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New England Sheet Metal Contractors: Committed to Military Families

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New England Sheet Metal Contractors: Committed to Military Families

Boston — It was the winter of 1991 when Jeff Chase made a motion to divert SMACNA advertising funds to U.S. troops in Desert Storm and their families at home. He had no idea that the program he started would last for 21 years.

Chase, President of COX Engineering Co., is a member of of SMACNA Boston, a New England trade association of sheet metal and air conditioning contractors.. At their chapter meeting in a Boston hotel in 1991, Jeff made a motion.

“A lot of our employees and office staff were being called to serve in Desert Storm,” explains Chase. We had been talking about buying advertising with the Boston teams—the Celtics and Bruins—to promote SMACNA Boston. It just came to me at the end of the meeting: Why not give that money to the families of our troops instead?

“I just threw the idea out to the 25 SMACNA contractors at the meeting, and nobody dissented. It was unanimous—we didn't need a formal vote.

(Image, right) Care Packs celebrated its 15,000th packagepacked and sent on June 23rd. The program, cofounded by  Harrington Bros.’ VP Rick Donohue eight years ago, is an all-volunteer organization supported by SMACNA Boston and many others.

 

“Desert storm came and went quickly,” said Chase. “None of us expected that, 21 years later, our help would still be needed. The program was suspended after the end of the Gulf War. But when March of 2003 came around and our kids were asked to serve again in the Iraq War, we revived it.”

Today, SMACNA Boston uses money from its general operating fund to support military families, whether their member is deployed or actively serving at home. “Each family receives $900 a month,” says Chase. “SMACNA donates $500 and the other $400 comes from Local 17.  Today, there are up to 15 families we are supporting at any given time. It’s just too bad our kids have to deal with this. They really shouldn’t have to.”

Tom Gunning is Executive Director of SMACNA Boston. The association has continuously supported US military troops and their families through several programs funded by its contractor-members.

 

 

 

The McKunes military family:  Stephen McKunes, US Air Force, is front in uniform; next to Stephen is younger brother Patrick, a US Marine, and also a fourth year apprentice employed by Harrington Bros. Father Stephen Sr. is front left, mother Mary is front right. Twin brother Mark, US Air Force, is up top, and his brothers Billy and Bobby round out the family—with the exception of sisters Donna and Peggy who are not pictured.

 

 

According to Gunning, three of SMACNA Boston’s contractors’ sons have attended the United States Navel Academy and the United States Military Academy. “Supporting our military is a natural fit for SMACNA Boston’s charitable efforts,” he added. “Our troops sacrifice so much for our wellbeing at home—we need to remember how fortunate we are and take care of our own.” SMACNA Boston spends approximately $50,000 on military programs each year, with fluctuations depending on need.

Care Packs celebrated its 15,000th package packed and sent on June 23rd. The program, cofounded by  Harrington Bros.’ VP Rick Donohue eight years ago, is an all-volunteer organization supported by SMACNA Boston and many others.

Rick Donohue, VP/Treasurer at Harrington Brothers Corp., is another member of SMACNA. Donohue is an Army veteran. Drafted in 1972, he remembers serving in an “unpopular” war.

“A lot of us served at a time when it was not cool to be in the military. The day I was discharged, I was spit on at Oakland international airport. If we can bring a little smile to a face of a lonely soldier far away from his/her friends and family, then it’s all worth it.  We need to keep in mind that all the freedoms we have are because of their effort.” Donohue’s son, Evan, just enlisted in the Army and will report in October.

Donohue is one of the originators of Carepacks, an organization dedicated to sending care packages to US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a non-profit organization staffed and managed entirely by volunteers and began with one package Donohue sent to his son-in-law eight years ago. Carepacks just celebrated its 15,000th package sent on June 23rd, where it was recognized with a citation from the MA State Senate presented by Senator Robert Hedlund, as well as a citation from the Weymouth Town Council and Mayor Sue Kay.

According to Donohue, this feat was accomplished with the help of many hands. “Through the end of 2011, we spent $170,000 on shipping and $202,000 on everything that went into the boxes. SMACNA contractors have been very generous to our cause.”

Stephen McKunes participates in the Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 Helmets to Hardhats program. He works for Harrington Bros. and will reach Journeyman status in the spring of 2013.

Jobs and Training 
The contractor-members of SMACNA Boston pull their employees from Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 and have received the same commitment from the union leadership. The union and the contractors focus first on those members who serve in the military. Cox Engineering employs six of them—all through Local 17’s Apprenticeship program and an affiliated national program called “Helmets to Hardhats”.

Harrington Brothers Corp. also enthusiastically employs military sheet metal workers from Local 17. Stephen McKunes is one of them.

McKunes recently returned from a deployment and three activations in the United States Air Force Reserve. Having returned from a four-month deployment to the US Reservist Forward Operating Base in Southwest Asia in 2009, McKunes was glad to have his apprenticeship spot waiting for him through the Helmets to Hardhats  program.

McKunes had already gone through two of the five years’ apprenticeship training at Local 17 when he was deployed for four months in 2009. “Then I came back to continue my apprenticeship and the Air Force activated me three times to our home station at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee.  I spent 7 months there in 2010, about a month in 2011, and just returned home a few weeks ago from a 3-month activation.”

McKunes was hired by Harrington Bros. and will reach Journeyman status in the spring of 2013.

Help for Wounded Soldiers’ Families
SMACNA Boston donated $5000 raised at a membership meeting last Christmas for the Fisher House Boston, which serves wounded soldiers and their families.  Fisher House Foundation donates “comfort homes,” built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times.

According to Jen Deluca, Assistant to the Board of Directors, the $5000 donated by SMACNA Boston was timely. “It just happened that last winter was the first time we’ve had to reach out to a hotel since our suites were all filled. We will never turn a family away,” explained Ms. Deluca. “That $5000 enabled us to provide the hotel rooms our families needed.”

Tom Gunning adds, “We feel strongly at SMACNA Boston that as an employers association, we need to take care of our employees, our military, and our community.”
For more information on SMACNA and its member-contractors visit www.smacnaboston.org. For Sheet Metal Workers Local 17, visit www.smw17boston.org/.

 

 

Stephen McKunes participates in the Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 Helmets to Hardhats program. He works for Harrington Bros. and will reach Journeyman status in the spring of 2013.

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