The members of Wilmington, Del., Local 313 are willing to do their part for their neighbors, whether they’ve got two legs or four.

Members of Wilmington, Del., Local 313 volunteer at the local animal shelter. Pictured: Second year apprentices Jason Griffin (left) and Jason Voss, President David Hollen, second year apprentice Jonathan Hessler and Vice President Eric Lewis.

“If we hear about someone who needs help, there’s a good chance we’re going to stick our necks out,” said Local 313 Vice President Eric Lewis.

The volunteer activities come about in an ad hoc way, said Local 313 President David Hollen. Their work with Habitat for Humanity started when someone saw an ad in the paper and the Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals relationship came from a member running for state Senate.

When Jack Walsh ran for office last year, he kept hearing from people about the local animal shelter. It had closed that spring due to a lack of funding that put the property in disrepair. So the 31-year active member held a meeting at the local’s hall to see what could be done. Not long after, more than 10 members volunteered to clean up the shelter and repair the electrical wiring.  

With the help from Local 313 and others, the SPCA reopened in late October.

“It brought a lot of needed attention to the shelter,” Walsh said. “It was good for Local 313 too. People don’t always know about unions. This gives us a chance to talk about what we do.”

Since then, members have continued to volunteer there and even hosted a pet-friendly event at Christmastime.

“The SPCA has been very appreciative, saying ‘thank god for the IBEW,’” Hollen said. Photos from the Christmas event were posted on the shelter’s Facebook page.

Labor leader and former president of the United Automobile Workers Walter Reuther said there is no greater calling than to serve your brother. That sense of solidarity and community is an ethos that the 750-member union of inside wiremen embodies, Hollen said.

“This is our community, our brothers and sisters, and we want to help where we live,” he said.

The members are also repairing a veteran’s home. It will be a major renovation, says Hollen, and they’re hoping to get materials donated from local contractors. 

“We have a lot of servicemen and women at our local, so there’s been a lot of interest in this one,” he said. “They want to give back to those who gave.”

“This is typical of our members’ commitment to the principals of trade unionism,” said Third District Vice President Don Siegel. “Family, faith, community and solidarity. I am proud of our locals and their involvement in their communities.” 

The importance of service is something the local instills in its apprentices as well. Students participate in some type of volunteer activity every month.

“It’s a good way to get them involved and show them what IBEW’s values are,” Lewis said.