The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) Conservation Dinner Program’s 2020 season is off to a fast start, continuing its record-setting growth uniting labor union members for community service and conservation.
The 9th Annual Greater Lansing Labor Council USA Conservation Dinner—the first of 31 such events scheduled across the country this year—kicked off the season with a bang in Lansing, Michigan, recently. “The Lansing dinner drew more people than ever, and that’s what we like to see,” said USA Dinners Program Manager Kevin Grubbs. “It was a great start to a vital program.”
Since 2012, the dinners program has helped fuel the USA’s conservation mission delivery by raising funds and recruiting skilled volunteer labor to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects through Work Boots on the Ground (WBG), the USA’s flagship conservation program. Launched in 2010, the program has completed 230 projects in 31 states. The value of volunteer labor donated through WBG is fast approaching $1.5 million, while outreach events have engaged nearly 13,000 participants, including more than 6,000 in 2019.
To date, the USA’s dinner program has hosted more than 37,000 participants at 163 events and raised more than $8.4 million to protect North America’s outdoor heritage.
The dinner format is a recipe for success. 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. Proceeds from raffles and auctions for high-quality outdoor gear 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.
“Our conservation dinners provide fuel for conservation and call volunteers to action for community service,” said USA Director of Union Relations Walt Ingram. “But they’re much more than that. They provide opportunities for the whole 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 on labor traditions and engage the local community,” he added. “Through dinners and other fundraisers, infrastructure projects and outreach events, the USA provides opportunities to make it all happen in a powerful, long-lasting manner.”
“Conservation dinners remind the local community of union values and demonstrate our commitment to hunting, fishing, conservation and shooting sports,” said Bob Gilmore, of Painters Local 246. Gilmore is a part of a team from the Central Iowa Building & Construction Trades Council that has led USA fundraising dinners in Des Moines since 2015. The Iowa dinners have raised more than $500,000 and funded local projects including the restoration of a handicap-accessible fishing pier and house at Lake Ahquabi State Park and the construction of a large public shelter at Fort Des Moines State Park.
Ingram says the USA and its supporters are eager to continue building on these successes. “Our goal is to hold at least one conservation dinner and project in every state,” he explained. “We are fortunate to 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 outlook for achieving that goal is very promising.”
USA Conservation Dinners are open to all. “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,” said Ingram.
Next up on the dinner program agenda is the UAW Region 1-D Conservation Dinner in Flint, Michigan, set for February 27. For the complete schedule of 2020 USA Conservation Dinners, visit unionsportsmen.org. For more information, contact USA Dinner Programs Manager Kevin Grubbs at: [email protected].