Members of Trenton, N.J., Local 269 deliver a supply of protective masks and goggles — as well as some sweet treats — to staffers at Jefferson Bucks Hospital, one of six hospitals in the local’s jurisdiction to receive some of the gear it collected recently.

No state but New York has been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than New Jersey. And while media reports have largely focused on New York City’s overwhelmed hospitals and the Empire State’s astonishing infection and mortality numbers, New Jersey’s IBEW locals have focused their attention and efforts on their own first responders in need.

Members of Asbury Park, N.J., Local 400, including state Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, delivered supplies to CentraState Health in April.
Photo Credit: CentraState Health

In April, the state’s six construction locals donated more than 100,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to health care workers and first responders, drawing praise from the recipients as well as from labor ally Gov. Phil Murphy.

State political director Ian Leonard, a member of Folsom, N.J., Local 351, initially sourced more than 60,000 Tyvek suits, which he and Local 351, Paterson Local 102, Jersey City Local 164, Trenton Local 269, Asbury Park Local 400 and New Brunswick Local 456 donated to Murphy for the state to distribute as needed.

But that was just the start.

Over the next days and weeks, Local 351 donated 5,000 masks and 1,000 protective gowns to local first responders and hospitals. Local 456 came up with another 500 Tyvek suits and 1,000 masks. Local 400 donated 9,000 masks along with 30 cases of hand sanitizer and $3,000 in food to various community organizations. And Local 269 sourced 21,000 masks, 4,000 gowns and 2,100 pairs of safety goggles.

The six construction locals also donated $120,000 to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.

“I’m just really, really proud of how all our brothers and sisters have stepped up on this,” said Local 351 Business Manager Daniel Cosner. “The IBEW is always there when people are dealing with the worst, and that’s when our members are at their best. I can’t think of a better example in our state.”

A delivery from Local 400 to CentraState Health was met with gratitude from the hospital system’s President and CEO John Gribbin, who tweeted his thanks to Business Manager Robert Shimo and Local 400 member and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling for donations of masks and sanitizer.

Local 269 Business Manager Stephen Aldrich said delivering the desperately needed PPE was a way to give back to the doctors and nurses his members work alongside frequently in the hospitals his local serves. ““We have a connection with these hospitals because we do all of their electrical work,” he said. “The shortages mean some nurses are being asked to use the same mask longer than they should and to wear gowns for a couple of days instead of for just one shift.”

“The men and women in our hospitals and medical facilities have been working day in and day out to keep our community healthy in this tough time,” said Local 269 Assistant Manager Wayne DeAngelo, who is also an assemblyman representing New Jersey’s 14th Legislative District. “We need to back them up in this fight any way we can and to show our appreciation.”

And the local didn’t stop with just life-saving PPE. They put a smile on the faces of the nurses and doctors at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s Hamilton Township location and two Capital Health Hospital facilities and at the St. Mary’s Medical Center, Jefferson Bucks and Lower Bucks hospitals in Pennsylvania with the delivery of more than 50 dozen sticky buns from the popular Fritz’s Bakery in Bucks County.

“As a friend once told me, ‘Remember the world is round,” Leonard said. “We’re all in this together and we can’t hide from each other.”