Local Union Member Organizes Drive To Help Homeless


This post was contributed by a community member. The views expressed here are the author’s own.

Moved by an increase in the number of homeless residents and others in need that he has noticed around Champaign County, a longtime area resident and local union member is collecting needed items to fill bags for the less fortunate this holiday season.

Donations are now being accepted at United Association Local 149, 1005 N. Dunlap St in Savoy, after union member Pete Fortney initiated the drive. Fortney spoke with area shelter leaders and said the greatest need is for socks, underwear, bras, toiletries, hairbrushes, re-usable water bottles and small gift cards to local stores and restaurants.

He and others plan to spend this weekend filling recyclable grocery bags as stockings of sorts, even dropping candy canes into the bags, before handing them out next week to those they regularly see on the streets. He has also committed several bags to those receiving services at Courage Connection, C-U At Home and Austin’s Place at First Presbyterian Church.

Fortney said he was raised with a giving spirit, including playing Santa Claus during an Urbana toy drive, but last week saw two homeless people on the front porch of a church near the University of Illinois, where he works, and it moved him to do something more.

“Playing Santa and giving out toys to less fortunate kids was the most humbling experience I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed giving to others, my parents raised me like that, and this is just part of that.”

Before joining the union this summer, Fortney, of Monticello, was a custom car fabricator whose work was featured in magazines and TV shows. He is now in his fourth month as an apprentice in the union representing plumbers, steamfitters, pipefitters, welders, refrigeration techs and HVAC techs across East Central Illinois.

“As a union, we always do all that we can to support our members on the job and outside of it,” said Matt Kelly, Business Manager of Local 149. “We are proud to support Pete and will continue to do all that we can to help our community.”

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December 16, 2020 at 08:35AM

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