Elbert Walters, director of Powering Chicago and past Local 134 business agent, shops for local retirees at Costco to help them stay home and safe during the coronavirus crisis. Business Manager Donald Finn and Recording Secretary Kevin Connolly
     joined him on the shopping trip in late March; apprentices helped package the food and deliver it to more than 100 homes.

As volunteers delivered care packages of food to Chicago Local 134 retirees and widows at the end of March, Elbert Walters said it was a little like “reverse trick-or-treat.”

Apprentices and business agents, traveling separately to retirees’ homes, rang bells and hustled away as grateful recipients waved and hollered “Thank you!” from their doorsteps.

“It was an amazing experience for everyone,” said Walters, who helped execute the project in his first month as the director of Powering Chicago, a labor-management partnership between Local 134 and electrical contractors.

Elbert Walters unloads groceries for retirees in a special check-out lane that Costco opened for him and fellow Local 134 shoppers, Business Manager Donald Finn and Recording Secretary Kevin Connolly.

He and Local 134 Business Manager Donald Finn put their heads together after a member approached Finn about helping retirees during the coronavirus crisis.

“We know that the older generation can be more susceptible to severe complications from this disease, so we wanted to make it as easy and safe as possible for them to get the supplies they need,” Walters said.

With some 7,000 retirees, the local put out a call for those most housebound and in need. “We had to make sure we could come through,” Finn said. “We didn’t want to give false hope.”

Finn, Walters and Recording Secretary Kevin Connolly headed to an area Costco to fill carts and trolleys with loaves of bread and non-perishables such as peanut butter, tuna, crackers and granola bars.

Because stores have limited quantities to prevent hoarding, each shopper used his own Costco membership card and kind employees offered their personal cards to help them purchase what the retirees needed, with Powering Chicago footing the bill.

About 15 apprentice and staff volunteers divided the groceries into care packages and helped deliver them to more than 100 homes throughout the Chicago area.

Finn said calls and emails have been pouring in from appreciative retirees. “Oh my gosh, there’s been a tremendous response,” he said. “Even people who have said they’re fine and didn’t need help have said ‘thank you’ for offering.”

Walters, a journeyman wireman and business agent before taking on his new role at Powering Chicago, said it’s all part of being a union family.

“We stand on the shoulders of our retirees and the that path they carved for us,” he said. “Our mission statement at Powering Chicago is ‘Better Construction, Better Careers, Better Communities,’ and this fits right in with that. We take care of each other.”

Do you have stories of everyday IBEW heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic? Whether it’s showing up for a critical job or pitching in to help community members in need, we want to hear about it. Send us an email at media@ibew.org.