SOAR Chapter 34-2 Supports Our Troops in Afghanistan

Like many SOAR chapter presidents, Jeff Rains (President of Chapter 34-2 in Granite City, Illinois) seldom runs out of stories about the activism of his chapter’s members.

Recently he called to tell us about Shirley Luffman, a retiree who worked for 30 years at the Granite City Engineer Depot and current member of Rains’ SOAR chapter. Shirley’s son, Capt. Jeff Luffman, was first stationed in Kosovo in 1997, at which time she took it upon herself to begin sending “holiday gift boxes” to the men and women he served with. Shirley has not missed a year since then, and five years ago she approached her SOAR chapter with the idea of making this something they should consider building upon.

With support from the chapter’s membership, the collection has grown every year since. On November 27, the chapter mailed out 24 large postal boxes of supplies to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. In 2017 alone, the chapter has sent more than 200 pounds of supplies including everything from batteries, snack bars, raisins, coffee, and more that has been donated by their nearly 500 members.

While the annual holiday gift drive was something President Rains’ chapter financed and organized, support has also come from Associate Judge Sarah Smith. According to Rains, Smith has at times offered to pay for the postage and shipment of the supplies and has gone out of her way to help get them in the hands of our men and women overseas. 

“All of this could not be done without Shirley and with the members of our SOAR chapter who so generously donated to our annual drive,” says President Rains. “Associate Judge Smith has been a great friend, and we greatly appreciate the support she’s given to see these shipments through.  I know it really matters to folks like Shirley’s son and others who give so much.” Associate Judge Smith is running for Circuit Judge in 2018.

In addition to the annual drive for our soldiers, the chapter also provides academic scholarships to the children and grandchildren of its members through a fund that was established in the honor of Jane Becker, who played a vital role in founding the Steelworker Organization of Active Retirees. Jane passed away in 2007, and was the wife of former USW President George Becker. Last year the fund awarded three scholarships in the amount of $3,000 each.

Chapter 34-2, recently donated $1,000 to the United Steelworkers Charitable and Educational Organization which benefits USW members impacted by hurricanes and other natural disasters. They are also in the midst of planning their second drive of support for USW members and families who were affected by layoffs at Granite City.

The USW coordinated the first drive of support last year in partnership with the United Way, the Greater St. Louis Area Food Bank, the City of Granite City, TWIGS and a number of community organizations. Both drives were made possible with more than $65,000 that was raised in the summer of 2016 by the USW and this growing number of community organizations and allies.

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