By LINDA JARRETT
“My Pop always said, ‘You can help a lot more people if you don’t care who gets the credit,’” said Sylvester Taylor, director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1 and National Electrical Contractors Association (IBEW/NECA) and co-founder and current president of IBEW’s Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC).
It’s a lesson Taylor has taken to heart, ensuring that hundreds of needy children will have coats for winter.
On Sept. 13, the EWMC held its fourth Coats for Kids Bourbon & Cigar Night at the Florissant Golf Club in Florissant, Mo. For $75, participants received two fine cigars, six nice bourbon pours, appetizers, and two tickets for cigar-themed items.
REALIZING THE PROBLEM
Taylor began the event when he experienced first-hand the problem of kids without coats.
In 2004, he was mentoring a young 14-year-old man from Echo Children’s Home. He had tickets for the Cardinals Divisional championship game against the Houston Astros.
“It was in October and pretty chilly,” he remembered. “I asked my daughter, but she couldn’t go, so I asked Charles, the young man I was mentoring.
“When I picked him up, he wasn’t wearing a coat, and when I asked him why, he said where he’s from, you can’t keep a coat,” Taylor said. “I asked him what he wore, and he pulled up his shirt. He was wearing three sweatshirts, and he said he rotated them every day.”
That’s when Taylor decided he needed to do something to help.
The first year, he begged family and friends for money to buy 46 coats.
“We got enough for 38 kids, and my wife and I bought the others,” he said. “And that was the start.”
THE START OF BOURBON & CIGARS
Four years ago, he started the Bourbon and Cigars event.
“I said I’d donate some cigars and said let’s get someone to donate the bourbon, and that’s how we do it,” he said.
When asked why “bourbon and cigars?” he said, “We’d rather be doing that than breathing!”
For the most recent event, Steve Bransetter, senior vice president of Stifel Bank, donated the bourbon for the Sept. 13 event, Mann Meats donated meat for the occasion, and Kim Besserman, retired member of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2665 Executive Board, hosted the event.
“Florissant Mayor Tim Lowery offered the event space, and he has always supported our efforts,” Taylor said.
“The money we raise tonight will be a fraction of what we need,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to buy about 1,000 coats.”
GETTING COATS TO CHILDREN WHO NEED THEM
Each member of the EWMC caucus contacts area children’s homes and asks them a list of ages, sizes, and genders. They then buy coats to fit and distribute to the homes.
Taylor said some homes include Epworth Children’s Home, Ronald McDonald House, The Children’s Home Society of Missouri, Great Circle Edgewood Children’s Center, the Hazelwood School District, and the St. Vincent Home for Children.
“People think it’s just for the Inner City, but it’s not,” Taylor said. “There’s homeless kids all over the place, so the only thing we’re doing now is sharing our blessings in a nutshell.”
This fall, the EWMC will host another yearly event when they take six 55-passenger buses to the Wine Country area off Highway 94.
“We’ll have lunch at Defiance Ridge Winery,” Taylor said, adding that was his first date with his wife, Ernestine, 30 years ago.
Proceeds from that excursion, which Taylor estimates will be $8,000, will go to their coat drive and mentoring sessions at the Division of Youth Services.
“This whole thing is about being accountable and helping,” he said.