HAMILTON, Ont. – United Steelworkers (USW) union members, joined by allies including professional football players, local businesses and community volunteers, are delivering back-to-school support to 1,500 Hamilton-area kids with the 14th edition of Operation BackPack.
A USW-driven initiative launched in 2010, Operation BackPack raises funds in the community to provide backpacks filled with school supplies to help students return to class on the right foot.
In its first year, the project helped 92 kids. This year, Operation BackPack 2023 is providing supplies to 1,500 Hamilton-area elementary school students.
Organizers plan to expand the program next year to distribute backpacks to high school students as well, said Darren Green, President of the Hamilton Steelworkers Area Council, which launched the initiative in 2010.
“We support a number of charities and programs in our community throughout the year, and Operation BackPack has become one of our most-successful initiatives,” Green said.
“Our mantra is ‘community matters,’ and our local unions and our members have really bought into it. We’ve also had great buy-in from so many other groups and individuals in the community,” he added.
In addition to eight Hamilton-area USW local unions (5328, 16506, 4153, 7135, 1005, 4752, 1976 and 14162), as well as the Steelworkers Humanity Fund and USW Family and Community Education Fund, supporters of Operation BackPack 2023 include:
- ArcelorMittal Hamilton East
- Golden Horseshoe Credit Union
- Members of the Canadian Football League Players Association (CFLPA).
- Numerous community and individual donors and volunteers
Today, dozens of Steelworkers and other volunteers gathered at the ArcelorMittal Hamilton East facilities to stuff the 1,500 backpacks in preparation for delivery to area school kids. St. Matthew’s House, a local charitable agency, is distributing 500 backpacks directly to families and the other 1,000 are being delivered to schools throughout the community.
Several CFLPA members, including current and retired Hamilton Tiger-Cats players, were on hand today to help fill the student backpacks with school supplies.
“It’s a wonderful initiative, to help so many kids start their school year off right, and to help those households where mom or dad might be worried about not being able to set up their child for school,” said Peter Dyakowski, CFLPA Secretary-Treasurer and retired Tiger-Cat.
“It’s awesome to see everyone who came out today to provide support to families in need,” said Ryan Donnelly, retired player and President of the Hamilton Tiger-Cat Alumni Association.
“Being a dad, having a kid in high school and two others in elementary school, knowing that kids they’re going to school with are being taken care of, it really warms the heart,” Donnelly said.
The USW and CFLPA formed a “strategic alliance” in 2019, through which the USW committed to providing the players’ union with assistance and resources including education, government relations advice, bargaining and campaign support.
Myles Sullivan, Director of USW District 6 (Ontario and Atlantic Canada), was among the volunteers stuffing backpacks while sporting T-shirts emblazoned with the union slogan “Steelworkers make great neighbours.”
“The tremendous support for this project is a great reflection of the level of commitment of members throughout our union to building stronger communities,” Sullivan said. “Every day, in so many ways, Steelworkers are active in their communities, helping those in need and giving back wherever they can.”
See more photos of Operation BackPack.
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