By Mary Ann O’Toole Holley
St. Louis – It was the kind of day that makes you want to stay in bed, especially when it’s a volunteer event that’s ringing your alarm clock so early.
Thunderclouds rumbled, rain poured periodically and wind whipped up a biting chill.
Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers didn’t mind.
More than 300 IBEW Local 1 members poured into their Union Hall at 6 a.m. May 7 for the 13th annual Rebuilding Together Saturday. They were dressed and ready for the annual one-day blitz that sends them making repairs of all sorts in the homes of low-income elderly and disabled homeowners in the St. Louis Metro area who could not otherwise afford them.
IBEW Local 1 journeymen, wiremen, journeyman residential wiremen and apprentices and Local 1 affiliated contractors are part of Rebuilding Day, as are other unions who assembled at various other locations throughout the metro area, including Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, Glaziers Local 513 and Sheet Metal Workers International Union.
‘IT GETS YOU OUT THERE’
Corey Galezyski, an IBEW 1 first-year apprentice, said it was his first time volunteering for Rebuilding.
“It gets you out there to meet people, and for people to see union members at work helping the community,” Galezyski said. “I always like to volunteer whenever I can.”
John Terrell, an IBEW 1 Journeyman, said he’s been helping several years now, doing jobs like fixing front porch lights or indoor light fixtures.
“It’s nice,” Terrell said. “It helps a lot of people.”
It’s his job to make sure all the materials are in place at the hall—materials paid for by Union electricians through the IBEW’s Electrical Connection, a collaboration between IBEW and NECA. Members pay into the fund through payroll deductions.
This year, Idleburg said he inspected 23 homes, made a materials list for each of the homes and scheduled homes based on the number of teams expected.
"When the teams of electricians go out, I monitor the jobs,” Idleburg said. “We don’t want any confusions.”
HELPING IS EASY WHEN YOU SEE THE NEED
IBEW Local 1 Business Representative Dave Roth said helping the community is easy when you see the issues so many low-income homeowners are facing.
Roth coordinates the Electrical Connection’s Rebuilding Together campaign throughout the year.
“So many of the people are on limited funds and get scammed or taken advantage of by unethical non-union contractors who do a poor, unsafe job,” Roth said. “It breaks your heart to see some of the situations.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger turned out to thank those who gave of their skills and time to help people who may not otherwise be safe in their own homes.
“It’s a great day and a phenomenal turnout,” Stenger said. “You have a lot to be proud of. You’ll make these peoples’ homes safer and their lives better. Thank you on behalf of the citizens of St. Louis County.”
Since 2003, the Electrical Connection has supported Rebuilding Together, donating an estimated $800,000 in labor and materials to improve about 500 homes for elderly, disabled and low-income St. Louisans.