Retiree Inspires Others Through Disaster Relief Efforts
Nina “Jody” Bratcher likes to keep things moving. Whether it was during her 32-year career at FCA USA’s Chicago Parts Distribution Center in Naperville, Illinois, or moving debris in her retirement to help hurricane and flood victims get their lives back together, she’s going to get the job done.
“I think I’m in bad shape but you’d be surprised how much energy God gives you,” Bratcher said. “I can rip out the house same as a man can.”
Bratcher was always someone who could be counted on to help, whether it was organizing a Christmas luncheon, recognizing coworkers’ birthdays, or being a sympathetic ear for others, according to Joseph Martino, the retiree chairperson for Local 1178. Bratcher moved to Kentucky following her retirement in 2008 with plans to travel. But, her sister and a neighbor decided that if they were going to travel, they would also help others at the same time. Her faith led her to volunteer in disaster efforts in Kentucky.
“We wanted to do mission work and a friend was into Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief,” she said. “Once you go one time, you’re hooked.”
In 2002, she volunteered to help in New York during Hurricane Sandy.
“I cooked, washed dishes. Then I was responsible for figuring out how much food we were making for Staten Island residents who had lost their homes,” Bratcher said.
Despite having a kidney removed due to cancer, Bratcher has helped with hurricane relief in the Carolinas, five times in Louisiana, and in the Virgin Islands. She has helped flood victims in Texas, West Virginia, Michigan, Illinois and Missouri, and tornado victims in Kentucky. She has even been to Flint, Michigan, to help with the contaminated water crisis.
In Kentucky and Louisiana, she primarily did the exhausting physical labor of cleaning up homes. Back in the day, that would be called “man’s work” but Bratcher was the first female warehouse worker hired at the parts depot in 1976 and did virtually every job at the facility. She became a pioneer in beating back the false notion that certain jobs were reserved for men.
“I think God was preparing me for doing this hurricane cleanup work because they always said what I was doing was ‘man’s work,’” she said.
She was often surprised by the devastation she saw.
“When you go into a home and they’ve lost everything, it’s heartbreaking. One of the houses we went in Missouri, it was an elderly couple and everything in their basement was destroyed,” she recalled. “Their children’s baby clothes, children’s memorabilia. I remember the man, he said he tried to save (his wife’s) cookbooks (by putting them) on a higher shelf.”
Ron McInroy, director of Region 4, where the parts facility is located, said Bratcher sets a fine example for other UAW retirees who want to stay active and help their fellow citizens.
“Jody Bratcher’s volunteer efforts are not a surprise to those who know her. She is called to do something for others and always answers that call,” McInroy said. “She continues a fine tradition of UAW retirees remaining engaged and active in their communities and the world around them.”
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