Local 199 Giving Thanks By Giving Back

Throughout the year, AFSCME Local 199 members have made volunteering one of the key union-wide goals to help build connections with the same people they serve every day working for Miami-Dade County. That community service has taken on many forms but also added importance after Hurricane Irma exposed just how big of an issue food insecurity is for many hard working families.

As we prepare to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, Local 199’s Executive Board and Local 199 members on Monday organized an event to serve Thanksgiving meals to the children enrolled at Easterseals South Florida’s Autism Elementary and Middle School: Wayne and Nicole Cypen School for Special Needs Children. They were joined by members of AFSCME Local 1363 and AFSCME Florida council staff.

“Our community service has really built some great connections so when I met some of the staff involved in this program I knew this just had to be something we were involved with,” said Monica Simons, a Local 199 executive board member and information referral specialist with Miami-Dade County’s 311 Contact Center. “Just to see the smiles on the faces of the kids and to get the chance to talk with their teachers a bit really reinforces just how special of a community we are part of.”

The event, like other Local 199 community outreach efforts, is made possible thanks to the growth in membership across worksites and the commitment of AFSCME members who have made clear that they want their union to dedicate a portion of their time and budget to showing what it means to be AFSCME strong even outside of the workplace. The executive board believes that the union's outreach should focus in serving the most vulnerable communities, such as those served by Easterseals.

Almost 200 meals with all the turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pie and other fixings were served. Members even took meals around to staff in classrooms who couldn’t leave to attend the lunch themselves.

For Loreen Chant, President and CEO Easterseals South Florida, Local 199’s participation was above and beyond what she expected.

“The holidays are about coming together and the fact AFSCME came in, basically handled putting everything together not just for the kids but for the staff as well so that nobody was left out, it really helped to bring our Easterseals family together,” Chant said.

Chant took time to talk to all the AFSCME volunteers to thank them, take pictures and introduce them to staff and children. She said that for many children this may be the only Thanksgiving meal they have and so it means even more that is was served with a smile by someone who is working in their community day in and day out just like the staff at Easterseals.

“Events like this help all of us, and the families we serve together, be less invisible,” said Chant.

AFSCME Local 199 president and International Vice President Se'Adoreia "CeeCee" Brown knows that small acts of service such as this can help everyone enjoy the holidays a little bit more.

“A lot of the time it can be tough to take a few days to relax on the holidays because you are worried about the community you serve,” Brown said. “If you are not there to make sure someone has the food, information, medication or other services they depend on, what will happen? That is true for many of our AFSCME members in the community and true for the amazing heroes who work at Easterseals. But with so many people coming up and saying just how much this means to them and thanking us for being here, I know that we helped them get in the Thanksgiving spirit just a little bit more than they were at the start of the day and that makes it all worth it.”

“And the fact we were able to bring our AFSCME family together made it even more special and I want to thank everyone who put this together and came out to make it happen.”