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April 2018

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Indiana RENEW Members Help Local Animal Rescue

The first 24 hours are crucial when you're nursing an emaciated horse back to health, says Tammy Barnett, co-owner of the Horse Shoe Equine Rescue. That's why she's spent entire nights outside, in the freezing cold, monitoring and slowly feeding the neglected animals. Now, thanks to volunteers including members of Terre Haute, Ind., Local 725, those nights are over.

The rescue, located just outside Terre Haute, recently experienced an uptick in the number of animals in need — it takes in all kinds. It also runs on donations of time and money. So, with a grant from the Wabash Valley Community Foundation, Tammy and her husband and co-owner, Ron, were able to afford a new pole barn with power, which Local 725 members installed for free.

"We couldn't have gotten the barn without them," she said. "They've been a blessing."

When the local got the call to help, members of the Reach Out and Engage Next-gen Electrical Workers chapter stepped up. RENEW is the IBEW's initiative to encourage young workers to get involved with their local unions. Along with its counterpart in Canada, it comprises the RENEW/NextGen initiative.

"I thought it was a great opportunity, especially for our younger apprentices," said Will Penrod, Local 725's RENEW Chair. "They worked on switches and receptacles, and even a little motor work, while also helping the community and pushing back on that anti-union stigma."

Local 725 members have helped animal shelters before, usually just installing new lights. But the Barnetts needed something different, said organizer Shawn Stewart. Fortunately for the animal-loving couple, Stewart had recently built his own barn.

"Shawn had already gone through a lot of the trial and error, so we benefited from that," Tammy Barnett said.

About five members, including Stewart, have been volunteering their Saturdays to wire the new facility that will house the horses and hay and a tack room, where saddles and other equipment are kept. Some have even brought their kids with them, encouraged by Ron Barnett, to play with the animals.

"It can be hard to get away when you've got children, so being able to bring them was a real help," Stewart said. "And Ron was great with them. One time, we even all went out for pizza afterward."

The team has installed about 26 LED lights and a panel so far. Once more of the barn is built, they'll install overhead heaters and fans in the horse stalls and do the outdoor lighting. Supplies were donated by signatory contractor Crown Electric and others, Stewart said. They expect to finish sometime this summer.

"It's good for us to give back, and this is such a unique facility," Stewart said. "A lot of people don't know about us, and this is a good way to show that we're part of the community."

In addition to horses, the rescue, which opened around 2011, has taken in pigs, goats, donkeys and alpacas. When the weather permits, the Barnetts open the ranch to visits from the public, including developmentally disabled adults and children, to interact with the animals. Some of the adults help with cleaning and feeding. For many though, the animals provide some fun and even therapy. With the new facility, the Barnetts say they will be able to stay open year-round.

"We're just thrilled with everything they've done for us," Tammy Barnett said.


Members of Terre Haute, Ind., Local 725 help a local animal rescue wire its new barn. Pictured: Bob Mickelson, left, Travis Beckley and his son Jaxson and Will Penrod.

Connecticut RENEW Rallies to Help Paralyzed Teen

When the family of a paralyzed teen needed help making their home more accessible, members of New Haven, Conn., Local 90 jumped into action to donate their time and skills.

Last summer, Ryan Catlin of Southington, Conn., was on vacation with his family in Maine when the all-terrain vehicle he was riding flipped and threw him. The crash damaged the 15-year-old's spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from his chest down.

Word of Catlin's crash quickly spread throughout his community, and Local 90 was among several Southington organizations and businesses that rallied to support his family, donating materials and services to help refit their house to better accommodate the injured young man's special mobility needs.

"One of our members had a connection to the family and brought this to us," said Local 90 President Bob Woytowich. "We were willing to do whatever needed to be done. We didn't even look at the size of the project."

Some of the planned changes to the Catlins' home ran from the routine to the ambitious — from new paint and basic heating upgrades to the installation of a private bathroom and an elevator.

A handful of Local 90 members donated their time, performing services such as rough-ins and other wiring work to support the overall project. They juggled their schedules, priorities and family commitments to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

The Catlin project, Woytowich said, fits with the local's effort to boost young members' participation in IBEW's Reach Out and Engage Next-gen Electrical Workers initiative.

"Our business manager, Sean Daly, asked me to look to do something with RENEW," Woytowich said. "This is just the latest one of our projects. We have more planned, but we're taking them one at a time."

The mission of the union-wide RENEW/Next-Gen effort is to inspire the next generation of IBEW workers to become active in their locals. It was established by IBEW's 38th International Convention in 2011.

"Projects like this one are a positive way to get our younger members involved in the union," Woytowich said.

Local 90 apprentice Brendan Smiles told the Meriden, Conn., Record-Journal that IBEW members' work on the Catlin home reflects the union's desire to find ways to help out in the communities where members live and work.

"We've been in the community for a long time and we just want to start giving back," he said.

Described as a star student who had been physically active up until last summer's accident, Catlin has been slowly regaining some arm movement, the Record-Journal reported, and he has been taking high school classes online.

