When Bill Hagene retired five years ago, he didn’t want to completely stop working. So when his local approached him about doing some volunteer work, he was all in.
"This is right up my alley. I’m still in good health and want to give back to the community,” said Hagene, a member of Collinsville, Ill., Local 309. “And if I can help 309 too, all the better.”
The volunteer work involves ElectricPros, a group of Local 309 members and contractors that provides free electrical work to the community. Some of the work is done by a mix of retiree and active members, but the bulk is done by those who have hung up their tool belts.
The program started four years ago but really hit its stride in 2013, said Local 309 Business Manager Tim Evans. Most recently, they have worked with Habitat for Humanity, area high schools and an animal shelter.
| Collinsville, Ill., Local 309 retirees are giving back to the community through a partnership between the local and area contractors. Bill Hagene, left, and Danny Sodam use their truck to get around town and spread the word about the initiative.
Photo credit: Labor Tribune
The jobs come from various sources. The animal shelter project was suggested by a member’s wife. One of the high school projects came from a community member running into Evans at the grocery store. But Hagene was particularly excited about the Habitat for Humanity project.
“They approached me because they knew I had a passion for Habitat for Humanity,” Hagene said. “And the people at Habitat were ecstatic about having us.”
Getting good electrical work is usually the hardest part for them, said Hagene. “They were really happy to get people who know the local and national codes and have the expertise.”
One of the newer projects will involve working with Collinsville High. The school purchased a lot and will build a house from scratch. Once it’s built it will be auctioned off, but before that it will serve as a learning opportunity for students with an interest in the building trades. Hagene, along with other retirees, will show the students the nuts and bolts of doing electrical work.
“It could be a building block for apprenticeship,” Hagene said.
The 60-year-old Hagene often works with fellow young retirees like Danny Sodam, 59, and Scott Nicholson, 60, and has a roster of about 15 others. He’ll call them up for the house-building project, as well as upcoming work on the animal shelter, which will be on five acres of old farm land. For that, they will do two electrical services and install a new meter and panels. But he wants to get the older retirees engaged too.
“I was thinking of having the older guys come out to the farm for the animal shelter job and do some barbequing for everyone. It would make it inclusive, since they can’t do electrical work but still want to be involved,” Hagene said.
Hagene, Sodam and Nicholson drive a trailer equipped with tools and painted with an ElectricPros sign, part of a rebranding of the initiative and a way to get the word out. The hope is that as more people learn about them, more work will come in for Local 309, which helps the community as well as the retirees.
“It makes me happy, I’ll tell you that,” said Hagene of the opportunity to volunteer. And he says it’s a sentiment shared by his fellow retirees.
“It’s good to keep in touch with the community. And their wives are supportive too,” Hagene said. “It gets them out of the house.”