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Youth Fishing Event Celebrates Dedication of Suncoast Youth Conservation Center Pier

November 3, 2019 in Conservation News, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Hundreds of local youth and their families gathered Saturday, Nov. 2, to celebrate the dedication of a new boardwalk and fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

The wheelchair-accessible pier gives thousands of youth and other local residents visiting the SYCC campus an opportunity to study coastal marine habitats and learn to fish with minimal impact to the environment.

The massive structure is the result of a multi-year community service project organized by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) through its Work Boots on the Ground conservation program.

A consortium of partners supported the effort, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Southern States Millwright Regional Council, Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, Florida AFL-CIO, The Saunders Foundation, Frank E. Duckwall Foundation, Ben Hur Construction, Pure Fishing, TECO Energy, The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Bass Pro Shops and a number of local labor unions.

All young participants received a free Shakespeare rod, reel and tackle kit courtesy of Pure Fishing.

Donations in funds, volunteer union labor, materials and other construction expenses from these partners topped $800,000. Volunteers alone donated more than 2,000 hours of skilled labor valued at over $100,000 to create the SYCC’s new boardwalk and pier.

The effort is the USA’s largest to date and marks the organization’s 200th Work Boots on the Ground project completion.

More than 500 youth signed up to participate in a free Take Kids Fishing Day event built into the day’s festivities. Volunteers from local labor unions, the FWC and members of the National Football League Players Association assisted the excited young anglers, each of whom received a free Shakespeare rod, reel and tackle kit courtesy of Pure Fishing, plus additional items including game calls from Plano Synergy. Prior to the dedication ceremony, a free picnic lunch was provided to all participants.

Part of the FWC’s Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), the SYCC is a marine-focused conservation education center on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay. The campus includes a 6,000-square-foot education facility and annually serves more than 11,000 youth and adults.

The boardwalk and pier flank a restored saltwater pond and marsh adjacent to the educational complex. The new structure allows visitors to study coastal marine habitats. It also serves as the perfect platform to teach the joys of fishing, thereby supporting the FYCCN’s goal to create the next generation of conservationists by providing youth opportunities to participate in traditional outdoor activities that inspire lifelong stewardship for fish and wildlife conservation.

“We’re humbled by the generosity of our amazing partners and the highly skilled union workers who donated their time and talent to build this new wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and fishing pier,” said FYCCN director Rae Waddell. “Their dedication to FYCCN’s mission of creating the next generation of conservationists is an inspiration. Seeing these youth and families enjoying themselves here today—fishing, learning and watching wildlife—is the perfect way to celebrate the completion of a project that will benefit this community for years to come.”

Members of the NFL Players Association including pro Charles Riggins (left) volunteered their time to share their love of fishing with local youth.

Volunteers from the following unions and groups donated their time and job skills to complete the project: Florida Gulf Coast Building Trades Council, IBEW Local 915, Insulators Local 67, Iron Workers Locals 7, 397 and 808, IUOE Local 487, LiUNA Locals 310, 517 and 1652, Machinists Local 1000, Roofers Local 123, UA Locals 123 and 915, UBC Locals 1, 283, 1000, 1809, 1905 and 4070, Ben Hur Construction and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office.

Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida President and CEO Andrew Walker shared Waddell’s enthusiasm about the new pier helping engage the next generation of conservationists. “Providing children and teens with high-quality outdoor recreation and education is increasingly important,” said Walker. “A project like this, that so many people helped make possible, is sure to inspire many others who work in youth education.”

Wayne Jennings, executive secretary treasurer of the Southern States Millwright Regional Council, said the Millwrights were proud to be part of such a broad-based project. “It was a pleasure for the SSMRC to be part of such a diverse group,” said Jennings. “Seeing everyone partnering together to accomplish this build was extraordinary. We truly had a multitude of different craft, contractors and volunteers all working harmoniously to deliver a project that will benefit the public for decades to come. It is a true sign of solidarity. I personally thank everyone involved.”