"The community has been fantastic," Catlin's father, Ken, told the newspaper. "There are a lot of people reaching out to help us on their own time, and we gratefully appreciate that."

International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said that RENEW/Next-Gen is part of a broader effort to invest in the future of the union and the larger labor movement.

"Greater involvement by local union members of all ages is critical to IBEW's growth," Stephenson said. "We're committed to making sure our younger members know that they're the future of this great union and to preparing them for that incredibly responsibility. Giving back to the communities that have given so much to us is just one of the many ways we do that."


New Haven, Conn., Local 90 members embraced IBEW's RENEW/Next-Gen initiative to help a local teen who was paralyzed following an ATV crash.

Reformed: Pennsylvania Local Writes
a Second Act for a Closed School

It didn't take a miracle for members of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Local 163 to turn a closed Catholic school into an IBEW-NECA joint training facility, but leaders hope the building's holy vibes will continue to bless the work being done inside.

"We looked at several commercial properties, warehouses and storefronts" as potential sites, said Local 163 Training Director John Nadolny. "That's how we found St. Stanislaus."

Located in a residential neighborhood in Nanticoke, a Wilkes-Barre suburb with a population of about 10,000, St. Stanislaus once served as an elementary school operated by the Roman Catholic church of the same name just across the street.

Lots of IBEW locals train members in spaces ranging from available spare rooms in union halls to large, custom-built facilities designed to suit a particular set of requirements. But recycling a closed school into a training facility is something of a rarity, Nadolny said — he had only heard of similar projects in Chicago and San Francisco.

In its heyday, Nanticoke was a bustling coal mining town that boasted six Catholic churches, several of which operated elementary schools, high schools or both. St. Stanislaus, built in the 1930s, closed its school in 2004, and for a few more years, the building continued to see some occasional use — for example, as a meeting space for the local Knights of Columbus chapter, as a haunted house for Halloween, or as a food pantry and homeless shelter.

As time went on, though, activities at the school grew less frequent, leaving the building unoccupied and unused for extended periods and making it a tempting target for vandalism. Broken windows were common, Nadolny said, and the Diocese of Scranton eventually put the property up for sale.

"We got the school at a good price," Nadolny said. "It was a good deal for all involved."

The two-story structure was a near-perfect fit for the hands-on training needs of Local 163 and its partners with the region's National Electrical Contractors Association chapter, said Nadolny, who also serves as director of the Wilkes-Barre Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee.

And although St. Stanislaus did not require costly retrofits, he said, the structure wasn't quite move-in ready immediately after the sale was finalized.

"No walls needed to be knocked down," Nadolny said, "but it needed some work to make it ADA compliant, and the wiring needed to be completely redone." Local 163 members took care of handling those projects, as well as thoroughly cleaning the building and installing modern LED lighting outside.

The gymnasium on the school's main floor provides a large open area that can be divided into two classrooms as needed. There also are five standard elementary school classrooms upstairs plus extra training space in the basement.

"We preserved and refinished all of the woodwork in the classrooms," Nadolny said. "We also use the original chalkboards. They work well for our theory calculations."

The brick building is solid, Nadolny said — so solid that, when the local tried to set up wireless internet service inside, members needed to install 12 separate Wi-Fi hotspots. The signal from just one could not be counted on to reliably penetrate the thick interior walls and provide good coverage for wireless devices, he said.

Three nights a week, about 60 apprentices attend three-hour technical training classes at St. Stanislaus, in addition to the education they get from working on contract jobs. Apprentices in the program can receive up to 60 college credits over the course of the five-year training program.

Twelve Local 163 journeymen wiremen serve as instructors at the St. Stanislaus facility. "We have specialists in every discipline," Nadolny said.

"The neighbors are thrilled to have the school being used," he said. "And the diocese is thrilled that we're using it to train people for careers."

Nadolny recently told Wilkes-Barre's The Citizens' Voice that the training center is a valuable resource because the hard work of an electrician is not for everyone.

"It's very dangerous work," he said. "We teach them how to be safe."

There is a big demand for electricians, Nadolny said, and the best candidates, of course, are skilled, knowledgeable and dependable.

"We've never had a deficiency of interest in classes," Nadolny said.

The paper noted that the U.S. Department of Labor projects a 9 percent rise in the need for electrician employment by 2026.

"This isn't a job," Nadolny said. "It's a career."

Local 163's Mark Gatusky, one of the training center's students, told the Citizen's Voice that he had wanted to be an electrician since he was a child. He added that his father, uncles and both grandfathers were IBEW electricians with Local 163.

Gatusky, 37, is in the final year of his five-year apprenticeship, which he decided to pursue after spending several years in an office job.

"I found myself much happier doing this and working with my hands," said Gatusky, who told the paper that he has worked at natural gas power plants, a water park, and Allentown's PPL Center arena. "It's a creative way to make a living. No day is the same."


IBEW and NECA officials joined Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Local 163 leaders for the opening of its new IBEW-NECA training center.