Machinists volunteers put skills to work for Twin Cities nonprofit

Machinists union members and retirees volunteer at FamilyWise in Minneapolis as part of the union’s IAM H.E.L.P.S. initiative.

A Twin Cities nonprofit that works to strengthen local families got a little help from the Machinists’ union family over the weekend.

Members of the International Association of Machinists spent Saturday making needed improvements and repairs at FamilyWise’s headquarters in Minneapolis.

The volunteer event was part of the union’s IAM H.E.L.P.S initiative, launched last year, District 77 Secretary Treasurer Ross Olson said, to increase awareness of the work Machinists do for their neighbors, and “to show the public and the community that we’re there for them.”

Last year, Machinists cleaned up FamilyWise’s St. Paul offices. This year, they tackled the nonprofit’s Minneapolis facility, replacing a dilapidated storage shed, power washing and repairing playground equipment and patching up a fence enclosing the playground.

Bernell Buchanan, associate director of FamilyWise, said the organization’s typical volunteers are “generally a bit more office dwellers” than the Machinists, making the union members’ help all the more appreciated.

“FamilyWise is a fairly scrappy organization. We invest a lot of our money back in our programming and our talented staff,” Buchanan said. “So getting stuff done around our facilities – it’s the last thing that the money goes to, so it’s the last thing that gets done.”

Olson said Machinists appreciate the opportunity to put their skills to work for an agency that does critical work. FamilyWise operates a childhood education center, provides supervised visitation services, offers parenting classes and more.

“We’re just trying to make it more functional for staff and folks who access the agency,” Olson said. “One of the things that the team here said is that it’s always nice to get volunteers, but it’s especially nice to get skilled labor volunteers. We’re hoping to take care of projects that most volunteer groups can’t handle.

“Hopefully, people see we’re not just in the workplace. We’re out in the community as well.”

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