Loaned executives look to grow labor’s support of United Way

Sheila Pokorny (left) and Joan Killeen are loaned labor executives for the 2013 Greater Twin Cities United Way campaign.

Sheila Pokorny (left) and Joan Killeen are loaned labor executives for the 2013 Greater Twin Cities United Way campaign.

United Way was there to support Sheila Pokorny and Joan Killeen when they needed a helping hand. Now the two are returning the favor as loaned labor executives supporting Greater Twin Cities United Way’s 2013 campaign.

Pokorny and Killeen began work July 25 and will continue through mid-November, reaching out to area union offices and encouraging officers, employees and members to give, advocate or volunteer in support of United Way’s work in the Twin Cities.

“Both of us have used United Way’s services, and it’s time to give back,” Pokorny said. “This is a personal connection for both of us.”

A former state employee and AFSCME member, Pokorny took advantage of St. Paul’s Neighborhood House as a young mother. Killeen, who worked 32 years for Ford Motor Company, benefited from a Salvation Army food shelf in her early years on the job.

Both women have long been supporters of United Way. Pokorny served as a campaign ambassador for 17 years while on staff at the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees.

Killeen worked as a loaned labor executive on the 1997 campaign and served on the United Way committee at the Ford plant for several years. “I wanted to come back out of retirement and do some meaningful work,” said Killeen, who maintains a retiree membership in the United Auto Workers.

The primary mission of Greater Twin Cities United Way is to create pathways out of poverty, making the non-profit organization a natural ally of the labor movement. In fact, unions and United Way share a long history of working together to benefit communities nationwide.

United Way funds Community Services programs and staff in central labor bodies in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Duluth and Stillwater. (Pokorny serves on the St. Paul RLF’s Labor Studies and Resource Center, which directs the Community Services program’s work.) Community Services liaisons help union members facing hardships access services they otherwise may not know about.

That’s why both the St. Paul and Minneapolis regional labor federations sponsor Greater Twin Cities United Way’s annual campaign – and urge their affiliates to do the same.

Greater Twin Cities United Way supports 322 programs at 175 non-profit organizations across its nine-county service area, focusing its work on three areas of need: stabilizing families, helping children succeed and empowering healthy lives. It also provides referrals and information by phone via its 2-1-1 helpline.

“We help stabilize families with job training and by using tax credits to increase earnings for over 11,000 people last year,” Killeen said.

Pokorny and Killeen succeed longtime Twin Cities loaned labor executive Mary Ystesund, who retired after the 2012 United Way campaign.

To support the Greater Twin Cities United Way’s work – or to get a United Way campaign started at your workplace – contact Lynne Larkin-Wright or Vicki Beebe, Community Services liaisons for the St. Paul RLF, at 651-222-3787.

“I’m looking forward to getting out there and maybe starting more local union staff campaigns and participating in all the existing fundraising activities out there with local unions,” Pokorny said.

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