A longtime youth baseball and
softball program in Missouri saw its season put in jeopardy by an aging,
dangerous electrical system.
Aging and damaged wire had become a safety hazard at the Twin City Little League in Festus, Mo. St. Louis Local 1 and signatory contractor Schaeffer Electric fixed it at no charge to the league.
Instead, a call to St. Louis Local 1 and a signatory contractor fixed the problem in time for the season-opening pitch. And, at no cost to the league.
“A lot of our electricians have kids that play on ball teams,” said Local 1 member Charlie Schaeffer of St. Louis-based Schaeffer Electric, who donated material and labor to the project. “We’re real sensitive to the spirit that stimulates in a community. It’s just a good cause and we’re happy to be part of it.”
Twin City Little League is in Festus, about 35 miles south of St. Louis. League president Scott White said it has been around for 77 years and has played more than 50 years at its current location. About 550 boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 16 annually participate.
It has been a resilient part of the community. The league – which draws players from Festus and neighboring Crystal City -- has survived natural disasters, including being left underwater by the overflowing Mississippi River during a 1993 flood that was the costliest in U.S. history.
But its aging lighting system had become a safety hazard.
“It’s been 50 years of volunteers helping however they can to piece it together and keep it working,” White said. “It didn’t get bad for any particular reason. It was just an aging system.”
“That all came to a culmination this winter to the point where we had to do something just to operate normally,” he added.
Fortunately, a member of the league’s board passed the news along to his father-in-law, a Local 1 member. He contacted business agent Chuck DeMoulin, who visited and saw exposed wiring on light poles, endangering fans and players. Conduit wiring that could have served as safety protection was hard to find.
That was mid-February – not much time to get the facility ready for the upcoming season, especially with April and May being two of the rainiest months of the year.
So DeMoulin reached out to Jim Curran, executive vice president of the Electrical Connection – a partnership between Local 1 and the local chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association. White filled out the required papers for assistance and DeMoulin and Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs contacted Schaeffer
He visited the site soon afterward and dispatched two employees -- journeyman wireman Matt Copeland and lineman Chris Blank -- in mid-April to make the needed repairs.
St. Louis Local 1 members and Schaeffer Electric employees Matt Copeland, left, and Chris Blank, who handled electrical repairs at the Twin City Little League.
“It was a mess,” Schaeffer said. “We wanted to make sure it was as safe as possible for the kids playing and all the other kids running around. If we’re going to get involved, we wanted to make sure everything we touched was safe. We’re not going to come out and do a halfway job.”
White said the league paid a nonunion electrical company $10,000 a few years ago to work on the lighting. None of the problems were fixed.
“When I heard that story [about the nonunion contractor], it made me even more determined to get something done for those people,” said DeMoulin, who also serves as president of the Jefferson County (Mo.) Labor Club. “I wanted to show them not just the generosity of the IBEW, but the quality and excellence of the IBEW.”
Copeland and Blank’s work allowed the league’s season to start on time with a normal schedule. Without them, league officials would have done away with night games and played on weekends, cutting into family time that most of the parents said they don’t want to give up, White said.
The two will return this summer to finish the job, including installing light fixtures the league purchased. The project’s total value is estimated to be about $5,000.
“It’s just great being able to help the little guys out,” said Copeland, who has worked for Schaeffer for 15 years and whose 15-year-old son plays high school baseball. “There is something about getting out there and playing baseball with your friends. I think every kid remembers that first time he plays under the lights.”
Jacobs noted Local 1 has been giving back to the St. Louis community for more than a century.
“I’ve been involved in coaching my children in youth sports for years and I know how much these activities mean to families,” he said. “When we heard about the situation in Festus, it was really a no-brainer to get involved. Commitment to the community is something that makes the IBEW special.”