It doesn’t matter if you belong to NYSUT or CSEA. Union means family.
The West Seneca Teachers Association proved that this spring when the local teamed up with CSEA Local 868, representing the district’s School-Related Professionals, for a fundraiser to benefit Feed More Western New York, a combination Meals on Wheels program and food bank based in Buffalo.
Running low on supplies, Feed More WNY, made a Sunday request for donations on the local news station. CSEA leader Sheri Hawley saw the story and reached out to WSTA President Joe Cantafio about joining them for a food drive. “We’re all looking for ways to support our community and help out so we were glad to do it,” said Cantafio. “We have a good relationship with CSEA and we’ve collaborated before.”
Cantafio turned over the organizing reins to Ann Houck, WSTA’s secretary, and the two unions kicked off a Monday collection drive culminating in a Wednesday drop off. The results were impressive. A mere 48-hours after the call for donations aired, the groups raised $5,000 and collected 2,500 pounds of food.
The drop off floored food pantry staffers. “When we first pulled up, she didn’t realize it was one big donation,” said Houck. “I don’t think they thought that such a large donation would come together so fast.”
Using the online platform Venmo to collect donations was key. After checking with Cantafio about the viability of using the platform, and documenting the donations for accounting purposes, Houck set up an account and sent out a call to action to the WSTA’s 560 members using the local’s private app. “We’ve used the app for the past six years and it’s a great tool,” said Cantafio. “Every member has it on their phone and we use it to quickly communicate.”
“Literally 60 seconds after I got the Venmo account set up, we got our first donation — we raised more than $1,000 in just a couple of hours,” said Houck who was surprised at the ease and speed of the fundraiser which allowed members to contribute from their phones. “I don’t think we would have gotten nearly the response if people had to drop off contributions.”
The food collection was equally successful. For two hours straight, a line of vehicles were either waiting, or pulling in, to drop off donations, she said. The total filled four vehicles and five oversized food pantry food bins. “We also got a lot of positive feedback from members thanking us for the effort — many wanted to help out but weren’t sure how,” said Houck.
“It was great knowing that we may have significantly helped out people in our community,” said Houck. “It’s a testament to the kind of people our members are.”