IBEW members light the way for food pantry volunteers

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

The Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry gets a mini-facelift for interior lighting, heating and more, courtesy of a local grant and the dedication of organized labor. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — The dedicated volunteers at the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry had been working in the pantry’s warehouse with limited lighting, while office personnel worked on the second level in offices with no heat.

But with a grant from the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley along with pro bono work from organized labor, volunteers can now navigate the warehouse in ample light and employees don’t have to wear coats at their desks.

“We’re just so grateful to the Foundation and to the union members,” said Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry Executive Director Marilyn Weisner.

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

IBEW Local 461 Assistant Business Manager/Organizer Shaun Thomas and 4th year apprentice Bryan Cotes install conduit in the bar joist of the warehouse. This will prevent the conduit from getting damaged by the mast of forklifts when they pull product down. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

IBEW 461 member Burt Jones assembles a ceiling fan. Ten fans were installed to allow for better air flow in the warehouse. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Advertisement

Advertisement

In the warehouse, IBEW Local 461 installed ceiling fans, replaced damaged conduit and moved lighting into the aisles. For the upstairs offices, baseboard heaters were installed.

The circuitry needed for the baseboard heaters wasn’t in the offices, so it was pipped in from the back of the warehouse to circuits near the offices. Even with a heat diffuser on the second floor, it’s primary purpose is to heat up the area near the front entrance, keeping the windows from fogging up. What it didn’t do was bring heat to the back offices.

The work was done during the week the pantry was closed between Christmas and New Year.

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry volunteers work in an aisle of the warehouse with plenty of light. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Advertisement

Along with donating labor, affiliates from the Fox Valley Building Trades donated various needed materials and money. SMART Local 265 donated a scissor lift. With the various donations, the pantry was able to use funds earmarked to pay for labor and apply it to other portions of the grant that weren’t necessarily funded.

IBEW Local 461 Assistant Business Manager/Organizer Shaun Thomas said organized labor was more than willing to help the pantry. “In general, unions frequently donate materials and volunteer their time in the community.”

Every year, members from the building trades volunteer to distribute food from the pantry’s mobile food pantry to seniors at local retirement homes.

Unions provide families the means for a holiday meal

The Fox Valley United Way’s Holiday Assistance program gets help from organized labor with donations.

The Fox Valley United Way’s Holiday Assistance program gets help from organized labor with donations. From left, Laborers’ Local 582 Representative Jeff Frost, Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council President Scott Roscoe, North Central Illinois Labor Council Representative Jeff Carr, Pipefitters Local 597 Business Representative Adam Swan, UA Local 130 Business Agent Charlie Seibert, FVUW Director of Community Engagement Denise Blettner, FVUW Director of Operations Deborah Collins-Rudel, ADC 1 Business Agent Ruben Collazo, Laborers Local 582 Representative Jose Martinez, PDC 30 Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer Ryan Anderson, Finishing Solutions Network Representative Brian Dahl, Roofers Local 11 Business Agent Larry Gnat and SMART Local 265 Business Representative John Hopp. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — Every year, when the holidays approach, the Fox Valley United Way (FVUW) sees organized labor as its very own secret Santa.

It’s because the Fox Valley Building Trades, along with the North Central Illinois Labor Council, joined forces and made monetary donations to the FVUW’s Holiday Assistance program, which provides toys, clothing and gift cards for grocery purchases to families who do not have the financial means to provide gifts to their children.

Money donated by the unions goes towards purchasing food gift cards, which clients can use to buy a holiday meal.

The Fox Valley United Way’s Holiday Assistance program gets help from organized labor with donations.

Bags of toys and bikes await pickup as part of the Fox Valley United Way’s Holiday Assistance. Fox Valley Labor News file photos

“We can’t express enough gratitude to the building trades. When you see the faces of these mothers, it gives you an amazing feeling to know that what they’re doing is very much appreciated by many in the community,” said FVUW Director of Operations Deborah Collins-Rudel.

Bins of donated hats, scarves and mittens, right, are also given to children. Fox Valley Labor News file photos

Bins of donated hats, scarves and mittens, right, are also given to children. Fox Valley Labor News file photos

Representatives of the building trades visited the FVUW Dec. 2, where they presented Collins-Rudel with $2,350 in donations, and 10 $50 Jewel-Osco gift cards. A good chunk of the donated money comes from the Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council annual golf outing, the rest from union contributions.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Christmas is more than just the gifts under the tree, it’s about being together as a family. “It’s a relief these families don’t have to worry if they will have a Christmas dinner — they will. Part of the Christmas celebration is about the meal,” Collins-Rudel said.

Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council President Scott Roscoe, who is a past FVUW board member, said the building trades have been involved with the Holiday Assistance program for many years.
“I can’t say enough about what [the staff] does at United Way. They’ve done great things in the community,” Roscoe said.

So far, the FVUW is helping 133 needy families with 313 children.

Volunteering is good for the soul

An Aurora homeowner receives new roof

An Aurora homeowner received a blessing from organized labor when several building trades volunteered their time and skills over three days to replace an old, leaky roof that was costing the homeowner higher insurance premiums. Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia contacted the Carpenters and Laborers union in Lisle and Elgin for help. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

You can view members of the Fox Valley Building Trades doing work on the roof by going to the Fox Valley Labor News YouTube channel

AURORA — As Aurora’s Veterans Day parade was winding its way through Aurora Nov. 11, members from several labor unions were taking advantage of the sunny, unseasonably warm day, ripping shingles off a roof that was in long need of repair.

The home, in the 600 block of Adams Street, is owned by a low and fixed income senior who was caught in a cycle of paying higher insurance premium because her roof leaked. Unfortunately, the higher monthly insurance bill made it impossible to save money for the repair needed to be done.

Early this year, repairs were done made on her home through Rebuilding Together Aurora, but after a second request was made, help couldn’t be given.

An Aurora homeowner receives new roof

An Aurora senior in need received a new roof with help from Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia and members from Carpenters Local 916, 1307 and Laborers Local 582. Photo courtesy of Laborers Local 582.

That’s when Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia stepped in. She represents the 83rd Representative District, which includes Aurora, Montgomery and North Aurora.

She knew the best and fastest way to get the job done was with organized labor, so she reached out to the carpenters for help.
“Many people don’t need a hand out — they just need a hand, and that’s what the unions were able to do for this homeowner,” Chapa LaVia explained.

Members of Elgin’s Laborers Local 582, and Lisle’s Carpenters Local 916 spent two days ripping off layers of old singles, repairing holes and getting the roof ready for the final day, when members from Lisle’s Carpenters Local 1307 shingled the 2,800-square foot roof.

An Aurora homeowner receives new roof

Union members volunteer their time for three days, tearing off numerous layers of shingles, doing roof repairs and re-shingling her roof. Jennifer Rice/staff photography

“When Linda contacted us to volunteer, we said, ‘of course,’” explained Local 916 Business Representative Brian Hooker. This summer, his members volunteered with Rebuilding Together Aurora working on homes for the community, so they knew what needed to be done.

Chapa LaVia herself donated money for materials and Republic offered a less-expensive rate for its Dumpster services.

An Aurora homeowner receives new roof

Union members did fine work and the finished product looks great. Jennifer Rice/staff photography

Advertisement

Advertisement

“This is Aurora. This is what we do in Aurora — we work together to solve issues so people’s lives are better,” Chapa LaVia said.

She firmly believes the quality of work organized labor does is second-to-none. “It’s the best training you can get in a vocational arena,” she added.

If the community looked to each other more often, it would rely less on federal or state government, which is something LaVia would like to see more of.

“Our community is our brothers and sisters,” she said.