DEARBORN - For nearly 30 years the employees and the UAW committee of Dearborn Stamping/Truck Body Shop and Operating Committee of Dearborn Stamping Plant have provided financial and moral support to the children of Christ Child House.
“Christ Child House is one of the main programs our late chairperson Loretta Burrell instituted,” said Chairman Harold Byrd. “We help them out throughout the year. We help them with Easter, Christmas, pizza parties, skate parties and birthday parties.”
Christ Child House is an intensive residential treatment center that provides services to about 45 boys each year, ages five to 17, who suffer from severe developmental, emotional, and behavioral impairments as a result of years of severe abuse and neglect.
At Easter time, members of the UAW committee and OCM adopt a child who lives in the house and buys an Easter outfit for him. Some retirees also participate by either adopting a boy or by donating money. Over the years, suits have become a common gift as the boys who live in the house typically range in age from eight to 16 and do not have the means to purchase a nice suit. Some have never had something new to call their own.
“It’s our honor to carry on the tradition of outfitting the boys at Christ Child House in their handsome Easter clothes,” said Plant Manager Frank Piazza said.
According to Employee Resource Coordinator Val Bezeau, in addition to the suit jacket and pants, the boys are also given a shirt, tie, belt, shoes and socks. Also, the boys are given a toiletry bag, which includes deodorant, toothbrush, tooth paste, floss, lotion, hair brush and comb. This year, the committee additionally purchased bibles, word search books and Easter candy for each boy.
Ford retiree Randy Westbrook, who worked at DSP for 33 years and helped launch the support of this cause with Burrell, is now a member of the Christ Child House Board of Directors.
“Randy has been a godsend to those boys,” said Bezeau. “Anytime they need anything, he calls.”
“My reward is making them happy and hoping that we can help them each be a better person and grow up to achieve something,” Westbrook said. “The world was against them with what happened to each of them. We have to let them know there are good people in the world.”
The TR-2 Schuler day shift team was one of the most generous teams this Easter.
“Loretta Burrell started this and it's been going on for (more than) 25 years,” said Team Leader Bobby Butler. “So I thought we should keep it up. I went around and got the guys together. We're going to try to do it every year and we'll do even better next year. I love doing this because giving is better than receiving and these kids need it.”
The suits were delivered to the boys the Thursday before Easter and they all do a little bit of showing off when they receive their gifts.
“We have our fashion show where I bring the music and video camera and they model their clothes and they love that even more than Christmas,” Westbrook added.
While Christ Child House provides the necessities of life for the boys who live there, the employees at Dearborn Stamping Plant enjoy helping out with special things like parties and holidays. In addition to the purchase of the suits, employee donations contribute to the overall pot of money that is used to support the organization throughout the year. Bezeau said more than $2,000 was raised through donations so far this year.
“This year is one of the best years we’ve had,” Byrd added. “They dug deep in their pockets and gave a lot, so it was really beneficial for the kids.”
“The plant has always been giving help, donations and whatever they can do,” Westbrook said. “I really appreciate that and the home appreciates it very much. The kids love it. The committee makes sure that whatever I need they're there to help me. I can't thank them enough.”
The committee mentioned on numerous occasions that the support and kindness of the membership allows the plant to support Christ Child House year after year and will allow them to continue this perhaps for another 25 years.
“For decades, even before I came on as chairperson, the stamping plant has always had a history of helping out the community,” Byrd said. “It's just a way for the UAW to give back. It isn't just about the people we represent inside the plant; it's also about the community. Since I can remember, people are always giving generously. We know we receive a lot from the company and we like to give back to the community.”