Southwestern Illinois Building Trades volunteers, retirees work to renovate St. Vincent DePaul Community Center

IBEW Local 309 retirees Dave Rakers (left) and Dan Sodam bend a pipe using some muscle power as part of the ongoing renovations at the St. Vincent DePaul Community Center in East St. Louis, IL. – Labor Tribune photo

Illinois Correspondent

East St. Louis, IL – Volunteers from Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades unions have been helping renovate an important resource for the community, the St. Vincent DePaul Community Center.

St. Vincent plays a vital role helping the poor of southern Illinois, providing daily meals, a free store, a help center and an outreach center. But the old, rambling building on State Street was in serious need of renovation and repair.

Union members, retirees and apprentices have been working with the help of their contractors to improve the bathrooms and drywall, fix the roof, expand the dining room, update the kitchen, add air conditioning to the free store, create a day area for classes and computers, and enlarge the laundry and shower facilities.


IBEW Local 309 retiree Bill Hagene, who has volunteered on a number of community projects in recent years, said he’s been amazed at how much work has been done at St. Vincent DePaul already, thanks to the hard work of union volunteers and the generosity of their locals.

For example, Sheet Metal Workers Local 268 from Caseyville donated labor and helped pay for three new rooftop heating and air-conditioning units to replace two old ones. They removed the old ones and helped install the new ones, plus ductwork and relocation of the kitchen exhaust hood.

“The Tinners kicked in a bunch of money to help pay for that, and then they did a bunch of free labor for it,” Hagene said, adding that the

installation was timely because of the onset of winter weather. “They had little single units here and there, but if it had gotten real cold, they might have had an issue.”


Members of Steamfitters Local 439 came out with Business Manager Totsie Bailey and spent a day reworking the kitchen and rooftop gas lines and removing the old system.

“It was amazing,” Hagene said. “I thought we’d have more breathing room, but Totsie told me, ‘We’ll have it done in a day’ – and they did.”

Project Manager John Holland has been coordinating the volunteer efforts and said he has been amazed at the support of the union members and their contractors.

“It’s really worked out great,” Holland said. “It’s been overwhelming.”


Among the unions helping:

Electricians Local 309 renovated and upgraded the electrical distribution system with new wall and ceiling rough-ins and code compliant updates.

• Painters District Council 58 apprentices provided labor for taping and painting.

• Laborers Local 100 sent workers for concrete floor demolition and plumbing excavation.

• Plumbers & Gasfitters Local 360 sent apprentices and materials for wall rough-in and trim in restrooms, showers and the kitchen.

• St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council provided reimbursement for manpower to install drywall.

• Floor Layers Local 1310 sent apprentices to install plank flooring and base.


Contractors and their representatives also helped, including Bel-O-Man; Great Southwestern Illinois Association of Plumbing, HVAC and Mechanical Contractors; architect Michelle Braddock, Holland Construction Services, Hanks Excavation, Jim Taylor Inc., VonAlst Operating LLC, Missouri Terrazzo, Philips Plastering, White Oak Constructions, Negwar Materials, Liese Lumber, McCullough’s Flooring, Sherwin Williams Fairview Heights, Nations Food Service, Pass Security and Commercial Door and Hardware Service. 


In the latest newsletter of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul Belleville Council, Executive Director Pat Hogrebe said the renovation is vital to the services the Council provides in East St. Louis.

“The gospel is calling us to continue our service to the poor, but we must make changes to meet the demands of our expanding ministries,” she said.

Services to the community include the daily Cosgrove’s Kitchen luncheon from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., where church parishes bring fresh casseroles and caterers provide desserts.

To volunteer or donate, contact Hogrebe at 618-799-8505 or go online to


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