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Plant, UAW 95 donating last truck to United Way raffle

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JAMES P. LEUTE
December 9, 2008
— Wouldn't it be something if the Feingold family ends up owning the bookends of truck production at the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville?

The grandfather of U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold bought the first truck off the Chevrolet line in Janesville in 1923, and the younger Feingold said he'll likely buy a chance at owning the last.


Representatives of the plant and United Auto Workers Local 95 announced today they will donate the plant's last sport-utility vehicle to the United Way of North Rock County, which will make it the top prize in a fundraising raffle.


"If the cost is not exorbitant and it is within my budget, I'll certainly buy a ticket," Feingold said of the raffle.


The 2009 Chevy Tahoe LTZ is scheduled to be the last truck off the line on Tuesday, Dec. 23. It will be fully loaded and carry a sticker price to match: $57,745.


But the winner in the United Way raffle likely will own it for much less. Tickets will be $20 each, or $100 for six.


In addition to the Tahoe, the raffle includes a $1,600 package from Kutter Harley-Davidson and a $1,300 play set from Swing-N-Slide. CRT Processing is donating 14 refurbished LCD televisions, eight Dell computer systems and 10 surround-sound systems.


Gail Graham, president of United Way of North Rock County, said the organization has never staged a raffle.


"But we've never had a flood or a flood fund before," she said.


As United Way staff approached companies about their annual employee campaigns, some offered to donate items that the United Way could use as it saw fit. One donation led to another and ultimately to GM's decision to donate the Tahoe.


"The stars aligned for us," Graham said. "I can't say enough about how wonderful and generous our program partners have been.


"In fact, I'm speechless."


Today's announcement was broadcast live onto the GM plant floor through video monitors.


The Janesville plant and its people have a proud tradition of giving, and that's why the decision was made to donate the vehicle to the United Way, Plant Manager Gary Malkus said.


"I've had a lot of requests from individuals and many companies interested in this piece of Janesville history," Malkus said.


"This raffle will honor the legacy of Janesville assembly while giving an incredible opportunity to the United Way and the community," Malkus said.


John Dohner Jr., United Auto Workers Local 95 shop chairman, said Local 95 has always understood the importance of giving back to the community.


"Janesville assembly has always stood for great people building great products, and we will continue to pour everything we have into what we make, including the very last Tahoe," Dohner said.


The United Way has printed 9,000 raffle tickets. If they're all sold, the tickets would generate between $150,000 and $180,000.


"The idea is not to tell people what their odds are," Graham said. "Everyone has a chance to spend $20 and win the last Tahoe ever built in this community."


Graham said the raffle is intended to supplement rather than replace employee giving to the United Way.


"It will not make up what we would typically get in employee contributions from GM," she said, noting that the employee portion of GM's annual contribution is normally about $400,000 each year.


"Each year, about 70 percent of our funding comes from our employee campaigns. That's really our bread and butter."


GM plant spokeswoman Mary Fanning-Penny said the decision to donate the vehicle to the United Way originated locally and was approved at the corporate level.


"It's a reflection of the commitment that this plant and its people have made to the United Way and also a reflection that a large chunk of that organization's budget will be absent in the future.


"It's a decision that was made specific to Janesville."


Graham said the organization is honored to receive GM's donation.


"Over the years, GM and the United Auto Workers have been strong partners with the United Way, and that's been particularly true in our area," she said.


Winning raffle tickets will be drawn Wednesday, Feb. 25, at the United Way's annual meeting at the Pontiac Convention Center.


The winner of the Tahoe will not have an option to take cash instead of the truck.


But if he or she doesn't want the Tahoe, plenty of options—including several involving cash—likely will present themselves.


FOR TICKETS

Tickets are available at the United Way of North Rock County, 205 N. Main St., Suite 101, Janesville.


More ticket outlets and more information will be announced on the organization's Web site, www.uwnrc.org.

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