois Kids

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Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.

Dozens of members of the Bloomington & Normal (Illinois) Trades & Labor Assembly turned out on Saturday for the labor council’s annual holiday event for families in need. For the past 38 years, the labor council has sponsored a Children’s Christmas Party for low-income families. The unions provide the volunteers and logistics; the local Chamber of Commerce brings volunteers and raises the funds. Traditionally, the event is held at Bloomington High School, featuring a morning of games and a visit from Santa, with about 350–375 children participating. Because of COVID-19, this year’s event was shifted to a drive-thru event staged at the Midwest Food Bank in Normal, Illinois. Some 856 children from 318 families were served.

Every child received a gift and a candy bag, and every family received a USDA food basket and $100 gift certificate from the local newspaper, The Pantagraph. About 80 volunteers participated, prepared the gift boxes and candy bags on Dec. 11, and then helped direct traffic into the food bank warehouse, where volunteers loaded the cars. Participating unions included Laborers (LIUNA) Local 362, Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 30, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 6038, United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) Local 99, Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 193, United Steelworkers (USW) Local 787, AFSCME Local 699 and Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 197.

This blog originally appeared at AFL-CIO on December 16, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Aaron Gallant is an AFL-CIO contributor.

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