USW Cares: SOAR’s USW Jefferson Awards Winners Lena Sutton and Don Kellner

Lena Sutton

Lena Sutton is the President of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) Chapter 10 in Hamilton, Ontario and is one of SOAR’s USW Jefferson Awards winner for her continued commitment to those in need.

Sutton joined USW Local Union 7711 in 1974 and was elected President of the area’s SOAR Chapter in 2006. In her more than 40 years of activism, she’s held multiple positions at the local level, including recording secretary, shop steward, health and safety rep and was a member of the negotiating team.

She continues to be involved in the Hamilton Area Women’s Committee and raises money for the United Way and other local charities. It is estimated that she’s helped raise more than $100,000 and prepare and serve thousands of meals for the needy and homeless in her area.

Most remarkably, though, each year Sutton dedicates hours of her time as a volunteer tax preparer for low income families and retirees in her area, often visiting individuals in their homes many times to complete their paperwork. She also conducts seminars to help educate people about the Disability Tax Credit and other services that can help reduce income tax for those who are eligible.

When asked why she’s so committed to service, she says, “I witnessed my parents helping many families in our small town during times of need. And now I do it because I care about my neighbors and I believe community matters.”

Don Kellner

Don Kellner began working at Bethlehem Steel in 1955 and got more involved in the union during the strike of 1959, a 116-day strike that idled the steel industry throughout the U.S. “This was a very tough time for lots of folks and I knew I needed to do something,” said Don.

Kellner was elected as Local Union 2609’s recording secretary, went on to be a grievance committeeman, chairman of the grievance committee, vice president and served three terms as president before retiring in 2001.

Kellner wasn’t just a dedicated union officer, though, he was also a leader in his community. He coached a local softball team, umpired for Little League, volunteered with Baltimore County Recreation and Parks youth and adult programs and worked with local groups and lawmakers to connect youth with good jobs.

One of the most notable community service projects he spearheaded was the food bank he began during the steel crisis of the 1980’s for laid-off members. Since then, the program has been adopted by activists outside the union and has grown to serve the eastern Baltimore County community.

After retiring, he became the president of his local’s retiree committee and was quickly recruited as a member of SOAR Chapter 8-1, of which he currently serves as President of both groups. Kellner continues to engage with Steelworkers, community members and local lawmakers to push for programs and legislation that serve working people in his area.

Lena and Don are just two of the many Steelworkers making a difference in the lives of others. If you know a Steelworker who deserves recognition for commendable community service, tell us! Use the #USWCares hashtag when you post about it on social media, tag @Steelworkers, and nominate for the 2018 USW Jefferson Awards by clicking here.

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