It started as a simple fundraiser.
Using the local’s branding slogan “stronger together,” William Floyd United Teachers members designed and sold T-shirts to help their community weather the coronavirus crisis.“In our community, many families are struggling so we wanted to raise money to help out,” said WFUT president Ron Gross.
Saluting the hard work of health care workers was also a goal. As educators, many members don’t realize that NYSUT represents a wide range of medical professionals, Gross explained. “We wanted to make that connection.”
To drive the point home, union leaders sketched out a T-shirt design that included medical crosses, the WFUT logo and the slogan “We’re all in this & Stronger Together 2020.”
Shirt sales took off like wildfire, tapping into a deep well of member enthusiasm to give back. “We sold over 600 shirts district wide and made $10 in profit per shirt,” said Gross. A $1,000 donation from the William Floyd United Teachers Retiree Chapter, led by Georgia Keiffert, swelled donations to more than $7,000, allowing the local to make four separate contributions instead of a single donation as originally planned.
WFUT member Jacqueline Giacalone, a business teacher at William Floyd High School, requested $2,000 for a face shield project she and fellow members Joseph Brand and Joseph Carpinone, technology teachers at the high school, envisioned to benefit Long Island Community Hospital in Brookhaven. Thanks to the donation, the group purchased materials to manufacture 500 shields for hospital staffers using the school district’s two laser cutters.
Another $2,000 went to Island Harvest, a not-for-profit food bank that aims to end hunger and reduce food waste on Long Island. Agency initiatives include weekend backpack and school pantry programs, and a youth produce project.
A virtual food drive organized by NYSUT’s Nassau and Suffolk regional offices to benefit Long Island Cares Inc., a food bank network founded by the late singer Harry Chapin, also received $1,000. Its network encompasses 349 food pantries on Long Island and provides a wide range of programs for needy families and individuals.
The local wrote another $1,000 check to Colonial Youth, a not-for-profit community-based youth and family agency serving the William Floyd School District and other Suffolk County communities. The organization provides individual, group and family counseling, childcare, summer camp programs and other help for families in need.
To help health care workers statewide, WFUT donated $1,000 to the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund, to purchase and provide personal protective equipment, food and other supplies for health care workers. To date the fund has purchased and donated nearly 200,000 face masks for medical professionals in New York State.
“I’m just so impressed with my members,” said Gross noting that requests keep coming in to buy the shirts. “We’re going to reopen the shirt store since people still want to give.”
The only problem now is a happy one — connecting the shirts with the purchasers. “I currently have 600 or so shirts in my union office,” said Gross who originally planned for members to wear them together in June. But, since Gov. Cuomo announced the closure of school buildings for the remainder of the year, that’s no longer feasible. “I might have to make other arrangements to get folks their T-shirts.”