September 2005 IBEW Journal
Habitat for Humanity
Powered by IBEW
“A Hand Up, Not a Handout”
Sometimes it seems like the union’s good work and favorable media attention is the toughest connection of all for IBEW activists to complete.
Local 127 members Jerry Talamonti, left, and Ralph Rose, Jimmy Carter, IBEW Sixth District Residential Coordinator Jim Dudley, Local 153 Business Manager Mike Compton, Sixth District International Representative Dave Ruhmkorff, Local 153 members Mike Fenrick and D.J. Constable.
As over 160 IBEW members from five states traveled to Southwest Michigan in June to join former President Jimmy Carter, his family, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Governor Jennifer Granholm in building 20 houses for deserving community residents, the connection illuminated the IBEW’s heart and soul. (See Local Lines)
“This wasn’t a handout, it was a hand up,” said an IBEW volunteer, describing the Jimmy Carter Work Project, sponsored by the nonprofit organization, Habitat for Humanity.
Sixth District Vice President Jeff Lohman and several international representatives were among the members who participated in the project. “This project strengthened the resolve of members to make the union movement better by giving something to their communities. Many told me that they would be offering to help in their own local communities,” said Vice President Lohman.
IBEW members joined individual volunteers and others sent by corporations and non-profit organizations, to build houses that will be sold to first-time homeowners with mortgage support from the state of Michigan.
IBEW members, who wired houses in Benton Harbor, Michigan, joined other union electricians and apprentices who completed work on 31 houses in Detroit and 20 in Hillsdale, Missouri (see below).
The Herald-Palladium of southwest Michigan carried a long feature story on the IBEW’s work on the project, hosted by Local 153 in South Bend, Indiana.
Kathleen Klimek, a Local 153 member who just completed her apprenticeship three months ago, told the newspaper, “Being a single parent, I know how difficult it is to start (owning) a house.” She said that working through Habitat for Humanity is a way to get new homeowners “on their feet.”
“I have never been more proud to be an IBEW member than I am right now,” said Mike Compton, business manager/ financial secretary of Local 153, which hosted the event.
Over 36 local unions contributed funds or participated in the Jimmy Carter Work Project. A full list of locals is available at www.ibew.org.
Below is a list of Locals who were involved and the level of their commitment:
JIMMY CARTER WORK PROJECT PARTICIPANTS
MANPOWER AND MONETARY CONTRIBUTIONS
Eau Claire, WI
St. Paul, MN
$500.00 & 2 Men
South Bend, IN
Green Bay, WI
Ann Arbor, MI
Fort Wayne, IN
Stevens Point, WI
Battle Creek, MI
$100.00 & 14 men
West Frankfort, IL
Terre Haute, IN
IBEW Sixth District
Michigan Building Trades
$500.00 & 1 Man
Working Persons Store
$500.00 & 1 Man
St. Louis Electrical Connection
Mobilizes Volunteer Army
The St. Louis Electrical Connection, a joint project of IBEW Local 1 and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), mobilized an army of union electricians and contractors to wire 20 Habitat for Humanity homes in the St. Louis suburb of Hillsdale, Missouri.
More than 25 union electricians and several union electrical contractors began work on the first six homes on June 18. The Electrical Connection has, since then, installed 15 miles of wiring, donated $60,000 in material and services and helped create a new community for disadvantaged homebuyers, who began moving in during August.
Savannah Members Called “Personal Angels Sent from Heaven”
From left, Anthony James, Savannah Electric president and CEO;
IBEW Local 1208 storm team members: Bobby Tippins, Marty
Seckinger, Wayne Joyner and Jason Webb; and David Ratcliffe,
Southern Company president and CEO.
Wayne Joyner, Marty Seckinger, Bobby Tippins and Jason Webb, members of Savannah, Georgia, Local 1208, were hard at work helping Florida victims of Hurricane Ivan last fall, when they received word that an elderly woman needed help.
The linemen had restored her power the previous day, but it was out again and she was in a desperate condition. They remembered that the woman and her disabled son’s troubles had already multiplied when, after being evacuated to a shelter, a thief stole a large sum of cash that she was carrying.
The crew broke their lunch and restored the woman’s power. Opening their wallets, they gave her what they could spare and then solicited more from co-workers.
“You are my personal angels sent down from heaven,” said the woman, after receiving the proceeds of the collection.
In April CEO David Ratcliffe of Southern Company, Savannah Electric’s parent, presented the Local 1208 members the 2004 Presidential Award for Outstanding Customer Service.
Portland Local 125 Transplant Donor
—A Perfect Match
“I have given birth to three children and now I have given life to an adult. It feels real good.”—Ja’m’a Evans
As the crew at Pacific Power in Warrenton, Oregon, (Portland, Local 125), finished their morning coffee and got prepared for work one morning last April, IBEW foreman Chuck Norton came in with some bad news.
Nedra Norton (right) celebrates her successful kidney transplant with her donor, Ja’m’a Evans, Portland, Oregon, Local 125.
Norton’s wife, Nedra Norton, was hospitalized and scheduled for a toe amputation. Her kidney, transplanted ten years prior, had failed. To stay alive, she would need dialysis and another transplant.
Two local members, Dave Mills and Eric Johnson, immediately offered to donate their kidneys, but were not suitable donors.
By August, Nedra Norton’s leg was amputated below the knee. Ja’m’a Evans, a Local 125 meter reader, visited her at home. After a long talk, she offered to donate a kidney. “We both knew that she would be the one,” said Norton.
On June 6, Nedra received Evan’s kidney. Five days after surgery, the Nortons took a walk with their three dogs down a nearby logging road. “I feel more alive,” she says, now able to help her husband care for the rest of their menagerie—two cats, four goats and chickens.
Evans was off work for six weeks. “Surgery wasn’t too bad,” she says. “I was ready for it.” Jackie Scott, Evans’s supervisor was just as ready to recognize her generosity. “Ja’m’a is one of those giving, conscientious employees. What more sacrifice could anyone make for one who is not a member of their family?” asks Scott, who nominated Evans for Pacific Power’s “Spirit of Excellence” award, which she will receive in October.