Volunteers needed for Guild community project

A litter cleanup of Red Jacket River Front Park on April 21 will be the first activity for Guild members in a new union initiative to give back to the community.

Guild members are encouraged to bring family members and friends to the kickoff event, which is being done in connection with the annual Spring Shoreline Cleanup coordinated by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, as part of the Great American Cleanup.

Our plan is to conduct this Guild effort annually in memory of our late friend, reporter and Guild leader John “Jay” Bonfatti. Jay, who died in 2008, loved the outdoors and believed strongly in caring for the natural wonders of Western New York.

What: Community Service Committee’s 1st “Bonfatti” cleanup event
When: 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 21. Please arrive 10 minutes early.
Where: Red Jacket River Front Park, off South Park Avenue on Smith Street
Who: Guild members and their families, including children 12 and older

So, what’s this all about?

The traditional role of a union is to advocate for better wages and benefits. But unions also have a long history of community service, and The Buffalo Newspaper Guild has set a goal in 2012 to do more to fulfill this other role.

The more we do to make our hometown a better place to live, the more we help ourselves and the newspaper we depend on for our livelihoods. Volunteering also can be rewarding, and enhance the public image of The Guild and The News.

Finally, we want to encourage more participation in The Guild, beyond typical union business. Volunteering offers an opportunity to get involved and help others at the same time.

The Guild formed a Community Service Committee earlier this year that is identifying volunteering opportunities for members, as well as their spouses and older children. It is led by reporter Gene Warner, and includes Denise Jewell Gee, Colin Dabkowski, Renee Mikler, Dan Herbeck, and Jay Rey. The plan is to find projects to adopt and do on a regular basis.

Other ideas under consideration include a Grassroots Gardens initiative, such as an adopt-a-garden project. The committee is also looking at school activities, which could include shadowing opportunities for high school students interested in journalism; a Speakers Bureau for Guild members to address classes; and a series of two or three classroom lessons.

For the cleanup, please gather about 10 minutes before 9 a.m. at the parking area for Red Jacket River Front Park, formerly known as Smith Street Park. The park is a hidden gem along the Buffalo River near The News. It is located off of South Park Avenue on Smith Street (click for map)Adam Lyne of the Riverkeeper organization is the site captain for the event.

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting our major waterways.

Gloves and trash bags will be provided. It’s advisable to wear waterproof boots and clothes that can get dirty. If some members bring rakes and shovels, that would be helpful.

Participants must sign a waiver, which will be provided the day of the event or can be obtained in advance at http://bnriverkeeper.org (direct link to form). The Riverkeeper organization asks that children be at least 12 and supervised by an adult.

All volunteers are invited to a picnic lunch afterward at the American Legion Post, 533 Amherst St. in North Buffalo. It will feature door prizes.

Anyone who wants to participate, contact Dan Herbeck, Editorial Dept., at 849-5548, or at tiptops@aol.com. His cell number is 348-1173.

What else is The Guild up to?

Outreach: Last month, we conducted a “Meet-and-Greet” luncheon for part-time employees in The Guild, similar to a program started in 2011. Guild officers met part-timers, many of whom work outside the main News building, and addressed their concerns and questions. It also was an opportunity for us to talk about the history of the Guild, the benefits of Guild membership, and the importance of mobilization.

Training: We are organizing a leadership skills conference tentatively scheduled for late June that will include representatives from Guild papers around the Great Lakes. It will feature a noted trainer in leadership skills, conflict resolution and decision-making. Our goal goes beyond preparing a cadre of new leaders. Having knowledgeable and skilled union representatives is critical to the effectiveness of the union.