2021 USWCares Jefferson Award Winner Bios

District 1 - Robert Ford of Local Union 2L is the founder of Forever R Children, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing basic needs and support to children without in Akron, Ohio. Forever R Children is Robert Ford and it goes where he goes. “It doesn’t have a home,” Ford says, “I go wherever the need is. Wherever the need is, I’m coming!” Kenmore School District loves Forever R Children so much that they gave Ford an office in the middle school to be a mentor and resource for the kids, and now there is an in-school food pantry. Ford is now trying to help veterans and is finding ways to help even more people in his community.

District 2 - Peter R. Heikkila of Local Union 4950 in Ishpeming, Michigan, has led and participated in community service for more than 20 years, starting with his military service with the US Navy, where he volunteered for Liberty Ship maintenance with students and was an Adopt-a-Sailor volunteer.  He has been an HCMC Toys-For-Toddlers coordinator for the last 18 years and has distributed over $100,000 worth of toys to hospitalized children. He has been the “Can-a-Thon” coordinator for Locals 4950 and 4974 for the last 12 years and thanks to him the food banks in Marquette County, Michigan are kept stocked.

District 3 - Laura Drennan is a member of USW Local 7619 and works at the Highland Valley Copper Mine in British Columbia, Canada. She’s made many significant contributions for workers at the mine that have improved their working lives. Her activism continues in the community through preparing and sharing healthy meals for people who are struggling with health issues as well as volunteering at community events, barbecues and fundraisers. Over the years, Drennan has helped raise millions of dollars through the annual United Way Campaign, encouraging Steelworkers to donate with funds matched by the company. These essential funds help many not-for-profit community organizations and charities in Kamloops and the surrounding communities.

District 4 - Mayra Rivera has been the President and Women of Steel Coordinator for Local Union 8198, which represents municipal employees in Ponce, Puerto Rico, since 2014. In 2013, when a working day reduction of the public sector affected more than 1,500 family-supporting employees, she organized protests, got the attention of media, and stood up for working people and their families, eventually taking legal action and seeking justice in court. When Hurricane Maria devasted all of Puerto Rico in 2017, including Rivera’s own family farm, she started an alliance with community leaders to bring supplies, support and hazard education to Southern Puerto Rico. In 2018, Tony Mazzocchi Center (TMC) coaches arrived in Puerto Rico to conduct health and safety training for USW members and the community and Rivera volunteered. Rivera has continued the work of TMC ever since, traveling all over Southern Puerto Rico as part of a specialized Rapid Response group of TMC for hazard relief and education. 

District 5 - Denis Grenier of Local 9996 is the founder and president of Cancer Fermont which has given more than $800,000 directly to people with cancer or remission. Cancer Fermont does not raise money for research but to help people with cancer during and after their treatments by paying for plane tickets (travel for treatments and doctor appointments are not covered by the government), paying for expenses during these trips (taxi, meals, parking), and paying for wigs, massage therapy, and snow removal at patients’ homes (Fermont’s winters are harsh, and people with cancer have no energy). Cancer Fermont fundraises with community events like country music nights; they also host a crab dinner and half marathon annually, but donations for Cancer Fermont are collected year-round, not just on special occasions.

District 6 - Local Union 9329 is a healthcare local in Ontario, Canada. These members not only went to work as healthcare professionals in a long-term care home during the pandemic, but made time to sit with lonely patients isolated from their loved ones and supported each other and residents through illness and death. The members covered shifts and gave up breaks and lunches to help senior patients connect with their families through video chat on their personal devices. With the pandemic hitting nursing homes hard in March of 2020 and again in 2021, these members endured two very serious COVID-19 out breaks in their long-term care home. They went above and beyond to show how much they cared for the residents (and each other – in true acts of solidarity). Members came to work early and stayed passed their shifts to make sure no patient passed away alone. The members stood together and supported each other through tears and struggles, through their own illness and family members passing.

District 7 - Arvella Greenlaw of Local Union 6787 uses her personal time to organize and lead multiple, on-going community services projects. She collects donations and fundraises for hygiene products to gift to her local women’s shelter and school supplies for kids in need.  She collected supplies to build Easter baskets that included school items and delivered them to children who were shut-in due to Covid-19. She brings the community and her local’s WOS committee together each year to collect and donate Christmas presents for an “Angel Tree” program that gets Christmas gifts to children who wouldn’t otherwise get Christmas presents. She is a member of several community organizations where she assists with domestic violence and sexual awareness seminars. She also volunteers for USW Rapid Response and voter registration drives.

District 8 - Erion Dalton of Local Union 1449 fundraises, collects donations, and volunteers to help feed children in need and the elderly. She made it possible for the local food pantry to buy a new fridge and has organized four fundraisers during the Covid-19 pandemic. She organized volunteers to hand out lunches at a local school for children who receive free lunch but were out of school because of the Pandemic; she organized a canned food drive for the elderly in her community and helped gather new toys and clothes for kids at a home for abused or neglected children.  Peggy Bryant, who nominated Dalton for the USW Jefferson Awards says, “We are proud to have Erion as a coworker. She is very civic minded and has a very beautiful soul.”

