Local 315 Members Organize Food Drive to Uplift the Poor in Inyo County

AFSCME Local 315 members filled an important gap in the Inyo County community this summer by holding a food drive and raising money for local charities that feed the poor.

By pooling their resources together and getting the residents of Bishop involved on a Saturday, Local 315 was able to collect four shopping carts full of donations and more than $100, all of which will go to the local Salvation Army, Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action and Bishop First United Methodist Center.

The food drive was one of the local’s first events outside of holding activities for members, and it was a great opportunity to show the community another side of the union, said Eryn Clark, a public health and prevention specialist, who coordinated the event.

“We really wanted to do something to not only to help raise goods for the local food pantries and soup kitchen, but also wanted to bring awareness to the issues many people face with food insecurity because many of our members come from backgrounds where we have struggled ourselves,” Clark said. “We just wanted to see what we could do to give back and make people aware of this helpful resource that always needs donations and volunteers.”

Inyo County is a small, isolated community in the Eastern Sierra. While it attracts a lot of tourists, the cost of living is high and many families— a mix of longtime locals and first-generation immigrants—are barely making it. 

So when some Local 315 members wrapped up the negotiations for their new contract and started talking about ways they could make the community better, doing a fundraiser for the local food banks was the first thing to come to mind.

“We don’t want people thinking that the only reason the union makes itself visible is when we want raises,” Clark said. “We care about each other and our community, so we wanted to uplift these organizations in any way we could. We’re all in this together."

The members got a supermarket to agree to let them set up a table near the store entrance. They brought in some boxes, banners and balloons. As shoppers came in to the store throughout the day, they were given a shopping list of items needed for the food pantries.

At the end of the day, about 20 members participated in the food drive and the local residents that supported the event thanked the local for brining awareness to an often forgotten problem in the Inyo County area.

A couple of people even asked what AFSCME stands for, said Local 315 President Janelle Kent.

Now, Kent said, Local 315 members are looking to build on the momentum from the food drive by doing more union activities to find some common ground with people on issues affecting working people. 

“As public servants, we strive to be active in ways that support our communities,” Kent said. “This will not be a one-time thing. Our local is committed to making a positive difference for residents of the Eastern Sierra.”