Third Annual Lehigh Valley Labor Council Toy Drive surprises hundreds of students with an early Christmas

Santa rang in the holidays early this year with a gift delivery to Roosevelt and Sheridan elementary schools, Community Schools in the Allentown School District. For the past 2 years, TeenWorks™, an affinity group of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley (UWGLV), had a gift-wrapping party to wrap the donated gifts for their 3 adopted autistic support classes at Roosevelt. Santa (and his helpers) loaded, delivered and unpacked those gifts plus over 4,000 more and other goodies for students during the third annual Lehigh Valley Labor Council Toy Drive on Friday, December 16.

Santa, aka Allentown Mayor-elect Matt Tuerk with IronPigs’ FeRROUS

Capital Blue Cross, local labor unions and dozens of volunteers met at Capital Blue Cross on Hamilton Blvd in Allentown to prepare Santa’s “sleighs,” which included a Teamster Local 773 trailer, a fire engine and a LANta bus for the big holiday delivery. The vehicles filled with gifts paraded down to Roosevelt Elementary where they met the students, along with surprise guests Santa, aka Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk, IronPigs’ FeRRous and Lehigh Valley Phantom’s meLVin.

“This is a special day; you can see in everyone’s face that this is truly a labor of love,” mentioned John Werkheiser, Labor Liaison at UWGLV.

“This is an opportunity for us to show kids in Allentown that we care about them and love them,” shared Mayor Matt Tuerk. “Roosevelt has a large Latino population, so a favorite moment for me is when I speak to a student in Spanish for the first time and see the shock on their face. They can’t believe Santa speaks their language and I’m so happy to spread that joy,” he added.

“We are here for the long-haul, just to see the smiles from the students. Even though the weather is not great this year, no one’s complaining. We want to support these kids for as long as possible,” stated Gregg Potter, Capital Blue Cross Senior Labor Relations Consultant and TeenWorks™ Board Member.

TeenWorks is made up of a diverse group of local middle and high school students and local members of organized labor. This organization, which operates solely in the Lehigh Valley, began in 1999 as a partnership with the labor community and United Way. The group meets monthly and helps to fund community service projects throughout the Lehigh Valley from various youth groups. Over 500 organizations have received grants of up to $1,000.00 for their projects. In addition to funding projects, TeenWorks board members have a strong group of volunteers who can be counted on to do anything from building shelves to distributing mulch.

TeenWorks and Capital Blue Cross have shared the financial support for Roosevelt for the past 5 years. TeenWorks and Capital Blue Cross entered into this unique relationship over twenty years ago and have produced significant results.
Special thanks to the groups who provided donations/financial support for this year’s toy drive:

Allentown Education Association
Allentown Fire Department
Allentown Police Department
Berks County Labor Council
CWA Local 13500
Capital Blue Cross 
Carpenters Local 167
Dickson Crane Company
Fran Loughney
IATSE Local 200
IBEW Local 375
Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong
Lehigh County Sheriff’s Department
Lehigh Valley Cops & Kids
Lehigh Valley Labor Council
Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Lehigh Valley Print Center
Lehigh Vally Iron Pigs
Muhlenberg Magical Memories
Operating Engineers Local 542
Plumbers Local 690
Rotary Club Emmaus Chapter
SEIU Local 668
Steamfitters Local 420
Teamsters Local 773
Teamsters Local 773
The law office of Cohen Feeley Altemose & Rambo
United Auto Workers Local 677
United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley
Workers United among others

Photo credit: Marco Calderon Photography and United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley