Nonprofits will feel the loss of GM/UAW involvement
JANESVILLE When General Motors employees walk out of the Janesville plant for the last time, they’ll be closing the door on community support that will echo through the community for years.
Among the hardest hit will be nonprofit organizations.
“There is nobody in Janesville that will not be touched in one way or another by things that were done by UAW/GM,” said Marv Wopat, UAW-GM Employee Assistance Program representative and the face of volunteerism in the community for the plant and union.
Gone, for example, will be the annual holiday food drive that gave two weeks of groceries to 350 families last year. Four hundred volunteers—union and management—collected $20,000 for the project Wopat has led for 25 years.
“It won’t be anymore,” he said. “I’m sad. I’m really sad.
“I figure we put well over $50,000 back into the community at Christmas time with all the things GM/UAW did in 2007,” he added. “Now they’re definitely going to do without.”
Wopat, who is retiring July 1, said he will continue to volunteer and contribute to the community. But he believes many GMers might not because they won’t be receiving the plant’s daily newsletters, which keep them informed of happenings in the community.
“People do not have a clue about all the volunteer time and dollars that affect this community. We’re not doing it for the glory or pat on the back, we’re doing it because we just want to better the community and to help others,” Wopat said.
The donations and volunteer hours from GM and UAW “easily surpasses the $1 million mark a year,” Wopat said.
United Way of North Rock County
United Way of North Rock County already has seen a decrease in the collection of pledges in conjunction with the decrease in the number of the GM plant’s hourly workers, said Gail Graham, president.
GM/UAW’s employee campaign of payroll deduction dollars makes up the biggest percentage of the local United Way’s annual fund-raising campaign.
For example, it represents 21 percent, or $351,722, of the total raised to date toward the 2007 campaign goal of $1.75 million, Graham said.
“That’s a huge amount of money and critical to the success of our campaign,’’ she said.
“Without that,’’ Graham said, “It means our campaign cabinet will work harder to touch those who have not been asked to contribute in the past.”
Even before GM’s announcement that it would close the Janesville plant in 2010 or earlier, ECHO already had experienced a 10 percent increase in demand for food services.
“As of April 2008, we provided over 180,000 meals to 700 families (2,100 people) in just four months. Food flies off the shelves,” said Karen Lisser, executive director.
Lisser believes the need among ECHO’s low-income clients will continue to increase even though donations are likely to fall.
“There will be a drop in donations from GM employees and their families and also from their suppliers,” she said.
“If donations don’t continue at a steady pace, we’ll have to shut down some of our services like rent assistance but not food,” Lisser said.
ECHO’s annual holiday toy drive also will be affected, she said.
“GM bought a significant number of our toys,” Lisser said.
The gift of life
Blood donations at GM, which are like no place in the community, will come to an end.
“There are 350 to 400 signed up to give blood at the drive coming up just in our plant,” Wopat said.
He doesn’t believe people will continue to give blood like they do at the plant because it won’t be as convenient.
“We take people right off the line and have people cover for them,” he said.
Every month the union’s executive committee considers requests for hundreds to thousands of dollars for youth programs and other projects in the community. After the plant closes, those requests will go unanswered.
Before Tuesday’s GM announcement, the YWCA already was seeing an increase in requests for shelter, child abuse interviews and day camp scholarships, said Kerri Parker, executive director.
“The General Motors news will obviously have a major impact on the community,” she said “Many of the people we work with are in precarious situations; any decrease in the vital services they need could be devastating.”
Boys & Girls Club of Janesville
“The club will definitely see an impact of the plant closing specifically in our special events, business and individual contributions. These areas make up about 55 percent of our annual operating budget,’’ said Heather Walz, executive director at the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville.
But the impact stretches beyond finances, Walz said.
“This is going to greatly touch the lives of our more than 1,000 members and their families. Many of our parents work for GM or another company that is being affected such as Lear,” she said.
Before the plant-closing announcement, Rotary Gardens had bus tours cancel because GM had cut back plant tours to every other week, executive director Ed Lyon said.
That impacts the gardens’ income from guided tour fees and sales in the botanical gardens’ gift shop.
“It’s a domino affect,” Lyon said.
Rock County Historical Society
The cutback in GM plant tours also resulted in the cancellation of tours at the Rock County Historical Society.
“A lot of our school groups and traveling groups that come into Janesville do us and GM as a tour for the day. We did have school tours cancel this spring when the plant was closed for tours,’’ said Madge Murphy, executive director.
The historical society also has received money and time from GM employees, she said.
But with the plant closing, “I think it could affect our events and annual support we look for in the community,” Murphy said.
Janesville Performing Arts Center
GM and UAW Local 95 have served as program and gala sponsors at the Janesville Performing Arts Center. Executive director Laurel Canan doesn’t know if that will continue.
“We’ve just continued to look for funding sources and continue to try and keep this a great place with affordable ticket prices,’’ she said.
Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin
The Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin expects to lose donations from GM employees, but Sue Conley, leader at the foundation, hopes GM’s plant closing will provide an opportunity for the Janesville community to come together to build a brighter future.
“I’m sure many people employed by GM or related (businesses) have contributed to funds at the foundation but now aren’t going to be contributing as much because they’ll be more cautious with their dollars that includes charitable giving,” she said.
CHARITIES TIED TO GM/UAW 95
The community has benefited in many ways over the years from the generosity of General Motors/United Auto Workers Local 95 employees. Here is a list of some of those events and sponsorships:
-- Employee Assistance Food Drive.
-- Toys for Tots.
-- Charity raffle.
-- American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
-- American Heart Association Bowl-A-Thon.
-- Alzheimer’s Walk to Remember.
-- March of Dimes’ WalkAmerica.
-- Salvation Army holiday bell ringing.
-- American Red Cross blood drives.
-- Adopt-a-Trail and Bridge Build.
-- Habitat for Humanity.
-- Valentine’s Day food drive.
-- American Heart Association.
-- United Way of North Rock County.
-- Special Olympics.
-- Scholarships for college and technical school students.
-- Essay contests.
-- Presentations on labor history to area schools.
-- Regional Veterans Home.
-- UAW/GM Veterans Wall of Honor.
-- USO Dance.
-- POW/MIA balloon launch.
-- Christmas with the veterans.
-- Veterans Day at the Tomah veteran’s facility.
-- Sending care packages to troops overseas.
-- Fishing with the veterans.
-- Martin Luther King commemoration.
-- Civil Rights scholarship to a local recipient.
-- Voter registration.
-- Golf outing.
-- Winter pheasant hunt.
-- Summer bow hunt.
-- Hunter safety class.
-- Promoting “American made” at the county fair.
-- Solidarity Run.
-- LaborFest parade.
-- Christmas at Rock Haven Nursing Home.
-- Easter egg hunt.
-- Christmas cookies for veterans.
-- Adopting a local family struggling with overwhelming medical bills.