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For Tennessee Local, Giving Back is a Year-Round Responsibility


December 20, 2011

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The Jonnie Dawson Charitable Foundation awards $5,000 to Lifeline to Success, a program to help ex-offenders make the transition back to society, at its Dec. 8 holiday dinner.

IBEW members kick in their union dues every payday. Some choose to donate even more for political action funds. But Memphis, Tenn., Local 1288 has taken it one step farther: a check-off for its own charitable foundation – a foundation that is making a difference in the lives of Memphis residents.

The Jonnie Dawson Charitable Foundation donated more than $80,000 to local charitable and community causes in the last year – from helping low income residents pay their utility bills to stocking local food banks.

The foundation is named after former Assistant Business Manager Jonnie Dawson, who passed away unexpectedly the year before.

Says Business Manager Rick Thompson:

She was really involved in charitable causes and believed unions need to give something back to their communities, so we formed the charity to continue her good work.

Thanks to an agreement with the Memphis Gas, Light and Water Division – which employs Local 1288 members – workers can dedicate a certain percentage of their pay each pay period to the charity.

And the response, Thompson says, has been very encouraging:

We donate more than any other union in the county.

The charity has also helped get the local’s name out in the community, garnering positive attention in a state not known for being the friendliest place for unions.

Says Thompson:

It is one of the Brotherhood’s missions to make sure we support the people in the communities where we live and work. That is why we do what we do.

At a holiday dinner Dec. 8, foundation leaders announced the recipients of more than $30,000 in donations. Among those named included the Ronald McDonald House, which houses out-of-town parents whose children are receiving treatment at nearby St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and Lifeline to Success, a program to help ex-offenders make the transition back to society.

Says Tenth District Vice President Robert Klein:

President Hill has stressed the importance of the IBEW being involved in the community and this is a fine example of it.