Young people from around Kentucky braved rainstorms to spend several hours honing their fishing skills on Saturday, May 20, during three separate Take Kids Fishing Day events hosted by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), SMART Local 110 (Louisville, Ky.) and the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Services.

While the weather may have dampened the venues — Jacobson Park in Lexington, Waverly Park in Louisville and Bob Noble Park in Paducah — it didn’t lessen the kids’ spirit or excitement, according to event organizer and Local 110 Business Manager Mark Adams.

“Every child received a free rod-and-reel from the USA and got the chance to catch a few fish,” he said. “Everyone had a fantastic time, despite the weather.”

In all, 75 children participated in the three events, learning how to bait hooks, cast a line and land catfish, bluegills and trout under the mentorship of Local 110 members who volunteered their time to coach the budding anglers. In Lexington, members of the Cadentown Mission Baptist Men’s Group joined union volunteers in helping kids catch fish.

From the planning stage through the close of each event, union members donated 110 hours of their time to this community outreach program.

“This is the third year we’ve held the Take Kids Fishing Day events,” Adams noted. “Our local members are sportsmen and women, and they know what they’re doing. Our focus is on helping each kid catch fish, especially if it is their first time holding a fishing rod.”

Recruiting new people into the sport of fishing, and hopefully igniting an interest in preserving and conserving the country’s valuable natural resources, is only part of the goal in hosting events like these for the community, Adams added.

“They also help strengthen the bond between union workers and the people in their neighborhoods,” he explained. “They help us show the community what the union is all about, supporting our neighbors while providing secure employment opportunities for our members. I guarantee SMART 110 will be holding this event for a long time to come.”

“Too many children seldom get the opportunity to go fishing, or participate in any type of outdoor recreation,” said Cody Campbell, USA Conservation Coordinator. “The Take Kids Fishing Days we and volunteers from union locals in various states host every year offer hundreds of kids that chance, at least for a day. The mentoring that union volunteers provide will hopefully give many of them the confidence to pursue fishing as a fun, life-long pastime.” 

The SMART Local 110 events were part of a series of free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day events, organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program with support from USA national partners Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Union Plus, and Humana as well as founding partners UIG, ULLICO, Bank of Labor, AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation and Buck Knives.

When 64-year-old Orchard Park, N.Y. resident Chuckie Sonntag found himself in need of an entry ramp for his home, the SM Local 71 (Buffalo, N.Y.) SMART Army leapt into action — demonstrating the vital role unions play in American communities, on and off the job.

Sonntag, who helped form a local charity that gives economically challenged Buffalo-area kids the chance to attend their first NFL games, is a double amputee who lost his limbs to a bone disease — his arm at age 35, and his legs eight years ago. Until recently, he only had an entry ramp at the front of his home, giving him just one way to enter and exit his house. A former member told Local 71 leadership about Sonntag’s plight, and the membership mobilized immediately.

“Our members find the time to help somebody; our [members] are workers who get satisfaction in helping others,” Local 71 Business Manager Paul Crist told “When someone needs help in our community, why not us?”

“It’s important to help people who need,” added Local 71 Membership Development Organizer Andre Mayes. “We got a donated aluminum ramp, disassembled it at one location and then transported it over to Chuckie’s house just before the holidays (and in between two massive snowstorms that hit the Buffalo area, thankfully).”

Mayes, Local 71 Vice President Cary Hinterberger and eight-year member Scott Brodnicki then spent the afternoon reconfiguring and installing the ramp, which had been broken down into eight-foot segments, at the back of the house.

“I jumped on board and volunteered. That’s the way I was brought up,” explained Brodnicki. “It always goes back to my [late] father, who was also a SMART member: When someone needs help, you lend a hand – no matter who it is.”

SMART Army projects like the one at Sonntag’s house help spread the word about how all working people benefit from the presence of organized labor; they show clearly that unions are pillars of local communities. More importantly, such projects put labor’s principles into action, demonstrating the real, concrete power of community solidarity.

“I’m so happy — [Local 71] came through for me,” Sonntag told “They’re a bunch of really nice guys. [The ramp] works really well, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

In September 2022, SMART Local 280 (Vancouver, British Columbia) led the SMART Army’s involvement in the annual Terry Fox Run to raise money for cancer research. Fox was a Canadian athlete and cancer research activist who, after losing a leg to cancer, embarked on a cross-Canada run in 1980 to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although cancer eventually forced him to end his quest, and ultimately cost him his life, his efforts resulted in a lasting legacy in Canada and around the world. 

“For 143 days, Terry Fox ran a marathon a day,” Local 280 Business Representative Jeff Lind explained during an episode of SMART News. “He ran through rain and snow and wind, humidity. He stopped in almost 400 towns and just talked about why he was running. He was starting at 4:30 in the morning and usually didn’t finish until about 7pm at night.”

Watch Jeff Lind discuss the Terry Fox Run on SMART News.

“He’s a legend in Canada,” Lind added. “And I think we all know somebody who’s been affected by cancer. So … if I look at SMART Army as a whole and our SMART membership, internationally, that was something I looked at and I thought ‘What can we all do together?’ You know, being in a union, the solidarity behind it … I thought, this is something we could do not just in Canada with the locals, but across the International.”

The Local 280 SMART Army team exceeded its $1,000 fundraising goal during the 2022 run, raising $1,575 for the Terry Fox Foundation to fund cancer research. And in spring 2023, the Terry Fox Run honored the local’s participation with a Certificate of Appreciation plaque, writing: “We are grateful for your team’s no-quit attitude, for setting a positive example for others, and for showing compassion for cancer patients.”

Congratulations, Local 280!

More than 300 SMART sisters, allies and leaders gathered during the 2022 Tradeswomen Build Nations Conference in Las Vegas for a SMART Army service event, creating paracord bracelets for military servicemembers. The effort served as a powerful reminder that SMART’s union solidarity always extends beyond our membership.

Paracord bracelets, also known as “survival bracelets,” are made from durable paracord strands that can be repurposed to meet an enormous range of needs, including carrying gear, creating makeshift pulley lines, hanging tarp, suturing wounds and much more. That utility makes the bracelets an ideal accessory for active servicemembers. Beyond that, though, paracord bracelets serve as an ever-present morale boost — a reminder, for those deployed, of the countless Americans back home who support soldiers and veterans

The SMART Army’s bracelet-making event, which specifically benefited Soldiers’ Angels, took place following a SMART reception on Friday, October 28, with members from across North America — spanning rank-and-file union sisters, local leaders and international leadership — putting in the hard work to benefit those who serve. By the end of the night, the SMART Army had created 357 bracelets: a staggering number that illustrates our union’s commitment to honoring those who sacrifice for us.

SMART Local 18 (Wisconsin) was named a finalist for the 2022 BizTimes Media Nonprofit Excellence Awards, an annual recognition of local organizations dedicated to bettering Wisconsin communities. Local 18 was nominated by the Association for the Rights of Citizens with Handicaps (ARCh) Camp Pow Wow, which the local rehabilitated ahead of the organization’s first in-person camp for kids with disabilities since 2019.

Pictured: ARCh Assistant Director of Operations Kristin Lindahl, Local 18 Director of Organizing Hallie Jennerman and Local 18 President/Business Manager Scott Knocke.

For the last six years, Local 20 (Evansville, Ind.) has hosted a food drive during November, with all the food collected going to the Tri-State Food Bank.

“When we started this fundraiser in 2017, we collected 750 pounds of food,” said Kreg Homoky, Local 20 business representative. “Each year after that, the amount has increased — last year we collected 1,100 pounds.”

The food drive was especially important this year, Homoky explained. Food prices across the country have spiked as a result of high inflation, putting into perspective the challenges faced by working families.

“Hopefully this food drive we do every year will go a long way to help those in need,” Homoky added. “The Evansville area would like to thank all who participated. Your generous contributions will go a long way.”

SM Local 265 (DuPage County, Ill.) members proudly demonstrated the spirit of union solidarity in late October, when they volunteered to deliver toys with DuPage County Toys for Tots.

“A huge thank you to Local 265 Sheet Metal Workers!” Toys for Tots wrote on Facebook. “After a long work day, they volunteered their time and energy to help us at Santa’s Workshop with a large delivery. Thank you for making magic happen!”

