‘It means a lot for us to be able to do this.’
By TIM ROWDEN
Hundreds of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers delegates and guests in St. Louis for the 39th IBEW convention recently volunteered their time and talent to give back to the community with an IBEW Day of Service.
“The city of St. Louis is where this great union was founded,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “It’s only right that we try and give back to a city that has given so much to us.”
The service projects took place across the city at 26 sites that primarily serve lower-income communities.
At Our Lady of the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Baden, the IBEW and their contractors showed up in force, donating an estimated $50,000 in labor and materials to upgrade the electric at the old school and church with new lighting inside and out, benefiting the church’s small but thriving congregation and the Baden Enrichment Center youth program that uses the old school facilities.
IBEW Local 1439 and Local 1 orchestrated the project and about 38 brother and sister electricians from area locals and locals throughout the country, in town for the IBEW convention, turned out to donate their time and talents.
The project was headed up by Mike Walter, business manager for IBEW 1439 and coordinated by Dave Roth, business representative for IBEW Local 1. In addition to their members, IBEW convention delegates from Michigan, North Dakota, Los Angeles, Alaska and elsewhere turned out to help.
A TRADITION OF SERVICE
IBEW and its locals perform service days at various times throughout the year across the country, but Walter said this is the first time a day of service has been tied to the convention.
The IBEW and Day of Service sponsors – the Bank of Labor, Milwaukee Tools, and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance – provided the materials for the projects, and convention delegates and guests volunteered their time and labor.
About 400 volunteers spread out across the city performing electrical work and other services, including park beautification, neighborhood cleanups, building picnic tables and helping out at food banks and youth and women’s shelters. One group of volunteers served a meal for paralyzed veterans in the area.
The project at Our Lady of the Holy Cross was the biggest. The church was built in the early 1900s. “We are going to do something very good here today,” Roth told the volunteers who gathered early in the morning to start work on the church, gymnasium, school and rectory. Although the church’s present day congregation is small, comprised of only about 85 families, it serves a central role. The church and school property also houses activities and after school programming for area youth provided through the Baden Enrichment Center.
‘IT MEANS A LOT TO US’
“Once we got here, we could see that this was in bad shape,” Walter said
“It means a lot for us to be able to do this. I think it’s a good message to all the communities of what the IBEW does and what Organized Labor does.”
It meant a great deal to the volunteers as well.
“It’s a little thing, but well worth it,” said Larry Caldwell, a delegate from IBEW Local 11 in Los Angeles, who came to the convention with his son Brian. “People helping people, that’s what it’s about.”
“We do this year round,” said Mitch Klein, also from Local 11. “If someone is in trouble or someone is in need and they can’t afford an electrician, we’re there to help.”
“It’s something that carries over,” said Jeannett Caldwell (no relation to Larry) of Local 58 in Detroit, noting how her own elderly neighbors will sometimes ask her for help, which she gladly provides free of charge.
“It just feels good to give back,” she said.
Our Lady’s pastor, Father Vincent Nyman, was overjoyed with the work.
“We’re really happy that we’re getting this work done for us. It’s a tremendous need. We use all of the buildings in some way, and yet our numbers are so small. We have to get it done, but by ourselves we could not achieve it. Lighting it up, the after school program for the kids, they need lights. Every group is going to benefit from this service.”
Local contractors Schaeffer Electric, Briner Electric, Sachs Electric and Kaemmerlen Electric provided service trucks and equipment for the Our Lady of the Holy Cross project. Ameren Missouri provided a pair of bucket trucks.
Pat White, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council and an Our Lady of the Holy Cross alumnae, stopped by to see the work for himself and thanked the delegates and volunteers for their contributions.
“I went to school here. All my sisters went to school here,” White said. “My aspirations of playing in the NBA began and ended in that gym. This is dear to my heart. It means a lot. It’s great to have brothers and sisters here working on where I grew up.”