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Despite impending job losses, Medina workers give to toy challenge

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 December 2013 at 12:00 am

Worthington Cylinders helps provide toys for needy families

Photos by Tom Rivers – The toy challenge drive at Worthington Cylinders in Medina was led by, from left: Diane Watts, Kristin Vogt and Valerie Childs.

ALBION – In June 152 employees at Worthington Industries in Medina were told their jobs would be gone in 2014. The company’s owner was closing the former BernzOmatic hand torch manufacturing operation in Medina and moving that work to existing facility in Chilton, Wis.

Worthington employees expect to be laid off in the coming months. They aren’t letting that grim reality prevent them from being generous this holiday season.

They have given $1,410 and donated numerous toys to the third annual “Toy Challenge,” which benefits families served by Community Action of Orleans & Genesee.

“Even though we are losing our jobs, we still have our dignity,” said Diane Watts, who works in assembly at Worthington and helped head the toy drive for the company. “We wanted to leave the community with a good image. We wanted to go out with a bang.”

Employees raised money for the toy drive with hot dog and doughnut sales. They also bought toys for the challenge.

A Worthington employee pushed to start the corporate toy challenge in 2011. Andrew Szatkowski was Worthington’s quality control manager. With the company’s impending closure in Medina, Szatkowski took a new job outside the immediate area.

The toy drive went on this holiday season. Carolyn Wagner, human resources and safety director for BMP America, and Kris Hartwig, administrative assistant S.B. Whistler and Sons (Phinney Tool and Die), stepped up to coordinate the project.

The drive lasted from Nov. 4 to Dec. 3. The toys are on tables in the basement at the First Baptist Church in Albion. Community Action Director Ed Fancher said the church has been transformed into Santa’s Workshop. He thanked the participating companies and their employees for giving so many toys and funds to the drive. The donations will be shared with 250 families in the Albion area.

Several companies pitched in to donate toys and money for the toy challenge. Community Action of Orleans & Genesee will distribute the toys to about 250 families in the Albion area. Pictured are, from left: Carolyn Wagner, human resources and safety manager for BMP America in Medina; Wendy Hinkley, branch manager for Five-Star Bank in Albion; Jen Restivo, logistics coordinator for Freeze-Dry in Albion; and Kris Hartwig, administrative assistant at S.B. Whistler and Sons (Phinney Tool and Die).

S.B. Whistler and Sons (Phinney Tool and Die) kept its streak going in winning the toy challenge for the third straight year. The title is determined by total donations – money and weight of toys – divided by the number of employees.

Worthington actually gave the most toys and money, but S.B. Whistler won the challenge. The company has 27 employees. They donated $1,000 and 165 pounds of toys.

The company hangs the award for winning the toy challenge in the shop at the business at the corner of West Center Street and Salt Works Road.

“We’re able to see that we make a difference,” Hartwig of S.B. Whistler said about the toy challenge. “We are like a big family and we want to help other families in the area.”

Freeze-Dry in Albion was happy to participate in the toy challenge. The company had a box by the break room and employees filled it with toys.

“The employees are all very giving,” said Jen Restivo, logistics coordinator for the company. “We all came together and wanted to make a difference.”

Five-Star Bank in Albion also collected many toys for the challenge. Wendy Hinkley, the branch manager, also recruited other Albion businesses to collect toys for the cause. Employees at the bank decided against buying toys for each other. They instead bought toys for the challenge.

“Community Action does so much for this community, and they do it throughout the year,” Hinkley said. “They are an agency that is near and dear to my heart.”