Gast Manufacturing Goes Above and Beyond to Help Community

A UWSM Original by the United Way Staff

To the employees at Gast Manufacturing, the term ‘giving back’ is a company-wide call to action. From the manufacturing floor to the front office, they tout 'service before self' as one of the company’s core values. Gast employees have gone above and beyond to improve lives in Berrien and Cass counties through giving, advocating and volunteering with the United Way of Southwest Michigan; mobilizing the caring power of their company, to change lives. 

“It’s all about the sincerity of everyone’s testimony,” says longtime Gast employee Greg Whitehead. “I hear it here, everyday at work; you hear the crackling in your co-workers voice from emotion when they talk about helping people. You can see the sincerity of the people you work with who are giving back and the emotional impact it has on them. That's what keeps us going and working with United Way.”  

Gast Manufacturing’s passion for helping people is evident in the ways they are involved with United Way year-round through Day of Action for Seniors, Girls on the Run, holiday gifts collections and turkey distribution during Thanksgiving.

“There's a good sense of pride that you are helping people out. From a team work perspective you get to accomplish something meaningful with your co-workers that you normally don't get to when you’re working with them on a day-to-day basis,” says Bob Yack.

Photo Courtesy of Herald Palladium Scott Yack, IT Manager at Gast, paints in the kitchen of the Men’s Shelter at the Benton Harbor Salvation Army.

Photo Courtesy of Herald Palladium

Scott Yack, IT Manager at Gast, paints in the kitchen of the Men’s Shelter at the Benton Harbor Salvation Army.

In 2015 Gast employees found themselves compelled to take their giving to a new level during a United Way agency tour. At one stop, the Salvation Army Men’s Shelter in Benton Harbor, they learned the roof was in desperate need of repair. Knowing this was a dire situation for the shelter, they applied for a $10,000 grant from their company headquarters to fund the repairs as a team building project. Upon receiving the funds, Gast employees secured a contractor to replace the leaky roof. Employees also gave the shelter a new paint job, installed a new island in the kitchen and retiled the water damaged floor.

“So many people are just one accident or one circumstance away from being homeless or down and out. I know what it is like to need help. At one point I was homeless, I lost everything and had to rebuild. When I went on the agency tour with United Way and saw the Men's Shelter, I thought to myself, 'I know what these guys are going through,' and that is why I stepped up,” says Gast’s Tom Gargano.

Employees say they like giving to United Way because of the collective impact their investment yields. 

“I am a bargain shopper; I want the biggest bang for my buck. I want my little dollars to make the biggest impact they can. With United Way I know they will.” says Gast employee Sue Wilming. “I work very hard for my money; I am the sole provider for my family. Things haven't always been easy, but I have a lot more than some and a lot less than others, and for those that have less I want to help them. With United Way I know that my money is going to the right places for the right reasons. I know somebody is minding the store.”

Nermina Kamencic, from Gast, accepts the LIVE UNITED Award presented to her by Major Mike McKee from The Salvation Army, Benton Harbor Corps.

Nermina Kamencic, from Gast, accepts the LIVE UNITED Award presented to her by Major Mike McKee from The Salvation Army, Benton Harbor Corps.

Gast was the recent recipient of the LIVE UNITED and the Medium Business of the Year awards at the 2015 United Way Annual Celebration last month.  The LIVE UNITED award recognizes an organization or individual who embodies the mission, vision and goals of United Way and truly lives out the idiom of Give-Advocate-Volunteer.  For United Way of Southwest Michigan President, Anna Murphy, the award was well deserved.  “Gast has always gone above and beyond for this community, and the work they did in 2015 was no exception.  Whether it was through their commitment to volunteerism or their implementation of best practices, they continue to prove that they are great examples of what it means to LIVE UNITED.”

“It’s the culture here at Gast,” explains employee Kevin Jarvis. “There have been times when some of our employees needed United Way and have been touched by its services, and we have seen how United Way touches those in need in our community. We are like a family here, and family takes care of family.”

To see the impact that United Way Southwest Michigan is making in your area visit our impact page. To find out more information about contributing through your workplace, how to start an employee campaign at your business, or scheduling an agency tour, visit our campaign page.