2021 USW Cares, District 1 Jefferson Award Winner, Robert Ford

Robert Ford, of USW Local Union 2L, works for Goodyear Tire in Akron, Ohio. In 2018, Ford attended a football game at Kenmore Highschool in his daughter’s school district and noticed something about the kids he was surrounded by: a lot of them weren’t wearing socks… or jackets. It was the beginning of winter.

“I immediately thought ‘how can I help?’” said Ford. “I know they’re kids, and it’s not always cool to wear a jacket, but it was more than that. I work so much, I didn’t know there was this need in my community. I had to go out into the community to know what was going on.”

So he met with the principal and school counselors, and he stocked the school with food and clothes for the kids who needed it. After doing some research and finding out that the poverty rate in Akron, OH is 61 percent, Ford made it his mission to tend to the children in his community who were suffering.

With teachers, coaches, and counselors telling him which kids needed what, he started packing back packs with food and supplies, and then a coat and sweatshirt program followed. He began delivering meals to single parent homes and the homes of kids with an incarcerated parent, and the meal program took off; that’s how his non-profit, Forever R Children, came to be.

Forever R Children is Robert Ford and it goes where he goes. “It doesn’t have a home,” Ford says, “I go wherever the need is. Wherever the need is, I’m coming!”

Pastor Richard Frasier of Hope Ministries gave him a trailer, so every three weeks, Ford travels to a different area of Akron with his trailer stocked with meal kits, snacks, clothes, and toiletries and makes deliveries to people at their homes. When he drops off food, he covers the family for three days of healthy, fresh meals.

Ford did all this without any fundraising at first. He bought everything himself or people who knew what he was doing would donate. When things got going, he partnered with the Akron County Food Bank and started reaching out to businesses. He bought 100 hams from Costco, so Costco donated 100 hams to match it. Dollar General agreed to be a Holiday Sponsor and set-up boxes to collect donations at their registers during the Holidays. The Akron Community Foundation donated $4,000 to Robert’s efforts.

Now, the unions involved: Matt Dilauro, President of Local Union 2L, connected Ford with Jamestown Container Company, a union shop, which supplies Forever R Children with $2,000 worth of boxes (to hold donations) every month. District 1 Director Donnie Blatt donated $3,000 from District 1 once he heard about what Ford was doing for Akron. Good Year Unit President, Jeremy Estlock, and the rest of Ford’s Local Union brothers and sisters came together this year to support and raise money for Forever R Children with a Poker Run that will be held in August; Estlock recruited lots of members from other unions to attend.

The school loves Forever R Children so much that they gave Ford an office in the middle school to be a mentor and resource for the kids, and now there is an in-school food pantry run by a teacher and children with disabilities, so that they can learn real-world skills.

Forever R Children will keep expanding; Ford is now trying to help veterans and is finding ways to help even more people in his community. Robert Ford is the 2021 USW Cares District 1 Jefferson Award winner for all that he is doing to support the children in his community.

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