Union Front: Caring in the Community


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UAW Members at Ford Build Deer Blinds to Help the Disabled Enjoy the Outdoors

different from others in their desire to enjoy the natural world around them. But getting out into the woods to hunt, birdwatch or otherwise en-joy the outdoors is problematic for those confined to a wheelchair.

That’s why some UAW members at Ford Motor Co. in Michigan were happy to partner with Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) to donate their time and skill to build four cus-tom hunting/wildlife viewing blinds so these people can participate in outdoor activities, too.

UAW members at Ford facilities across the country have long built handicapped-accessible ramps to help the disabled have an easier time entering and leaving their homes. It’s part of our commitment to help in the community. Having the UAW-Ford Michigan Ramp Team build the blinds was a natural fit.

“To be able to get them back into the (outdoors) community is pretty cool,” said Brian Branedold, a member of UAW Local 600 in Dearborn, Michigan, who worked on the project.

The build was part of USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program which brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to tackle community-based conservation projects. A ceremony took place in August to dedicate the blinds, which will be set up at the Sharonville State Game Area in Grass Lake, Michigan.

Other than waiting for special-order camouflage panels, the 8-by-8-foot blinds were not difficult to build, Branedold said.

“Once we had the material, it took off pretty quick,” he said, adding that the floors are carpeted to reduce noise.

The crew made sure the door would accommodate a specialized track wheel chair, which the disabled use to handle rough, uneven terrain.

Window ledges were built at wheelchair height. Materials topped $3,000 and took more than 45 hours of skilled labor to complete.

“Of course, it makes you feel good that you are helping people,” said Roy Mutter, a Local 3000 member in Flat Rock, Michigan. “It’s rewarding.”

The blinds have been hauled out to the state game area and are expected to be ready for a disabled children’s hunting event in October.

“The deer blind is already put up in a good spot, so all they have to do is sign up for the wheel chair,” Mutter said.

The blind and tracked chair is available through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which partnered with USA on the project they dubbed Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors (MiOFO), which since 2013 has been providing outdoor recrea-tional opportunities for wounded veterans and individuals with health challenges.

“The work of Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors is to provide the public — including those with special needs — the opportunity to enjoy nature compliments the USA’s ef-forts to improve public access to the outdoors,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “We are thankful to all the groups involved, especially the Lansing Area AFL-CIO and the UAW-Ford Michigan Ramp Team, for working with us to support MiOFO’s mission.”

“Working with Ford and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, our members saw a need in the community and responded with their skill and labor to make these deer blinds possible,” said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs the union’s National Ford Department. “A little hard work goes a long way in helping others. We’re happy that these people will now get to enjoy the outdoors like other people do.”

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