Top from left, Mike Ridge, Joe Vogt, Don Ridge
Bottom from left, John Lawrence, Pete DiNicoles, Domenick Luongo, Joe Goger, Pat O’Keefe (Local 400 Military Committee Chair) and Julius Moskowitz.
New Jersey IBEW Mounts Massive
‘Support Our Troops’ Effort
July/August IBEW Journal
Ask Patrick O’Keefe, a fourth-year IBEW apprentice, about how he initiated labor’s "Support the Troops" effort in central New Jersey and you will know immediately why community residents are beating down the doors of Asbury Park Local 400 with tons of supplies to send to soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq and U.S. military hospitals.
O’Keefe, who served in the U.S. Air Force in Bahrain in 1998, knew how satisfying it was to get packages from home with items that weren’t readily available overseas. So, in the words of Frank Neary, Local 400’s business manager and financial secretary, O’Keefe "took the ball and ran with it." He scored one huge touchdown.
Since last February, IBEW Local 400 has collected and shipped 20,000 pounds of goods and about $2,000 worth of phone cards. Over the holiday season alone, says O’Keefe, over 6,000 pounds of items, including batteries, hand wipes, razors and dry-mix Gatorade were sent by union members who gather Saturday mornings at the local hall to pack up donations.
With support from the Military Committee of Local 400 (co-founded by O’Keefe and member Joe Goger), International Representative Wyatt Earp, who serves as President of the Central Labor Council in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, and other IBEW locals, "Support Our Troops" has mobilized thousands of residents in surrounding communities. From entire school districts to Scout troops and PTAs, citizens of all stripes have joined in the efforts.
On June 8, 6,500 residents, including over 200 military members and their families, were out in force for "Support Our Troops Night" at a local stadium.
Kevin Seitz, a Local 400 member who served in Iraq last year, brought a 25-foot trailer from the New Jersey National Guard. Teamsters Local 469 brought a 60-foot trailer to carry the over 7,000 pounds of donations.
The "Support Our Troops" efforts have been recognized by President Edwin D. Hill. "We in the IBEW value our relationships with our neighbors," says President Hill. "The efforts of Patrick O’Keefe and our members in New Jersey to support men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces give new meaning to our slogan—‘A Union of Hearts and Minds.’"