Ben Hur Construction’s Jason Brown echoed Jennings sentiments “Ben Hur would like to thank the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, FWC, as well as all the other partners and sponsors for giving us the opportunity to be part of such a great project for the community.”

“This project presented a number of challenges and obstacles,” said Florida State Building and Construction Trades Council President Theresa King. “I’m grateful for everyone’s persistence in pushing it through, particularly the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance for its determination to make the new pier a reality for the community.”

“We are excited to see the Suncoast pier come to life,” added Pure Fishing CEO Harlan Kent. “Providing accessible educational and outdoor activities for all children is a fundamental way to help grow their interest in the outdoors. We were pleased to be able to help support the USA with this initiative and look forward to seeing the local community enjoy the pier for many years to come.”

“This is the dream team project,” added Connie Parker, a member of the USA Conservation Advisory Committee and Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida Board of Directors. “A consortium of partners came together to give the children of Florida this wonderful pier. We want to roll this out in all 50 states because we know if you put a fishing rod in a child’s hand, he or she will return to the water their entire life.”

USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance said the project epitomizes the organization’s mission to unite the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage.

Smiles were contagious and the fish were biting at the free youth fishing event, which included the outdoor-themed antics and fishing assistance of “Camo the Clown.”

“Our 200th Work Boots on the Ground project is a shining example of the great things that happen when hard-working union volunteers join forces to benefit their local communities,” he said. “Our projects are changing lives, changing the way the public looks at unions and changing the way union members see themselves. The beautiful new Suncoast Pier, which will provide more than 10,000 area youth a year with access to the Gulf of Mexico, is a testament to these volunteers’ willingness to donate their time and talents to give back to their communities.”

Vance was also quick to credit the support of project partners. “This is a union-led, private-public partnership that involves multiple non-profits, labor unions, union volunteers, a state agency, state wildlife foundation and numerous industry partners. We are thankful for everyone’s commitment to see this project through to completion.”

During the dedication ceremony, Vance announced the USA has received a Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund Grant totalling $25,000 to support the organization’s Get Youth Outdoors outreach events. Already, the USA Conservation department is working to apply a portion of the funds to a Take Kids Ice Fishing Day event in Minnesota next January. Five additional events will be sponsored by the grant.

The USA’s free, community-based youth outreach activities are also supported by national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

The USA also recognized a pair of volunteers with service awards. Dan Skuta received the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Conservation Steward of the Year Award, while Wayne Jennings of the Southern States Millwright Regional Council was honored with the USA’s Non-Charter Union Volunteer of the Year Award.

More than 500 youngsters, their families and volunteers gathered to celebrate the new boardwalk and fishing pier.

Union Volunteers Introduce Minnesota Youth to the Great Outdoors

September 17, 2019 in General, Press Release

Smiles were contagious as labor union volunteers introduced youth to conservation, hunting and the shooting sports Sunday, Sept. 15 during the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 8th Annual Get Youth Outdoors Day at Wild Marsh Sporting Clays in Clear Lake, Minnesota.

Organized by the USA and supported by a coalition of labor union, industry and conservation partners, the event gave 38 boys and girls ages 9 to 17 a personal introduction to wildlife conservation, dog training, archery, trap shooting, riflery and other outdoor topics through hands-on activities and demonstrations conducted by union volunteers. 

The event was also part of the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) First Shots program, which introduces first-time shooters to firearms respect, safety and the shooting sports.

All supplies including eye and hearing protection, firearms and ammunition were provided at no charge. Each youth also received a goody bag containing free Plano Synergy game calls and more. Youth and their families also enjoyed a picnic-style lunch with their mentors.

Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson offered advice on the finer points of shooting form and firearms handling.

The event was part of Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program—and sponsored by partners including Roofers International, NSSF, Roofers Local 96, BAC Local 1, Central MN BCTC and other local union groups. Fifteen volunteers from Ironworkers local 512, Roofers Local 96, Roofers International, LELS and IAMAW local 623 donated 90 hours to make the day a success. The NSSF grant and funds raised at the annual Roofers Twin Cities Sporting Clays Shoot allowed the event to be held at no cost to participants.

