IBEW Local 309 retirees help prepare a purr-fect shelter for stray cats


Illinois Correspondent

DAN SODAM installs a switch box.
MIKE HAYES installs wiring in the ceiling.

Granite City, IL – The tireless retiree volunteers from IBEW Local 309 have found a new way to give back, this time by helping prepare a no-kill shelter for stray cats.

The Pound Pets Inc. Cat Rescue and Sanctuary volunteer group has a familiar older commercial building at 2700 Edwards, on Granite’s southwest side. It has been a furniture store, a church and a confectionary, but it was seriously in need of an electrical upgrade.

The volunteer group started out talking to a non-union contractor who made them a bid of $14,000 to install new wiring. Local 309 Business Agent Chris Hankins heard about it and arranged for the retirees group to do it for free.

BILL HAGENE runs wire conduit through a wood frame. – All Labor Tribune photos

“It was being done by a non-union outfit,” said the retirees’ leader, Bill Hagene. “They had left them with a bid on how much it would take to do what we’re doing right here, and we’re probably doing a lot more than they were going to do.”

The crew of five retirees put the finishing touches on the job on Jan. 28.

Hankins had originally been thinking of bringing in a crew of friends to do the work, but the retirees were readily available, Hagene said

“We happened to be in between projects,” he said. “COVID-19 has kind of slowed everything down. So we were like, ‘Heck yeah, we can come in and do this.”

They worked for most of two weeks, roughing in walls, switches and lighting and even changing over the electrical service.

DAVE RAKERS prepares for a difficult floor installation.

“They used to have to come inside to read the meter – and the power company frowns on doing that,” Hagene noted. “It’s come a long way quickly. One of the biggest things I was concerned about was getting all this pipe run through the wood studs. It’s a little bit tricky, but to these guys, it’s no big deal.”

As the retirees finished their work, the Pound Pets group brought in lunch from Ravenelli’s and gift cards for each of the retirees.

In addition to Hagene, the group included Mike Hayes, Dave Rakers, Scott Nicholson and Dan Sodam. Hankins came in to  help as well.

“They’re awesome – we’re so thankful for them,” said Deb White, board president and founder of the group. “We’re very cash-strapped. We’re not a big rescue group, and we haven’t qualified for any grants yet, so we go by donations, and our vet bills are anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000 a year.”

Pound Pets had to cancel two main fundraisers last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re very much on a shoestring,” White said.

Since 2016, when cats have been brought to the city’s Animal Control department, the Pound Pets group has taken charge of them, cleaning them, dealing with their medical issues and finding them homes.

“Once the cats are done with seven-day holdovers at Animal Control, they’ll be moved here, and that will free up cages at Animal Control,” White said. “If they can’t be adopted out, this will be the place where they live until they die.”

Hagene said the retirees were glad to be able to help.

“It’s been a great project for us,” he said. “Right now it’s just cats, but they’re hoping to do both dogs and cats in the future.”




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