The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Conservation Dinner Program is growing at a record-setting pace, thanks in part to its unique ability to unify labor union members and connect them to their local communities via conservation-related projects.
Launched in 2012, the dinners program helps fuel the USA’s conservation mission delivery by raising funds and recruiting skilled volunteer labor to complete hands-on, community-based outreach and infrastructure projects through Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the USA’s flagship conservation program.
Dinner proceeds are dispersed into local conservation accounts and the USA’s United Outdoors Conservation Fund, which is available to participating unions, government agencies and nonprofit partners nationwide.
The dinner program recipe is simple and potent. USA staff assist local union leadership in organizing and hosting annual dinners that bring members of different unions and other attendees together for an evening of fun and camaraderie in the name of conservation.
“Since our first event in Dallas seven years ago, dinners have provided the fuel for conservation and called volunteers to action for community service,” explained USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram, who oversees the program. “But they’re much more than that. These events provide opportunities for all of the house of labor to gather in one place in celebration of the union brotherhood.”
“Plus, every union—whether public or private sector, trade or industrial—has ever-present needs to connect with its members and their families, pass labor traditions on to the next generation and engage the local community,” he continued. “Through dinners and other fundraisers, infrastructure projects and community outreach events, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance provides opportunities to make it all happen in a powerful, long-lasting manner.”
To date, the USA’s dinner program has hosted more than 26,000 participants at 130 events and raised more than $6.9 million to protect North America’s outdoor heritage.
With four dinners already completed, 2019 is off to a fast start. “We’ve raised nearly $300,000 and hosted more than 1,100 attendees,” said Ingram. “And on February 16, the Des Moines Area USA Conservation Dinner shattered the USA’s all-time fundraising dinner record with a gross revenue of $160,444 for conservation. With a total of 36 dinners planned—our highest yearly total ever—we’re excited to see what the rest of 2019 brings.”
Future plans include continued expansion. “Our goal is having at least one conservation dinner and project in every state,” said Ingram. “We have tremendous support from the national AFL-CIO, state federations of labor, all levels of building and construction trades councils, central labor councils and the organization’s international charter unions and affiliates. With all the interest and support from these organizations, the future is extremely promising.”
One thing that won’t change, Ingram promises, is the program’s underpinnings. “We strive to exhibit the core values of labor at every USA event,” he said. “Hallmarks include respect for our flag and the importance of family and faith. We also recently launched a process of pinning all veterans and active duty personnel with a USA logo veteran’s lapel pin to honor their service.”
Ingram notes that USA dinners are open to everyone. “We welcome union members and their families, along with friends of labor and the many partners who provide valuable services for labor to come enjoy a great evening of fun, fellowship and conservation,” he said.