Written By: Allan Zullo, Red Cross Communications Volunteer
For the everyday workers at Tyson Foods, Inc., in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, raising money for the local chapter of the American Red Cross was a slam dunk in more ways than one.
This June for their annual Red Cross Disaster Relief Campaign, they made a big splash by participating in a “Dunk a Supervisor” contest, a fun-filled event that raised nearly $5,000.
The money represents donations solely from the workers—many of them hourly employees who live paycheck to paycheck—from Tyson’s three processing plants, two hatcheries, one feed mill and two truck shops in the Wilkesboro area. “We all realize how important it is to support the Red Cross,” said Elizabeth Eades-Guerrero, complex safety manager, who spearheaded the drive.
“A number of these dedicated, caring employees come from 26 countries, many of them as refugees, so they know all the work that the Red Cross has done on behalf of people in need,” she added. “The Red Cross was there when tornadoes raked the area last year. And although we weren’t affected by Hurricane Florence, we all saw on the news the great work the Red Cross did in eastern Carolina.” Eades-Guerrero knows firsthand about the effectiveness of the organization because she was a volunteer and an instructor for a Red Cross chapter when she lived in Indiana.
For the fund-raiser, about 40 collection jars were set out on tables in the cafeteria annex. Each jar had a picture of a supervisor. Employees put money into the jars of those supervisors who the workers most wanted to see plummeting into a dunk tank that was set up in front of the complex. To help the workers decide who deserved such an “honor,” each jar also had a silly sign attached to it such as: “Did someone say shark?” “Dunk the guy on the end. He likes water.” “What’s floating in the water?” “Don’t vote for me. I can’t get my beard wet.” And one of the best ones: “I’m the reason you work on Saturday.”
Six supervisors—the top three from each of two shifts—whose jars had the most money at the end of the drive were declared the “winners.” Their reward was a precarious seat above the dunk tank—and a plunge into the water every time an employee threw a beanbag that struck a target.
“The supervisors who got dunked are ones who are really well liked,” said Eades-Guerrero. “They’re not the ones nobody likes. That’s what made this so fun.”
But there was some subterfuge. A supervisor had collected about $50 in donations that weren’t assigned to any particular jars, so he put all the money into Eades-Guerrero’s jar. “When I found out what he was doing, I made a matching donation into that supervisor’s jar,” she admitted. He ended up becoming one of the winners and getting dunked instead of her. “I was determined I wasn’t going to get wet,” Eades-Guerrero said.
This was the fourth time that Tyson’s has held a fundraiser for American Red Cross’ Blue Ridge Piedmont chapter. In July, the Tyson employees presented the chapter with a check for $4,933.12, most of which came from the “Dunk a Supervisor” contest.
Bill Davis, a board member of the Blue Ridge Piedmont chapter, accepted the donation.
“The thing that I appreciated most about this check was where it came from,” Davis said. “It was so revealing to me that the workers weren’t giving the money because it was expected of them. They gave their hard-earned money from their heart rather than because the company asked them to support this drive. They did it because they were so sincere. I could see it in their eyes.
“The people of Wilkes County have always risen to the occasion. If there is a worthy cause, they will rally and donate. Our chapter is very active and does a lot for the area. And it’s because of the good people who live here, like the workers at Tyson Foods, who get involved. They know how to get things done because they are so caring.”
The Blue Ridge Piedmont chapter serves more than 900,000 people in the counties of Alleghany, Alexander, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Lincoln, Watauga and Wilkes.