By SHERI GASSAWAY
When Nelvin Watts was called upon to serve his country in 1959, he proudly accepted the challenge and joined the U.S. Army.
Fast forward 58 years, and the veteran, who selflessly answered the call of duty through 1962, found himself in need of help with electrical repairs on the St. Louis home that’s been in his family for 60 years.
That’s when IBEW Local 1 and the St. Louis Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), which partner to form the St. Louis Electrical Connection, stepped up to the plate.
On April 28, a four-person crew of Local 1 members visited the 80-year-old veteran’s home to replace light switches, receptacles and lighting fixtures and rewire a back-porch light that was being operated with an indoor extension cord. It was all part of this year’s Rebuilding Together – St. Louis campaign.
BLESSED TO BE CHOSEN
“We all need a helping hand at some point or another,” Watts said. “It’s tremendous that these guys are helping out today with this work. We are blessed to be chosen.”
The IBEW Local 1 members who helped with Watts’ repairs included Lynn Weatherford, a journeyman electrician and owner of Local 1 signatory contractor Lynn’s Electric; Dale Roth, a journeyman electrician at Sachs Electric; and Sachs’ apprentice electricians, Ryan Saunchegraw and Shane Williams.
HAPPY TO HELP
Both Weatherford and Roth have taken part in Rebuilding Together in past years, but it was the first time Saunchegraw and Williams had volunteered for the event. All four said they were happy to help.
“I enjoy helping out in the community and appreciate the opportunity to help a fellow veteran,” Williams said. “I was in the Air Force.”
Watts is one of 29 elderly or disabled low-income homeowners who were helped by this year’s IBEW/NECA Rebuilding Together effort. About 150 Local 1 members volunteered for the five-hour event, and NECA contractors donated 45 service trucks.
The volunteers, some lending a hand for the first time and others who have been volunteering for years, gathered at Local 1’s Union Hall before heading out to their assignments.
Rebuilding Together’s Executive Director Dave Ervin thanked Local 1 and its members for their help and presented the union with a plaque for its years of service to the community through Rebuilding Together.
“You guys have been with us for a long time, and we love you folks,” Ervin said. “A wise man once said that volunteering is the rent that we pay for this time here on earth. We are eternally grateful for your assistance.”
AN EXTRA EFFORT
Local 1 Business Representative Dave Roth, who helped coordinate the April 28 event, said 150 IBEW members and 45 service trucks took part in the event. Roth said the union made a special effort this year, calling on 75 NECA contractors and ask for service truck donations.
“It was a huge undertaking, but it paid off because we had more trucks than we’ve ever had before,” Roth said. “Sachs Electric donated five trucks alone. It was a tremendous help.”
Roth said volunteers replaced 40 ceiling fans, 300 receptacles, 150 light switches, 100 light fixtures and 50 ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles during the annual one-day repair blitz.
“Coordinating all the work and materials needed for each home and scheduling the jobs within that five-hour window was a huge task,” Roth said. “I commend my staff for all their hard work in helping to make the event run so smoothly.”
ONE-DAY BLITZ SPECIFICALLY FOR ELECTRICAL REPAIRS
Local 1 and NECA have been partnering with Rebuilding Together since the mid-90s. In the past, all of the building trades have been involved in the one-day repair blitz. This year, Local 1 proposed dedicating one day specifically for electrical repairs. Other unions donated their skills and time on May 6 and will be featured in a forthcoming edition of the Labor Tribune.
“Having so many tradespeople in a house at one time can be overwhelming to a homeowner,” Roth said. “Plus, as electricians, we sometimes have to shut off the power to do our work, which doesn’t help the other folks on the job. It worked out really well this year.”