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January 2021

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Denver Local Renovates Home for Special Needs Family

When the Gines family had to move out of their home because of its dilapidated state, they weren't expecting to get a renovation out of it, but thanks to Denver Local 68 members and others in the Colorado Building and Construction Trades Council, that's just what happened.

"As soon as we heard about their situation, we wanted to help," said Local 68 Business Manager Jeremy Ross. "Something had to be done and we wanted to be part of it."

Local 68 learned of the family through county commissioner Chaz Tedesco, who reached out to the Building Trades for help. The family of 10 includes eight children with special needs. One daughter has cancer and is currently in the hospital. Another sibling is on dialysis after having had two kidney transplants.

"They had more than their hands full," Ross said.

The Gines inherited their home from the mother's parents, but it was in need of major repairs. There was rodent damage, the electrical wasn't up to code, a sewer line broke in the basement. Eventually the county determined the house was no longer safe to live in. It would essentially need to be demolished and rebuilt. That's when the Building Trades and others in the community stepped in to help.

"When you see someone who needs a home, and that's in our wheelhouse, you give them a helping hand," Ross said.

Signatory contractor Sturgeon Electric donated materials and will handle the service change. The Labor Management Cooperation Committee pledged up to $10,000 as well, Ross said. Once the family is able to move back in, they will have an entirely new electrical system, from service to switches, complete with tamper-proof outlets.

"I would like to thank Jeremy and all the officers of 68 for their leadership, but most importantly I would like to thank and commend these members of Local 68 for showing their community just what brotherhood means," said Eighth District International Vice President Jerry Bellah. "I am so proud of the way they have represented their local and the entire IBEW. "

There has also been an outpouring of support from the greater Denver community, reported the local ABC affiliate Denver 7. While the family initially had to separate, with some children moving in with relatives and others staying with their parents in a motel, they've since been reunited and are staying in an apartment until the renovation is complete. Donations from the community have helped cover their costs.

Asbestos issues have delayed the project, but Ross said they should be done early this year. Among those helping from Local 68 are members of the local's RENEW committee, the IBEW's initiative to engage younger members of the union.

"RENEW has been great through all this," Ross said. "Someone has stepped up practically every time we've asked."

The committee got started around spring of 2019 and have done trunk-or-treat events for Halloween, installed lights at a group home and volunteered at a women's shelter.

"They've really been on a tear," Ross said. "Young people with a bunch of young energy is a great asset to have."

Ross says that Local 68's 2,000 inside construction members have been deemed essential in terms of coronavirus restrictions. And they know how fortunate that makes them.

"When you have opportunity, you have an obligation," Ross said. "Helping a family in need is part of that."


Denver Local 68 members were part of a community-wide effort to renovate the home of a family with eight special needs children.

Credit: John Kahrhoff

IBEW Local 1 Lights Up for Suicide Prevention

The headquarters of the IBEW's very first local looked a little different this past fall, at least from the outside, as it lit up its building with teal and purple lights in honor of National Suicide Prevention Month.

"With an issue this important, we wanted to be part of the effort to help raise awareness," said St. Louis Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs.

Each September, mental health advocates and others use National Suicide Prevention Month to spotlight a topic that's often very difficult to talk about, making actions like Local 1's all the more important because they draw attention to the issue in a curiosity-piquing, nonjudgmental way.

Jacobs said that when they last renovated the hall, they made all the outdoor lights LED, so the colors can be easily changed at any time, something the local does periodically throughout the year. So when they heard about the work the area building trades were doing to do support the issue, they were all in. And members appreciated the gesture of glowing teal and purple solidarity.

"Suicide is an issue that hits close to home for those of us in the building trades," Jacobs said. "Unfortunately, we have lost far too many to suicide."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that overall suicide rates in the U.S. have increased. It's been the 10th leading cause of death since 2008. And the hardships wrought by the coronavirus have only contributed to a further mental health erosion. A weekly CDC report from June 2020 found that 40% of adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use and that 11% of adults seriously considered suicide.

Construction workers have one of the highest rates of suicide compared to other industries, according to the CDC. In 2016, the rate for men in construction and extraction occupations was almost twice the total suicide rate for non-military working men, and five times greater than the rate for all fatal work injuries in the industry.

"The construction industry is a tough job," Jacobs said "You don't get paid if you don't work, so guys will often take a couple pills to get through an injury and in some cases things spiral out of control."

According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, research has shown that people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks about them in a caring way, and that acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce, rather than increase, suicidal thoughts. Similarly, individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed and more hopeful after speaking to someone who listens to them without judgment.

"We want to do whatever we can to help our brothers and sisters who may be suffering," Jacobs said. "We're here for them and we want them to know that."

If you are in crisis or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255). If you're uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.


St. Louis Local 1 lit up the outside of its headquarters in teal and purple last September as part of National Suicide Prevention Month.

Credit: John Kahrhoff