IBEW Local 1 teddy bear drive a huge success

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IBEW LOCAL 1 APPRENTICES held a teddy bear drive last month, raising enough to provide 500 bears to children at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital just in time for the Christmas holiday. – IBEW Local 1 photo

Offers smiles and comfort to kids hospitalized for the holidays

As a former firefighter and EMT, IBEW Local 1 apprentice Mike Vernaci understands the importance of bringing a smile and comfort to kids who have to be in the hospital.

As the Christmas holiday approached, Vernaci came up with the idea for he and his fellow apprentices to collect teddy bears for kids who had to spend the holiday at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.

“We wanted to do something for somebody in need or struggling at holiday time and who better than the little guys who are going through something?” Vernaci said. “This was the idea we came up with.”

Vernaci spent two years working in the emergency department at Cardinal Glennon before starting as a Local 1 apprentice.

“It gives them something to hold onto,” he said of the teddy bears, “especially when they have to go through a procedure like an IV needle stick.”

With the support and help of his instructor Todd Kaplan, Vernaci rallied his class and officers of the Apprenticeship Social Club and together they raised enough money to purchase more than 500 brand new teddy bears for the kids at Cardinal Glennon.

Vernaci's enthusiasm even caught on at the St Louis office of the National Electrical Contractors Association, when President Doug Martin offered to match, "teddy bear for teddy bear," the contributions of his staff.

Everyone involved in the effort came together to deliver the bears to the hospital on Dec. 23.

The teddy bear drive marked the second major donation organized by Local 1 apprentices this year.

Last September, Local 1 apprentices working on the BJC Expansion project came together to raise funds to purchase toys for Child Life Services at St. Louis Children's Hospital. The effort was led by apprentice Tony Scarpace and supported by site steward Josh Peniston. A generous outpouring of support by St Louis Building and Construction Trades union members culminated in more than $4,000 in donations.

These are just two examples of the good deeds unions and union members perform to give back to the communities where they live and work all year long.

IBEW Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs offered a special thanks to the young men and women of the apprenticeship program for their continued efforts to give back to the community.

“I like the initiative that our apprentices have taken to get involved in the community and, in this instance, to help kids that certainly are at a disadvantage of other kids going into the holidays and not being able to go home,” Jacobs said.

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