UAW chaplains are known for their compassion and ability to connect with members in a way that few others can. At their annual conference at the Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center this summer, they showed how they are also reaching out to band and choir members from a small Michigan city high school.
The band and choir members are students at Inland Lakes High School near Onaway, Michigan. They are a typical bunch of high school students who love their music. What they also love are the UAW chaplains.
“The chaplains have adopted these young musicians and really created bonds with them. It is inspiring and heartwarming to see the energy and the goodwill that emanates from this,” said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs the union’s chaplaincy program.
The Chaplaincy program is nondenominational. Where some worksites have EAP (Employee Assistance Program) representatives, chaplains work in conjunction with them to assist members. From divorce to bankruptcy, depression to substance abuse, chaplains are a key part of helping our UAW family through hard times. The chaplains also help others in need.
“The young people really struck a chord with us. Over the years we have really come to know one another and when they show up here, it’s all about them. We do everything to let them know that we are interested in them and care about what is happening with them,” said Herb Taylor, chaplain committee chair and a member of UAW Local 31 in Kansas City, Kansas.
The relationship between chaplains and musicians started in 2011, when the group realized that the musicians needed band uniforms. The chaplains drummed up $2,500 for the new outfits.
Chaplains later raised about $1,500 for electronic equipment for the band room and most recently ordered 120 new T-shirts for the students after the youngsters saw them in June and said they liked them. When the students returned to school in September, those new T-shirts were waiting for them.
“Every year, we have the students come and be our special guests here at Black Lake for an evening,” said Taylor. “They eat dinner and just talk about the issues that young people face every day like bullying and getting along with others. After dinner they perform their music for us and we just have a good time.”
This year, when the chaplains met, about 70 band and choir members — who were out of school for the summer — surprised the group when they ended their concert by performing “Solidarity Forever.”
“The relationship means a lot to us,” said Taylor. “They know we love them, they are family.”
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