SIS members deliver a large donation of goods to the Eastmont Garden of Hope in Oakland.

Giving back to the community

It's what we do

These days, instead of being seen as active members of the community, and as the people who “do the work,” unions and union members are too often labeled as “takers,” who selfishly look out only for themselves.

In fact, Local 853 has a long history of giving back to the community. Since 2000, the Local has sponsored a team in the Multiple Sclerosis walk and, in 2008, started organizing a Sporting Clay Shoot. Through these two annual events, the Local has raised more than $553,000 from members, other unions, and vendors for research into a cure for MS.

Two years ago, 15-year member Pam Gaskill, who’s a driver at Rock Transport, had an idea to form a women’s committee at the Local. She hoped to see more women get involved in the Local and become more active in the community. The group is called Sisters in Solidarity (SIS).

For the 2013 holidays, the Committee came up with two projects. One was a volunteer day with Habitat for Humanity, which was exhausting and fun for those who attended. The other activity was to raise funds for the Eastmont Garden of Hope, run by the Alameda County Social Services Agency. This Oakland agency, located in the Eastmont Mall as part of the Alameda County Self-Sufficiency Center, opened in 2011 and serves more than 400 low-income and homeless people each month.

Committee members decided to harness the power of the Local 853 membership, and passed the hat (or actually the coffee cans) at the Membership Appreciation Meeting in November. Together, the members in attendance donated $1,285. Local 853 decided to match that figure, and brought the donation up to a total of $2,600.

A crew of SIS members organized a shopping day at the Redwood City Costco—a Teamster-represented shop—and spent $2,599.99 on blankets, diapers, jackets, toys, and everything the group can disseminate.

Pertrena Coleman, who oversees the Eastmont Garden of Hope, was floored when SIS started unloading three SUVs filled with the donations. “We couldn’t believe our ears when Pam called and told us to expect a Teamster delivery because our cupboards were bare,” she said. “We were having to turn people away.”

Coleman said that this was the largest single donation that the Center had ever received, though she noted that a Motorcycle gang brought in dozens of coats and jackets a few months back. “We’re so glad to have jobs,” explained Pam Talavera, a member of SIS. “That’s why it’s so important to give to others who are not as fortunate.”

If you have donations of gently worn clothing, especially winter wear, or blankets, bring them by the union hall until December 16. A donation barrel is in the lobby.