Giving back. It’s a fundamental premise of the IBEW and the labor movement in general.

That’s why about 60 members of the IBEW’s RENEW group gathered Jan. 15 in Atlanta to help renovate and beautify a community home for children in need.

Members of the young workers’ group traveled to the city to attend the 25th Electrical Workers Minority Caucus conference.

“It was really an eye opener to see what the kids there needed,” said Seattle Local 77 member Damian Hernandez, a lineman working for Lewis County Public Utility District.

Members of the IBEW’s RENEW group gathered Jan. 15 in Atlanta to offer services to the United Methodist Children’s Home

Members gathered at the United Methodist Children’s Home to paint offices, perform yard and gardening work, assist with trash collection and more. The organization offers shelter for families with small children, houses older youth who are in transitional living programs and facilitates foster care.

“It gives you a good feeling inside,” said Hernandez, 35, who is a shop steward and serves on several committees at his local. “We all had our conference shirts on, and we just got into action. I’ve never done a community service activity where there were so many people.”

The conference was planned to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, Jan. 14-18. Each EWMC conference includes a day of service in the host city’s community. Numerous faith-based and community service organizations across the U.S. mark the weekend with service activities in the spirit of King, who once said, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’”

About 600 IBEW members, including nearly 200 young workers, attended this year’s conference.

“It’s inspiring to help an organization like the children’s home, and it’s great to be working alongside so many people dedicated to the cause of making sure we have an inclusive union,” said Houston Local 716 member Mike Jackson, 31. The fifth-year apprentice serves on the Young Workers Advisory Council for the AFL-CIO.

The RENEW contingent also hosted its own day-long seminar Jan. 14, which featured workshops on technology and communication skills.

International Representative Tarn Goelling, who heads up the RENEW initiative, said that the young workers’ service reflects the theme of this year’s EWMC conference: “Learning from the past, leading the future.”

“Young workers are often seen as the fountain for energy, excitement and passion,” she said. “But enthusiasm alone can’t wipe away generations of struggle. We must always carry our collective beginnings within our hearts and grow from the lessons our predecessors learned.

 “As young workers, there are many lessons to learn By opening our spirits to serve others in need, we remain open to the humility that is necessary as diligent and effective leaders,” Goelling said.

“Like” RENEW’s official Facebook page at

 Shovel photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Adam Bindslev.