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.
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.
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.