By the numbers, there were seven pickup trucks, 30 deliveries, six food banks and $15,000 in cash donations to help feed the community that Chester, Pa., Local 654 has served proudly for 80 years.
Local 654 organizer Brian Kelly, driving, and 35-year member Tommy Loughead, head to a local food bank to deliver groceries and household supplies. The food drive’s bounty of donations required seven pickup trucks making a total of 30 trips.
The acts of kindness, generosity and solidarity, though, were countless.
“It takes everybody,” said 35-year member Tommy Loughead, a journeyman inside wireman who serves on the executive board. “All our local brothers and sisters, everybody came together and did a great job. It was really uplifting.”
Two months into the COVID-19 crisis, volunteers including Loughead and Business Manager Paul Mullen pitched in at a food drive sponsored by state Rep. Jennifer O’Mara. The urgency was clear. At a virtual meeting of the executive board, they proposed that Local 654 run its own.
“We know that food pantries are in need of resources more than ever, and our members aren’t the type to just sit back and not get involved,” Mullen said. “We wanted to do our part. The response was unbelievable.”
They scheduled the event for three hours on Saturday, June 6, ran two full-page ads in the newspaper, hung flyers in grocery stores and take-out restaurants, and spread the word on social media.
Some eager donors began dropping off groceries early, but most rolled through the carefully planned drop-off site in Local 654’s parking lot at the appointed hour.
“At our local hall, we set up tables, so we wouldn’t have contact,” Loughead said. “They’d drive through and pop their trunks. We’d unload the donations and put them on pickup trucks to go to six different food banks.”
Mullen said three other IBEW locals in the region were especially generous. Philadelphia Local 98 filled a U-Haul truck and drove a half hour southwest to the local’s Boothwyn, Pa., hall, near the state’s shared border with Delaware and New Jersey. More groceries came from Trenton, N.J., Local 269, an hour away, and members from Philadelphia Local 614, arrived with $1,100 they raised on a GoFundMe page.
In all, the local collected $15,000 in cash donations that they will use to buy more groceries in coming weeks for food banks in Delaware and Chester counties.
Philadelphia Local 98 members arrived at the food drive with a U-Haul truck full of donations. Members of Locals 269 and 614 also gave generously.
“We have been struggling to keep up with distributing food and supplies because of COVID -19,” said Rev. Ben Greimer, whose church runs a food pantry. “The food and supplies from IBEW 654 will greatly benefit our compassion ministry.”
Jean Beck of the Trainer Community Food Bank said through her charity alone, “Local 654 has helped feed the 45 families, 15 veterans and 15 seniors that we serve.”
Among many other good deeds, the local sent 1,500 meals to workers at three hospitals on designated days in May, which had the bonus of bringing much-needed business to an area catering company. “Our local is founded in community service and all of our members love getting involved and giving back,” Mullen said.
More plans are in the works, said Loughead, whose father and two brothers were also Local 654 journeymen. Looking toward the holidays and the certainty that more families than ever will be in need, he said a toy drive may be on the fall agenda.
“On the news, you see people out of work, people who live paycheck to paycheck and now they don’t have a paycheck,” he said. “We’re trying to do whatever we can.”