The U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots mission is to spread cheer to all during the holiday season, collecting and distributing toys to children who may otherwise go without gifts. SMART commends our Local 265 brothers and sisters for taking part in this great cause!

The Joseph J. Nigro SMART Army Service Award — given each year to one sheet metal and one Transportation Division member — represents one of the highest honors a SMART worker can receive: a recognition of solidarity and dedication to their union, their SMART brothers and sisters and their community. This year’s winners — who received their awards during the SMART Leadership Conference in San Francisco in August— are a testament to the crucial role SMART members play across our country.

“This year’s winners — who received their awards during the SMART Leadership Conference in San Francisco in August — are a testament to the crucial role SMART members play across our country.”

Kevin Turner, a sheet metal retiree at SMART Local 18 (Wisconsin), has devoted himself to service since retiring. For many years, Kevin chose to support his community through Habitat for Humanity, which provides housing for less privileged families. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Kevin has attended monthly Waukesha County Labor Council Community Service Meetings; volunteered at the Walkers Point Center for the Arts (a United Way nonprofit organization); assisted with the Milwaukee River Cleanup; helped put on Local 18’s blood drive; helped feed the homeless and hungry at the Hope Center in Waukesha; volunteered at the union booth during the Waukesha County Fair, educating fairgoers about unions; performed spring and fall roof cleaning at the Association for the Rights of Citizens with Handicaps; and assisted with raising $1,500 for those in need through bell ringing with the Salvation Army outside a union grocery store.

Johnny Walker, a member of TD Local 610 (Baltimore) and SM Local 100 (Washington, D.C. area), has made his name synonymous with labor solidarity and community service. A former U.S. Navy Corpsman, Johnny has been known to drive overnight from Baltimore to Galesburg, Ill., to participate in a rally for rail labor; take part in the entire 40-plus-mile Blair Mountain March in solidarity with the United Mine Workers of America, as well as support UMWA workers striking at Warrior Met Coal; shovel his neighbors’ driveways during blizzards; and much more. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic — in addition to working as an essential railroader — Johnny went out of his way to deliver food and goods to veterans and seniors, putting his life on the line to keep his community safe and healthy. He is a regular presence at SMART Army events, and he will always show up when called upon to support his union brothers and sisters.

SMART congratulates Kevin and Johnny on this well-deserved honor!

In late July, members of the SMART Transportation Division in Virginia showed what union camaraderie is all about, gathering with their families during the annual Virginia TD Summer Bash. The celebration also demonstrated the role SMART members play in their local communities, across both sheet metal and transportation. In honor of Dalton Fox — the young boy who forged a special bond with Virginia TD members, and who tragically passed away in 2021 — Virginia TD presented Jennifer Fox, Dalton’s mother, with a metal golf cart made by SM Local 100 (Washington, D.C. area); a reference to the golf cart Virginia TD originally refurbished to help Dalton move around.

“She loves the tribute and the love SMART has shown for her son,” said Virginia State Legislative Director Ronnie Hobbes. “She really enjoyed the Summer Bash, hanging out and telling stories about her son to all our members. This is what the SMART Army is all about.”

Members of SMART Local 206 demonstrated our union’s commitment to acting on our values during the San Diego Wounded Warrior Project Carry Forward 5K, held on August 20. Carry Forward 5Ks – which take place at cities across the country throughout the year – are fitness and fundraising events that give participants the chance to both pay tribute to and raise money for wounded veterans, helping fulfil the Wounded Warrior Project’s mission of honoring and empowering wounded warriors. During the San Diego Carry Forward run, Local 206 showed out in force.

“The SMART Army represented like no other team in both numbers and dollars donated, with 97 registered and over $10,000 raised,” Financial Secretary-Treasurer/Business Manager Dave Gauthier wrote on Facebook.

As part of the fundraising effort, Local 206 challenged other area labor unions to get involved – and they did, most notably IBEW Local 569. It was a display not just of labor solidarity, but of the vital role union members play in serving their communities.

“Although this money is going to help our wounded heroes, the day had a big impact on our members and their families too, including several of our veteran members – two of them came to us directly from Wounded Warriors here in San Diego,” Gauthier added. “You could see the excitement and appreciation in their faces as we gathered together to make a difference in our community and our country.”