BLET Division 34 'adopts a family' for Christmas

Holiday spirit brings out the best in Ohio railroaders; Giving a family something to celebrate at Christmas

Members of BLET Division 34 (Columbus, Ohio) got to play Santa Claus to a family in need last year and they enjoyed it so much they're planning to do the same thing again this year.

The members of the Division began their Adopt-A-Family program in late 2005. Division 34's Vice Local Chairman and Legislative Representative Jeff Murray heard about a family in need at his church.

In Dire Straits

A single mother and her seven children were in dire straits. The husband, who had battered his wife, abandoned the family right before the holidays. He was their primary breadwinner and took everything when he left.

The family was going to be evicted from their two bedroom apartment. They had no heat, no dining room table, no washer and dryer, and the stove did not work.

It was November and the children had no winter clothes and the family was using their oven to heat the apartment. The family had more pressing needs to consider, but there would obviously be no Christmas for the children.

When Brother Murray heard about their story, he approached Division 34 Local Chairman Jeff Scott and BLET CSX-Northern Lines Vice General Chairman Bill Lyons. The Brothers enthusiastically supported the idea of doing something to help the family. Murray wrote about the family and posted their story on bulletin boards at work. He also e-mailed to everyone he knew.

"We knew these kids wouldn't have Christmas, and we didn't want that to happen," Brother Murray said.

Overwhelming Generosity

The outpouring of support for the project surprised everyone involved. The love and generosity of railroad workers gave the adopted family the chance to have a very Merry Christmas.

The Division received donations from members of the BLET, UTU and management.

"It was a joint effort," Brother Murray said. "We even had members of management make anonymous donations. It wasn't about union affiliation. We worked together to help this family."

It even extended beyond the Columbus area with BLET members from the Cleveland area helping out.

"One crew from Cleveland wanted to donate a set of bunk beds and tried to get permission to put them in the rear unit of the train," Murray said. "They didn't get permission but it made us realize the magnitude of what we were doing."

The family received a donated a dining set and furniture. Division 34 President Woody Reffitt donated a washer and dryer. The children received gifts of clothing and toys for the holiday. Monetary donations enabled the Division to put down security deposits for an apartment and utilities. Division 34 members also used some of the monetary donations to purchase gift cards, which provided the family with several months' worth of groceries.

"I am very proud of the people I work with," Brother Murray said. "I think railroad workers, especially train and engine service employees, are sometimes a little removed from society in general. We are secluded because of our jobs, but this showed the kind of people that we are really."

Planning For 2006 and Beyond

The holiday spirit was so strong in 2005 that this year, Division 34 hopes to once again help a family or multiple families in need. They are accepting submissions from members and workers in Columbus, and hope to receive support from members in other areas, too. The adopted family (or families) will be chosen by a three-member board, and must have a connection to the railroad.

"We want to help a needy family within the larger family of railroad workers," Brother Murray said.

National Division Helps Out

Through the generosity of BLET National President Don Hahs, First Vice President Ed Rodzwicz, and National Secretary-Treasurer Bill Walpert, the BLET National Division has donated $500 to Division 34's Adopt-A-Family program. Division 34 has pledged to match any donation of up to $500.

Brother Murray and the members of Division 34 hope to carry on the program in the years to come and hope that other Divisions will also do something similar.

"There are so many families in need, both among railroad workers and in society," he said. "We need to do our part to help them."

In 2005, a needy single mother with seven children enjoys a Christmas celebration that she could not have given her family without the generosity of railroad workers. The "Adopt-A-Family" program is sponsored by BLET Division 34 in Columbus, Ohio, and is seeking donations for a family this year.



© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen