By BRENDA J. LINERT
Local auto workers traded their pneumatic wrenches for hammers and nails Thursday on the site of an Austintown Habitat for Humanity House.
The elbow grease put to use Thursday morning is just a small part of the giving that has been going on routinely by the more than 4,000 workers at the General Motors Lordstown plant for years, along with the company's charitable arm, the GM Foundation. Plant spokesman Tom Mock estimates cash donations generated by direct employee giving amounts to about $1 million each year.
That's in addition to more than $100,000 given locally by the company's charitable arm.
The majority, he says, is donated through annual charitable giving campaigns that help support things like the plant's "Care & Share" program, March of Dimes, Toys for Kids, Salvation Army, Inspiring Minds and Relay for Life and United Way campaigns annually.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Brenda J. Linert
UAW Local 1112 President Glenn Johnson watches as volunteers from GM help install the roof at a Habitat for Humanity house Thursday in Austintown.
The Lordstown GM facility, in fact, is Trumbull County United Way's largest contributor.
That doesn't surprise the presidents of both United Auto Worker locals at the plant.
"When we go out and address the membership, they are more than willing to open up their pocketbooks for the needy in the area," said Robert Morales, president of UAW Local 1714, which covers works at the complex's fabrication plant. Speaking specifically about holiday fund raising, Morales said, for example, the local this year raised enough money to feed 250 needy area families, in addition to giving $4,000 worth of toys for the Angel Tree campaign.
"The membership always steps up to the cause," Morales said.
Glenn Johnson, president of UAW Local 1112, echoed the sentiment.
"We got the call and we are excited to put our team to work," Johnson said at the Habitat job site on Thursday. "We couldn't be more proud to take on a project like this."
Likewise, the GM Foundation funnels tens of thousands of dollars to worthy local projects each year. The Austintown Habitat for Humanity House project was made possible by a more than $1.45 million grant from the GM Foundation to Habitat for Humanity International, with about $80,000 dedicated to the local project. In all, GM Foundation grants to local projects totaled about $100,000 in the last year, Mock said.
The GM Foundation also distributes about $100,000 per year in plant city grants to charities throughout the Mahoning Valley, said Mock and Maria Mainville of the GM Foundation.
The foundation, funded solely by General Motors, has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to American charities, educational organizations and worldwide disaster relief since its 1976 inception, focusing on community projects mainly in areas where GM operates.
Teamwork and generosity of local plant workers made the Lordstown facility especially noteworthy in the eyes of Lordstown GM Plant Manager Bob Parcell.
"They are the most generous group I have ever been around," Parcell said. "I think the transformation of our culture here over the last few years has been amazing with problem solving, working together. It's 4,000 people pulling on the rope the same way, and once you do it, it's amazing what you can accomplish. And on top of that, it's one of the most generous, giving places I have ever worked."
Parcell rattled off a number of organizations that have benefited from the local United Auto Worker membership giving programs, mentioning Junior Achievement, Relay for Life, March of Dimes and United Way.
"It's a pretty steady cadence," he said.