Union workers have ‘wings on their backs’
MERRILLVILLE — When Gino Iussig fell in his home and broke his leg recently, his family didn’t know what to do.
Even before the accident, it was difficult for the World War II veteran, 93, and his wife, Joyce, to go outside of the home they’ve shared for more than 50 years.
“In one day, this group of guys with wings on their backs come in and solved the problem,” said Iussig’s daughter Karen Kuzma, of Lowell.
The “guys with wings on their backs” are Chicago UAW/Ford Community Service Team.
The five team members are from UAW Local 588 at the Ford Chicago stamping plant and UAW Local 551 from the Ford Chicago assembly plant.
Together for the past 18 months, they travel from Valparaiso to Joliet helping people in need.
They’ve completed about 100 projects from building handicapped-accessible ramps at homes like the Iussigs’ to renovating the Down Syndrome Association of Northwest Indiana in Highland, said project manager Jeff Hall, of Lowell. He said the team is supported by the UAW and Ford Motor Co.
“We are giving back to the communities within a 60-mile radius,” Hall said.
Pete Iussig, of Lowell, and Gino’s son, said after his father’s accident, he contacted Jim Chancellor, a Lowell friend who is very active with veterans. Chancellor, in turn, contacted Jason Gootee, a Lake County Veterans Service officer. Gootee contacted the team.
“In 20 minutes, this guy (Hall) was calling us up,” said Pete Iussig, adding that the team came out the next day to take measurements and make plans for the construction of the ramp.
Without cost to the Iussigs, the men spent three days at the Merrillville home constructing the ramp.