USW Cares: Member from Canada wins top Jefferson Award honor for community service

Contact: Connie Mabin, 412-562-2616, cmabin@usw.org

Pittsburgh, PA – A United Steelworkers member from Canada who leads efforts to help refugees has won top honors from the Jefferson Awards Foundation, marking the second year in a row the union has taken a national prize for its community service work.

Nancy McCurrach, a member of Telecommunications Workers USW Local 1944 in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, on Thursday night was among more than 11 local grassroots heroes honored with national awards who were celebrated for the significant impact they had in their communities.

McCurrach founded Tri-Cities Refugee Welcome Wagon, a group of friends and co-workers who felt compelled to help Syrian and Turkish refugees who are making Port Coquitlam their new home. The group raised $4,500 to pay for refugees’ urgent medical issues and to buy family strollers, transit passes, food, and more. The group befriends and supports their new neighbors by eating meals with them, driving them to school, and teaching them English.

“Nancy and her project represent what our union is all about: welcoming all with open arms and working for better lives for all people, regardless of where they come from,” said Leo W. Gerard, USW’s International President. “We are humbled that USW has taken the Jefferson Award’s top award for the second-straight year, but the recognition isn’t why we’re so active in our communities. It’s because it’s the right thing to do.”

McCurrach is a four-time cornea transplant recipient due to a rare disease called Keratoconus. Despite her own adversity, she volunteers tirelessly at many community organizations, including a group that uplifts women and girls who struggle with poverty and addiction. She also prepares meals to feed over 60 women and children and plays games, mingles and shares compassion with those who are suffering in her community.

“I’m so grateful that my union supports members like me who want to make a difference through community service,” McCurrach said. “I’m so honored to be a national Jefferson Award winner, but even more honored to be a member of an organization that shares my values and works tirelessly to make the world a better place – at work and in the places where we live and work.”

The USW is a Champion with the Jefferson Awards Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to building a culture of service through a variety of programs and awards. As a Champion, the union was able to create a formal structure to allow members and retirees to be nominated for Jefferson Awards and put a spotlight on USW Cares efforts in communities across North America. The program includes training to help build leadership and other skills through effective community service.

Thursday’s Jefferson Awards Foundation gala in Washington, D.C., also honored co-founder of BET Sheila Johnson, Major League Baseball executive and MLB Hall of Fame inductee Joe Torre, former Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick and Black Lives Matter Founders Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.

McCurrach was selected as the USW’s overall Jefferson Awards Foundation Champion volunteer for 2017. The union had over 150 nominations from each of its districts in the United States and Canada and from among its Steelworker Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR). The 2017 winners are:

District 1 (Ohio): Deidria Collins; Local 731. Volunteers with Five Loaves Chillicothe to aid the less fortunate through twice monthly food donations, providing children with necessities, providing meals to local homeless community.

District 2 (Michigan, Wisconsin): Jackie Anklam, Local 9899. Led Women of Steel efforts to provide clean water and lead testing kits to those affected by Flint water crisis.

District 3 (British Columbia, Canada): Nancy McCurrach, Local Union 1944; creating “Tri-Cities Refugee Welcome Wagon,” a group of friends and co-workers who are committed to helping Syrian and Turkish refugees feel welcome in their new community.

District 4 (New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Puerto Rico): Brigitte Wormer with WOS & Next Gen, Local Union 1000, where a core value is helping others in need. In 2016, the committees contributed over $34,500 to the community through various events.

District 5 (Quebec, Canada): Marien Landry, Local Union 6951; collected $165,000 in donations for humanitarian projects, built 10 schools and renovated several others in Guatemala.

District 6 (Ontario, Canada): Darren Green, Local Union 5328; leads efforts to feed the homeless, volunteer at shelters. Raised over $400,000 for food banks and organized a backpack event for underprivileged children in the community. Instructed anti-harassment courses at over 50 workplaces in Ontario and Alberta. Leads anti-racism efforts.

District 7 (Indiana, Illinois): Ephrin Jenkins, Local Union 1014; lead organizer of "Black Labor Week" in Gary Indiana, a weeklong event to uplift, validate, and empower the black community and educate and engage everyone on civil rights, labor and social justice issues.

District 8 (West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky): Craig Bailey, Local Union 1693: Created, organizes and runs a Poker Run, Live Auction, cookout and raffles to raise money for Camp Quality Kentuckiana, an organization that provides kids with Cancer a weeklong camping experience with a mentor and also provides families assistance with meals and needs during their hospital stays.

District 9 (Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee): Linnea Hector, Local Union 9489, U.S. Virgin Islands. Part of team that got VI minimum wage raised; active in Women of Steel, which partners with local nonprofits such as Women's Coalition Against Domestic Violence and youth violence.

District 10 (Pennsylvania): John & Jim Beidler, Local Union 10-00086; Through local’s Next Generation committee, leads several projects including roadside clean up, fundraisers for charities including ACCT, which feeds and shelters animals and stocks food pantries for low-income pet owners.

District 11 (Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa): Local Union 105 Women of Steel Committee; Raised over $16,000.00 this year through bake sales for various charities including breast cancer and women’s heart disease awareness; homeless veterans and help for animal shelters and the elderly.

District 12 (California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho): James Williams, Local Union 8599; worked with Women of Steel and other locals to collect over 4,000 pairs of socks for the homeless; backpack drives and worked with a group of unionized dental offices to distribute 1,700+ toys & gifts to 450 needy families in Fontana.

District 13 (Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas): South LA WOS Regional Council; Works with the South LA WOS Regional Council on various projects, including helping renovate a domestic violence shelter.

SOAR (tie): Don Kellner, Chapter 8-1 in Maryland; During the steel crisis of the 1980s organized a food bank for unemployed steelworkers, working with the Maryland Food Bank, continued working with food bank for decades after.
Lena Sutton, Chapter 10 in Ontario, Canada; leads several volunteer projects, including motorcycle poker runs, raising $30,000; assisting USW retirees with tax filings; helps retirees live in own home.

Staff: Paulette Batissti, International Organizing Department; Local Union 3657; Among other projects, sits on several boards for non-profits to help guide them, including the Center for Hope and Just Harvest, organizations dedicated to fighting hunger and poverty. Through Women of Steel and other programs, helps train hundreds of members to do effective community service.

About the USW: The USW is North America’s largest industrial union, representing 1.2 million active and retired workers in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply, and the energy-producing industries. For more information: @Steelworkers on social networks and www.usw.org/cares.

About the Jefferson Awards Foundation: The Jefferson Awards Foundation is committed to tapping into the incredible capacity and spirit of Americans. Its Youth programs, Students In Action, LEAD360, and GlobeChangers, support, train and empower youth to be leaders and changemakers. Its vast network of Media Partners honors local unsung heroes who are the best of their communities. Its Champions and National Partners are engaging, activating and celebrating their millions of constituents and employees. All together, working to build a culture of service in the country. For more information: www.jeffersonawards.org, @JeffersonAwards.

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