Operation Backpack 2019
August 28, 2019

Hamilton – Earlier today the Hamilton Steelworkers Area Council along with ArcelorMittal Hamilton East (AMHE), it’s locals and partnering companies worked to fill 1500 Backpacks with supplies for children in need as they head back to school next week. Operation Backpack 2019 is the biggest effort yet in its 11 year history. Starting with 92 packs in 2008 it has grown incrementally over the years, it has been a culmination of great effort and cooperation with companies we work for, community members, private businesses and some city Councilors in terms of fundraising; this year alone $48,000.00 is expected to be raised in total when all efforts wrap up on September 16th.

Over the 11 years we have donated over seven thousand (7000) backpacks and supplies to families in the city of Hamilton, mostly, but not limited to the area identified by Code Red.

“When we started this, Local 5328 and AMHE were looking for a way to give back to the community” said Terry Willock, Financial Secretary of the Local. “I had heard that there was need for this and the company and union agreed it was a good idea and it just took on a life of its own”.

Darren Green was president of 5328 at the time and currently president of the Area Council says that teachers were so appreciative of the efforts by us and others in the community doing this, “At the start we used to deliver directly to the schools and we heard from both teachers and principals that they could use more, they told us the need was there”, he said. “It drove us to do more and I can say that while the fundraising is exhausting it is worth all of our efforts to make this happen and it is gratifying to know that there are 1500 kids going back to school on Tuesday with not only the supplies they need but the feeling of doing so with what other kids have”.
This year the backpacks will be distributed by St. Matthews House, who has worked with us for many years on the program. Also this year 100 packs will go to the Haldimand-Norfolk and another 100 to Brantford where workers also fall under the umbrella of the Area Council (Locals in both areas raised their own funds).

“For Local 5328 and Steelworkers in Hamilton, Operation Backpack has become the largest fundraising effort of the year,” said Anthony Ciaramella, President of USW Local 5328.

“These 1,500 backpacks are not only filled with school supplies—they’re also providing dignity and pride to families across our host community,” said Jaideo Debie, Plant Manager, ArcelorMittal Hamilton-East".

Community Matters” is our mantra, and with the support of ArcelorMittal and so many other partnering USW Locals, businesses and individuals, we believe that we are making a difference here in Hamilton.

The goal for next year? Yet to be determined but for this year a huge thank you to all our sponsors, volunteers and to the Women of Steel whose commitment is unwaivering.

Photos done by Mike Hnatjuk ( USW Local 5328 )
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