Local steelworkers receive help for the holidays
Wednesday, 26 December 2012 11:53

United Way gives holiday meal boxes

by Nicole Rodman

    For decades, workers at the Sparrows Point steel mill made it a point to donate annually to United Way of Central Maryland.
    Now, it is the steelworkers themselves who need help and United Way is giving back.
    A service organization, United Way works to provide resources for individuals in need.
    With the closure of the Sparrows Point steel mill at the end of May, nearly 2,000 steelworkers found themselves unemployed and unlikely to return to the steel mill at all.
    Recognizing the hardship these workers and their families are facing — especially right before the holidays­ — and wanting to help, United Way of Central Maryland spent last Thursday handing out holiday meal boxes to local workers in need.
    During an event at the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9477 hall on Dundalk Avenue at noon on Dec. 20, hundreds of unemployed steelworkers turned up to receive boxes stuffed with turkey and trimmings.
    In addition to a 10 to 12 pound turkey, workers received non-perishable side items such as vegetables, stuffing and mashed potatoes.

According to USW 9477 president Joe Rosel, the event was open to every laid-off steelworker.             Around 1,000 people were expected to show up to collect food.
    As Rosel noted, though the event was organized at the last minute, the union was able to notify members of the available meal boxes through social media outlets.
    For his part, Mark Furst, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Central Maryland, told The Eagle last week that the holiday meal boxes were United Way’s way of thanking the steelworkers who have given so much over the years.
    “We are here to say thank you to current steelworkers and generations of steelworkers who gave back to United Way,” Furst explained.
    Discussing the generous giving campaigns conducted by Sparrows Point steel workers in the past, Furst noted that, as recently as two years ago, steelworkers gave $200,000 to United Way.
    “[Sparrows Point steel mill] has always been one of our strongest partnerships. We are sorry to see it go,” Furst noted.
    Furst added that United Way would continue to monitor the steelworkers’ situation with the help of United Way of Central Maryland’s Baltimore County Community Partnership Board.
    The Community Partnership Board, chaired by Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce member Keith Scott, works with United Way to determine  groups and individuals with the most need in communities across Baltimore County.
    Present at last Thursday’s event, Scott noted that the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce stands behind the steelworkers and will continue to offer support.
    “The steel plant has been a member of the chamber for awhile,” Scott explained, adding, “You have to support a neighbor in need.”
    Also on hand at the USW hall last Thursday was Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
    According to Kamenetz, he attended last week’s event in order to meet and speak with steelworkers one-on-one and “get a sense of their needs.”
    Speaking with The Eagle last Thursday, Kamenetz said, “This is obviously a tough time of year for these folks and we appreciate United Way for stepping up and coming through for these folks.”
    Speaking of the county’s efforts to assist out-of-work steelworkers, the county executive noted that the county is currently administering a $1.8 million grant that will provide steelworkers with job retraining, resume-building skills, educational opportunities and even mental health counseling.
    So far, Kamenetz explained, 800 clients have been served under the grant while all out-of-work steelworkers have been the target of outreach efforts by the county.
    While the future is still cloudy — both for the steel mill and the individuals who once worked there — through the efforts of United Way the holidays will be a bit brighter for local steelworkers and their families.