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Union Members Fashion Super-Sized Salvation Army Kettle for the Holidays

By Jackie Tortora

Around the holidays, grocery store shoppers expect to see a cheerful person in a Santa hat and red apron, ringing a bell and collecting donations in the iconic Salvation Army red kettle.

Some union members in Iowa turned the familiar red kettle into something pretty big this fall: a five-and-a-half-foot-tall replica, which was fashioned on the upper floor of the world’s largest cereal mill, the Quaker Oats plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

Rick Moyle, executive director of the Hawkeye Labor Council, formerly a United Way community services liaison, jumped at the chance to build the kettle when he was approached with the idea by Salvation Army Director of Development and Communications Mindy Kayser. He and Jay Larson, coordinator and AFL-CIO labor liaison for East Central Iowa, got to work.

“Jay and I put our heads together and went to Quaker Oats, which is owned by PepsiCo,” says Moyle. “The Quaker Oats plant director, Tom Metelmann, agreed to supply and pay for the materials while union members in the plant who are affiliated with the labor council donated their time.”

Construction on the kettle began at the end of August. Workers from Machinists (IAM) Local 831, Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA) Local 263 and Millwrights Local 1039 were involved in the project.

Journeyman sheet metal worker Steve Devereux, the lead person on the project, says:

I volunteered to work on the project because it sounded like a fantastic opportunity to do something positive for our community. Also, because it would be unique.

The kettle was completed in October and painted Salvation Army red. Other finishing touches included a system of chutes to funnel donations into a hatch on the side of the kettle so volunteers wouldn’t injure themselves when retrieving the money.

“Having a large eye-catching piece, that gains public notoriety and draws attention to the Salvation Army is the goal,” says Devereux. “Just being involved in the project, having the skills and talent of other union members from Sheet Metal Workers Local 263 help me in getting it out there….It's everything and everyone, working together, to get it done, whatever it takes. That is what I think unions are about.”

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