The United Way of Greater Toledo's downtown offices got a coat of fresh paint last week, courtesy of laid-off Jeep workers.
United Way staff walked on pink drop cloths and avoided brushing against the clean white walls as they maneuvered around the painters.
"We have needed to have this done for so long," said Jane Moore, vice president of resource development.
While the United Way gets a nicer workplace, the men doing the painting get something to do and a way to say thanks to the their union and the community.
For the past several years, about 30 out-of-work members of the United Auto Workers Local 12 have been doing community service projects while they wait to go back to their jobs, said Bruce Baumhower, president of Local 12.
He said the provision is part of the union's contract with Daimler-Chrysler. When the company outsources work or brings in new technology that eliminates jobs, the employees are laid off, still receiving their income. They donate their time to community service projects organized through the union.
"We want them to do something," Mr. Baumhower said. "Obviously we can't let them stay home and receive their pay."
Mr. Baumhower said that some workers have trained with the Red Cross for disaster relief or have worked at food banks. The union is currently arranging for eight workers to tutor students in Toledo Public Schools.In September, some of them painted Mom's House, a day-care center for young mothers still in school.
Others recently painted the Toledo Day Nursery's building on Southard Avenue. Last year they painted at Camp Courageous, and a few years ago they did neighborhood cleanups.
The union tries to help out nonprofit groups that have a need for the help and tries to find work the employees feel good about doing, Mr. Baumhower said."Everybody has a passion for something," he said.
They started painting the United Way offices at 1 Stranahan Square on Oct. 11.Pat McConnell, coordinator for the grant resource center, said the work is "a wonderful gift".
She said the new paint is a big improvement over the ripped wallpaper her small office used to have."It makes it a much more pleasant work environment," she said.
Ms. McConnell said that often in social service agencies, the workers take care of clients to the detriment of their own situations.
Ms. Moore said the United Way didn't have the manpower or money it needed to do the painting.
She said that United Way staffers' feelings about being in the office have gone up 100 percent since the painting began.
"It doesn't really sound like a big deal," but having a nicer office helps staff morale, she said.
Dave Wiese, who said he has 28 years of seniority in the union, said that without donating his time he'd be home worrying about his job, which he's been out of for three years.
"It gives us a chance to give something back to the union and to the community," Mr. Wiese said.
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