Local 550 Brings Holiday Cheer to Paducah Community

Over a hundred underprivileged Paducah, Ky., children will have bikes to ride and toys under the Christmas tree because of the generosity of Local 550 members, employees and contractors at the former Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup site.

Pictured: LU 550 members, a Cassidy’s Cause representative, a Toys for Tots local representative and Kentucky AFL-CIO Treasurer and USW Local 9477 member Jeff Wiggins stand behind the trove of donated toys and bikes for Paducah’s underprivileged children this Christmas.

Local 550 Women of Steel Coordinator Kayla Neely organized the local’s Toys for Tots event this year. Toys for Tots is a nationwide program that the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve conducts each fall. The organization collects new, unwrapped toys for needy children in the community where the campaign is conducted.

Local 550 President Gary Wilson said the Paducah cleanup site donated $3,000 to $4,000 of toys and over 30 bicycles for less fortunate children. The charity also received financial donations from the local and its Women of Steel program.

“We usually start in October and get boxes put up,” Wilson said of the toy drive. “A lot of the members feel this is their Christmas. They look forward to doing this, and we have a few members save toys throughout the year to get prepared for this event.”

In addition to Toys for Tots, the local supports three other charities: Cassidy’s Cause, Starfish Orphan Ministries and Sunrise Children’s Services. This year they raffled a $500 hunting store gift card and were able to donate $1,200 to each charity. The charities also received donations from the site contractors: Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership, Mid-America Conversion Services and Swift & Staley.

Working with the site contractors on the toy drive and financial support for local charities helps improve labor relations, Wilson said. “It’s one time we don’t have to sit down and argue about things. It’s one thing we can do together.”

Local 550 also collects canned food for a yearly Christmas event in a local park. Christmas lights line the park and people drive through to the Santa house where the local brings canned food and donations.

This year, the local donated $3,100 and two large crates of canned goods for local food banks. “This is another event that everybody loves to do,” Wilson said.

“It’s good for us to get together and work as a union to help people who need it,” he added. “It’s a good feeling to do anything charitable.”

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