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“We’re Supposed To Be Giving ‘Them’ Thanks For What ‘They Do’” - Sheet Metal Workers Local 71 & The John W. Danforth Company ‘Honored’ For The Roles They Played In Providing U.S. Air Force Reservists Access To Apprenticeship Training

Published Monday, December 14, 2020
by Editor-Publisher Tom Campbell
“We’re Supposed To Be Giving ‘Them’ Thanks For What ‘They Do’” - Sheet Metal Workers Local 71 & The John W. Danforth Company ‘Honored’ For The Roles They Played In Providing U.S. Air Force Reservists Access To Apprenticeship Training Editor’s Note: SMART (Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation) Local 71 and the John W. Danforth Company were recently honored for the roles they played in providing several U.S. Air Force Reservists help and access to continue their Apprenticeship Training during the Coronavirus Pandemic.  Specially-made stainless steel and glass shadow boxes were made by the Reservists/Apprentices and presented to both with a special citation housed inside the box.  Pictured above, inside Sheet Metal Workers Local 71’s Buffalo Union Hall and Training Center, from left to right, are: Local 71 Business Representative Tim Benes; Local 71 Business Manager Paul Crist; and John W. Danforth Company General Superintendent Tom Kwiatkowski.  ( Photo)


(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) - SMART (Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation) Local 71 Business Manager Paul Crist was taken aback when the U.S. Air Force Reserve took the time to honor the Buffalo Building & Construction Trades Council Member Union and its Contractor - the John W. Danforth Company, for the role the two recently played in providing help and access to several Reservists for their continued Apprenticeship Training during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

“I was a ‘little flabbergasted.’  ‘It was a bit odd, because we’re supposed to be giving them thanks for what they do,’” Crist told after Local 71 and the Danforth Company were presented with specially-made stainless steel and glass shadow boxes constructed by the participating Reservists/Apprentices that contained an American Flag and a certificate of appreciation for what they had done.

It read (Pictured Below/ Photo): Let it be known that this flag of the United States of America was flown 16 Oct over Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and Western New York.  The flag represents the will and resolve of the Airmen of Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and around the world.  Long may it wave.  This is given to the (Local 17 Sheet Metal Union) in honor of dedicated support to the Armed Forces of the United States of America on behalf of the 914 Air Refueling Squadron - Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

Danforth received the same citation that was made out specifically to the company.

“They wanted to use our (training) facility for their Reserves to get some training done while other (locations) ‘were not allowing it because of COVID,’” Business Manager Crist said.  “They asked if they could come in with about five or six people.  They were here for a week or two.  It was ‘easy’ for us.  One of our Members who is an Air Force Reservist ‘put it all together’ and Danforth ‘donated all the materials’ (the Reservists/Apprentices used).”

Kevin “Duke” Reilly, John W. Danforth’s Chairman, told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper: “Any day ‘we can help our ladies and gents in uniform, it’s a great day,’” “We ‘support their training and we embrace that at Danforth.’  ‘Paul (Crist) and I were happy to do it.’”

Mike Donius, a 27-year-old SMART Local 71 Apprentice and Technical Sargent/Engineer with the Air Force Reserve at the Niagara Falls Air Base, was the one who got the ball rolling when he approached his Union for help and the use of its Liberty Street Training Facility in Buffalo.

“Our training this year got cancelled because of COVID, ‘but we wanted to make sure we got our guys their training,’” Donius told  “There was ‘no way of training at our base and there was no money’ (to pay for it), so I called Paul (Crist) and asked if we could (use the SMART Local 71 Training Center) and he said ‘no problem.’  We went to our Trustees, who also agreed to let us use the facility.”

“We have guys who are Electricians, Plumbers, Operators, Firefighters – a lot of career fields, so ‘we have to make sure we get our training.’  (Because of the pandemic and the lack of Federal funds for such), ‘it’s a struggle because of the lack of material and equipment.’  ‘Without this, I had no clue as to what we were going to do.’  We needed to train in sheet metal fabrication and welding, but we had ‘no’ equipment.  The Union hall had the equipment and Danforth donated a lot of the metal.  (Air Force) Leadership was ‘surprised, mind-boggled’ (by the donation of space, equipment, materials and time),” he continued.

Several Reservists from the Western New York Region and one each from Rochester and the Syracuse area took part in the Apprenticeship Training, said Donius, who has served overseas in Jordan and Kuwait, and for example – had built a perimeter of welded barbed wire around the base and put together and installed an air conditioning system to keep those serving our country comfortable in extremely high temperatures. Editor’s Note: Pictured below, from left to right: Technical Sargent Michael Donius from Lancaster; Senior Airman Dillon Sears from Auburn, located just outside Syracuse; Senior Airman Timothy Lynch from Hamburg; and Technical Sergeant Eric Nesbitt from Rochester.  (Photo Courtesy of Mike Donius)

In the end, Danforth’s Director of Shop Operations - Michael Bement, told that Danforth donated 10,000 pounds of sheet metal for the Air Force Reservist Apprentices to use for their training at Local 71. 

“(Danforth) ‘was happy to be part of this and it was Mike Donius (also a Danforth Employee) who drove (the effort).’  ‘I thought it was fantastic.’  ‘We were honored just to be included and give a hand to the men and women who give so much to us.’  ‘It’s good to give back to them.’  ‘The (shadow boxes) were so beautifully made and we have it hanging in our fabricating shop.’ Editor’s Note: Pictured below, some of the U.S. Air Force Reservists/Apprentices appear in a photo taken inside the John W. Danforth Facility’s shop operation in Tonawanda where one of the shadow boxes that was presented to Danforth now hangs.  (Photo Provided To by the John W. Danforth Company)

“We thought to ourselves, ‘How we would thank them?’  ‘It took a little bit of time,’ but we came up with the shadow box and certificate,” said Donius, who is himself employed at Danforth and works in sheet metal fabricating and welding.

“This was ‘awesome’ and my Unit is ‘so thankful’ (to both Local 71 and Danforth).  ‘I’m very proud of my Union and my Unit is very, very thankful.’  ‘It gave me a place to get our guys trained.’  ‘Without this, I don’t know what we would have done.’  ‘There was no way we could have done this,’” Donius told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper.


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