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Michigan Apprentices Lend a Hand to Local Nonprofits


June 13, 2012

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For many young people with disabilities, horse riding is a proven therapy that can teach valuable life skills and offer soothing calmness. Now, one facility that specializes in such treatments is getting a big boost from Michigan IBEW members.


The Beekman Therapeutic Riding Center in Lansing could not afford to update its 30-year-old facilities and equipment. So last spring, Lansing Local 665 apprentices volunteered their skills to modernize the center, which teaches riding skills to students who need physical and cognitive supports.

Three apprentices installed and wired two automatic horse watering systems at the riding center, including watering boxes that automatically refill and heaters to keep the water flowing even in frigid temperatures. No longer will the center’s volunteers have to struggle to haul a heavy hose out of the greenhouse or deal with frozen water lines.

Lansing Electrical JATC Training Director Lawrence Hidalgo Jr. said this was an appealing project for his apprentices:

Our apprenticeship program is known for doing community work. As soon as I received the call I knew my students would want to help out.

The riding facility is part of the Marvin E. Beekman Center, a program that provides assistance to those with special needs so they can achieve their full potential. Therapeutic riding offers students companionship, responsibility, confidence, leadership and vocational and educational skills, says the center’s staff.

The riding program began in 1979 with a small group of weekly volunteers during the warmer months. Today, Beekman Therapeutic provides year-round services to 30-40 students per week with the help of nearly 50 volunteers.

Even after receiving a grant for renovations, the center was limited by a lean budget. That’s when Beekman Program Manager Janet Gross was referred to Hidalgo Jr., who immediately recognized the unique opportunity for his apprentices to combine on-the-job experience with local community outreach.

Hildalgo Jr. and his apprentices received high marks from the center staff. Gross said:

They really did a top-notch job and everyone was great to work with. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Hidalgo Jr. and Gross also coordinated to have four apprentices wire lights and electrical outlets at a pool barn on the Beekman site that houses equipment for the local Special Olympics. Anne Goudie, director of Special Olympics for Ingham and Eaton counties, said the upgrades help with security because staff often returns from the games after dark to drop off equipment.

“We were grateful to get so much help on these projects,” added Gross. “When they turned on those automatic watering systems and gave them life, it was a golden moment for us.”

To see the riding center’s newly renovated facility, visit the Beekman Therapeutic Riding Center Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/btrc2901.