With Plant Closing, Charities Prepare for Fewer Dollars, More Need

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio –Over the years, the workers at the General Motors Lordstown Complex have been some of the most reliable givers to United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, the agency’s executive director says.

And while Monday’s announcement that production of the Chevrolet Cruze will end March 1 puts a damper on fundraising efforts, Bob Hannon says United Way is prepared.

The announcement won’t have much impact on the 2018 campaign, Hannon says, but next year will be another story. This year, GM Lordstown has contributed about $100,000 toward the agency’s campaign, including General Motors’ corporate match for workplace campaigns.

“We can get new companies that may raise $5,000 or $10,000, but we won’t replace that [$100,000 from GM Lordstown] through workplace giving,” Hannon says.

Mitigating the impact of the loss, though, is the United Way’s move away from workplace campaigns over the years. When Hannon came on as executive director in 2008, UAW members contributed $300,000 in a time before GM began matching donations. Today, United Way looks more toward corporate gifts and grant awards to fuel its annual campaign, which this year had a goal of $3 million.

“It’s not because people are giving less, there just aren’t as many people,” he says. “We went from three shifts to two to one and along the way, we were thinking that the worst thing that could happen is the plant closing. It’s been in the back of our mind. We knew we couldn’t be reactive.”

What will hurt is the loss of volunteers. At the annual Day of Caring, about 50 GM Lordstown workers help clean up Youngstown neighborhoods and throughout the rest of the year, they help with projects here and there.

“We might get four people out on a Saturday morning to build a wheelchair ramp,” Hannon says. “Not only do we lose dollars, we lose their volunteer time. Money’s important, but volunteers are equally as important.”

The loss of some 1,500 jobs at the Lordstown Complex also represents a swing from giving to supporting, he says. After production at the plant stops in March – if no replacement for the Cruze is announced – United Way will go from having more than a thousand workers giving money and time to having that same number potentially in need of assistance.

In the coming months, he says, the agency will examine the workforce to see just how many people could be coming forward for help.

“We’re going to look at how many people are going to retire, how many are in our footprint and how many are going to leave the area. Once we have a handle on that, we’ll know how many people United Way can support,” Hannon says. “How do we support the people who’ve supported us for decades? It adds to those who might need help with utilities, with food, with employment skills.”

Just like the plant’s closing will have a ripple effect on the companies that support it, so to will the loss of charitable support to organizations like the United Way have an effect on other agencies. Though it’s been a few years since Easterseals of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana Counties has done a campaign with UAW Local 1112, CEO Tim Nelson notes the agency receives funding from United Way.

“In terms of direct support, there’s nothing really lost. Having said that, they’re a key partner of United Way and there are individual donors who give on their own who are Lordstown employees and retirees,” he says. “They were good news for the community because they were incredibly generous.”

The loss of jobs at Lordstown could also mean the need for more support among Easterseals clients. The agency largely provides services to those “on both ends of the age spectrum,” Nelson says. One of the larger programs is helping cover insurance deductibles for those who can’t afford them.

“We do have some clients whose parents work at Lordstown. It will make it more difficult. We’ll have to raise some funds from other sources if those parents don’t have a job for a while, don’t have insurance or end up getting insurance with much higher copays and deductibles,” Nelson says.

At Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, Executive Director Mike Iberis says the agency does not yet know how the end of production at GM Lordstown will affect its mission.

“We’re not sure when the people will be running out of income and we’re not sure what the timeframe will be if they need to visit a pantry. It’s out there a few months down the road,” he says. “At this point, we don’t have any data that tells us we’re going to have a huge spike in people coming to pantries, but because of the impact from General Motors employees and the secondary companies, it’s too early to tell at this point.”

Come March, the closure of the plant shouldn’t have a large impact on giving to the food bank. Previous shift eliminations “may have cause a little bit of a blip” in giving, but “it wasn’t really anything large enough that would be very noticeable.

“The community in general has been very generous, so we haven’t experienced a noticeable change,” Iberis says.

As for the UAW Local 1112’s charitable campaigns, those will continue as normal, President Dave Green says Monday at a press conference. Last year, members donated more than $1 million to local charitable organizations, he says.

“We’re not giving up. … We’re going to be passing out 400 food baskets to needy people in our community. We’ve been active in United Way and a host of local charities,” Green says. “Obviously, the giving of members is going to slow down when they’re not working. They’re going to be taking care of themselves. This union is going to do everything we can to help our members and continue to help people in our community.”

Pictured: File photo of the 2018 United Way of Day of Caring in Youngstown. Each year, General Motors Lordstown Complex is one of the biggest supporters, United Way Executive Director Bob Hannon says.

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