“These kids are the future of conservation and our outdoor traditions,” said Roofers International President Kinsey Robinson, who attended the event and personally coached dozens of young shooters on the sporting clays range. “Those of us who’ve been blessed to enjoy hunting, fishing and shooting our entire lives owe it to the next generation to give them the same opportunities.

“Plus, events like this build bridges between union workers and their communities, while fostering relationships and solidarity between members of different unions,” he added.

“A lot of kids went home with smiling faces and a much greater appreciation for the outdoors,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance, who was also on hand. “Interactive, hands-on events like this are critical to passing along our outdoor heritage to the next generation. We can’t thank our volunteers, charter unions and other supporters enough for making this outreach possible.”

The Clear Lake event was part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities supported by USA national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

USA Co-Founder Kinsey Robinson Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

August 13, 2019 in Articles, General, Press Release

United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers International President Kinsey Robinson (center, with wife Mona) was presented with the USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award by (from left) USA Director of Membership, Marketing and Communications Brian Dowler, USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram, USA President and CEO Scott Vance, AFL-CIO President and USA Board of Directors Chair Richard Trumka and USA Director of Conservation and Community Outreach Forrest Parker.

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) is proud to announce that one of its co-founders and current board members, Kinsey Robinson, international president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers, has been honored with the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award recognizes Robinson’s leadership and service to the USA going back to the very beginning. In 2002 he was among a handful of union leaders who recognized that they should provide union members something beyond a secure future through collective bargaining—something that touched their personal and family lives in a meaningful way.

“Kinsey Robinson is one of the founding fathers of the USA,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance. “He’s one of the guys who came up with the idea of a union-based conservation organization.”

“He’s responsible for the focus of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance,” added Tom Buffenbarger, retired president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. “Bringing together like-minded people from across the labor movement who love the outdoors.” 

The idea that was born in ’02 became a reality in 2007 with the launch of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. Today the organization boasts nearly 300,000 members, each with the common goal of preserving North America’s outdoor heritage. 

“Union members understand the value of conservation and giving back to their local communities,” said Robinson, “And it makes me proud that they are willing to take up the challenge of protecting and restoring our natural environment.”

Under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) program, union members donate their time and skills to restore and improve public recreational lands and waters in their communities, as well as to organize youth conservation and fishing activities, such as the Get Youth Outdoors Day events Robinson feels might be most important of all.

Robinson instructs a young shooter on the finer points of firearms handling at a USA Get Youth Outdoors Day event.

“Kinsey Robinson is the one who initiated our youth program at USA,” said AFL-CIO President and USA Board Chair Richard Trumka. “And he’s done more to help it reach young people than anybody else out there.”

Robinson sees it as a debt people today must pay to ensure the future. 

“We owe it to our youth to pass on our traditions and heritage of hunting, fishing and spending time in the great outdoors,” he said. “If we don’t preserve wildlife and the environment, they, and their own children, won’t have it to enjoy.” 

Getting kids involved at an early age is a key component to the process, he added.

“It’s important for them to understand how that heritage plays into conservation; how it’s important to the animals, the environment and the air we all breathe,” he said. “They will become the voters and the people who will set the direction in the future. That’s why we must spend so much time with them now. It’s a great responsibility.”

As a longtime USA board member and current board treasurer, Robinson has, and does, play a vital role in setting policy and mapping out organizational goals. He’s also a familiar face, volunteer and participant at USA events across the country.

“Kinsey means so much to the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance,” said Vance. “We can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for the USA over the years, but the Lifetime Achievement Award is one way we can express how much we appreciate him.”

“I’m extremely honored,” said Robinson upon receiving the award, which was presented at the organization’s recent Fundraiser Gala in Washington, D.C. “The people who make up the USA are very special, and while I’m deeply involved in the conservation mission, knowing the type of people who came together to honor me—well, it just makes it that much better.”