District 9 - William "Bryen" Ballard of Local Union 1561 built the non-profit organization Sportsmen Givin' Back, which does incredible work providing outdoors opportunities to wounded warriors and very sick children. Sportsmen Givin' Back also mentors young adults from all walks of life and has raised over $300,000 for local charities in the Pace, Florida community. The organization has conducted over fifty hunting and fishing trips and their annual fundraising banquets have supported over thirty charities in the local communties. “Bryen has devoted his life to this effort and it shows. His smile becomes larger when he describes the joy it brings to these individuals and charitable organizations,” said Bryen’s nominator and union brother, Karl Krisman.

District 10 - LuAnn Murry of Local Union 247 is always volunteering her personal time to help others. She spends countless hours helping neighbors, as well as people she doesn't know from a wide variety of backgrounds. Murry does volunteer work with the Pine Creek Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and continues her services to the public with bridge-naming dedications in honor of fallen soldiers and law enforcement officers. She is the committee Chairperson of Brookville’s Hometown Hero Banner program that honors a veteran who was born, lived, or currently lives, in the Brookville Area School District. She leads hours of service to the Laurel Festival every year to promote her causes and bring the community together for strength and unity. She has been an avid union advocate for her twenty plus years of service with Berry Plastics in Brookville, PA.

District 11 - Dan Jackson of Local Union 560 is known for building activism in the union and in his community, whether it’s through Toys for Tots, sitting on multiple labor councils across the state, or keeping teenagers safe after prom by hosting games and safe entertainment. He lifts up fellow union members, encourages union engagement, and teaches others how to use their voice. He raises funds to get gifts to children over the Holidays and awards cash prizes for post-prom games to get money to Seniors for gas and college books. “It is hard to put a price or value in the amount of spirit and passion he has helped to lift,” says his nominator and friend, Tas Starks.

District 12 - Local Union 8599’s Child Welfare and Attendance liaisons and Women of Steel Committee each carry their own weight of community service for the local. The Child Welfare and Attendance liaisons are members Connie Arambro, Lydia Wibert and David Matuguina who are District Liaisons of Fontana Unified School District. They have worked throughout the pandemic to make sure students and families are safe by providing resources, shopping and making home deliveries, picking up supplies for kids to participate in distant learning, and finding families legal resources to get utility assistance and vouchers through United Way and Children Network to stay in area motels for those who needs that kind of help. The Local 8599 Women of Steel Committee has raised hundreds of dollars for cancer research through the Relay for Life and thousands of dollars through union member bus trips to the local casinos for the Ronald McDonald house. They dedicated the month of October as "Sock-tober” for the past five years for their annual sock-drive which has provided thousands of pairs of socks to Child Welfare and Attendance which distributes them to families in the school district.

District 13 – The District 13 Council is a product of the merger OCAW and PACE with the USW. It is made up of rank and file members from every local in District 13. The Council organized hurricane relief efforts after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and distributed funds from its own charitable fund, matching the funds raised for hurricane relief from the USW International Charitable Fund. Directly after the hurricanes, when people were surviving the initial crisis, members of the Council showed up to cook and serve hot meals to members. Then, they distributed supplies like water, paper towels, cleaning products, and toilet paper to about 20 affected locals from Louisiana’s Lake Charles to New Orleans, focusing on locals that had halls to store the supplies. The Council’s reach is far; when there are labor disputes in District 13, the Council will host their meeting in that area and go to rallies and picket lines to support the local involved.

SOAR - Joel Buchanan has been a dues-paying member of the United Steelworkers for 51 years. He retired in 2013, after 43 years at the mill and in the union, and was immediately appointed to the International SOAR Executive Board where he still serves today. He is also Vice-President of SOAR Chapter 38-3, serves on the Colorado AFL-CIO Executive Board, and was appointed by the Governor to the Colorado Workforce Development Council and the Skilled Worker Outreach and Key Training Grant Review Committee. He has organized SOAR’s annual Christmas Sock Drive for the last three years, raised hundreds of dollars for miners on strike in Idaho, and led multiple fights to save jobs or support members on the picket line.

Staff - Sabrina Liu is a USW staffer who founded the Pittsburgh chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) in early 2019 after years of advocacy. Since founding the APALA Pittsburgh Chapter, she has built a small but mighty volunteer group and strong relationships with other community organizations. In 2020, she helped increase census responses, turned out votes in crucial states across the country for the presidential election, educated workers in precarious situations about their rights, and organized efforts to distribute financial assistance during the pandemic. Her work has led to empowerment within the community to collectively work towards a just world with equal opportunity for all. This is a true manifestation of United Steelworkers values of unity and strength for workers. She is the 2021 USWCares Jefferson Awards top-scorer of and our Champion of Community Service.

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