Some of the volunteers who gathered at the IBEW 569 union hall last Saturday laughingly called the day “Good Karma Day.” That's because the last Saturday of April is the annual day of action when electrical workers put their skills to work at Rebuilding Together San Diego’s (RTSD) Annual April Rebuilding Day event.
It’s an yearly tradition for IBEW 569 electrical workers, who spend the day doing much-needed electrical work for low-income residents, veterans, elderly and disabled residents — and that's where the 'good karma' comes in. This year, Wounded Warriors and Big Sister League Facilities were also beneficiaries of this impressive renovation event.
Daniel Machain, an organizer with IBEW 569 and a board member of Rebuilding Together San Diego, says IBEW 569 electricians play a critical role in ensuring homeowners-in-need have healthy and safe places to live:
We often see electrical systems that are very unsafe and inefficient, so it is important for the personal safety of residents and the long-term safety of the home that licensed and skilled electricians are a part of this community effort.
This is more than just a union action — collaboration with the employers is critical to the electricians having a successful “Good Karma Day”. Their employers, members of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), donate the use of company equipment and trucks to the effort. Says Daniel Machain:
We wouldn’t be able to do all this work for home-owners in need and for injured warriors without generous contributions from NECA contractors.
San Diego’s Freedom Station is one of the places being renovated by a team of IBEW 569 electricians and other community volunteers. Freedom Station provides transitional housing for injured warriors. and is an important place for all San Diego veterans. Sandra Lehmkuler, President of Freedom Station and Director of the Warrior Foundation explains that
Injured warriors must wait until they are medically retired before entering the job market. With the help of Freedom Station and the firestorm of giving from San Diego, we have had a very high success rate of our warriors moving on already having jobs or starting out at college.
Congressman Bob Filner, ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, participated in the Rebuilding Together Day, and thinks collaboration is critical to injured warriors facing life outside the armed services:
We need to come together today, and every day, to provide assistance to transitioning warriors who need help acquiring permanent housing and pathways to education and employment.
San Diego is a military town, and for IBEW 569 members, helping ensure warriors get a hand-up is not just good karma, it’s deeply personal.
Professional electrician and veteran Richard Jacob, who headed the team of electrical workers at Freedom Station that did things like replacing wiring and installing solar light fixtures, had this to day:
I participate in this event every year, and as a veteran I am glad I can make a difference for the vets at Freedom Station. We will make this a better lit, safer, and more energy-efficient place.
While the last day in April is the largest single volunteer event of the year, IBEW 569 participates with Rebuilding Together all year long. For example, IBEW 569 apprentice volunteers recently teamed up with San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald and Rebuilding Together on a 'Safe Lights' program in the San Diego neighborhood of Mount Hope. Volunteers went door-to-door and asked residents if they would allow union electricians to install a solar light on the exterior of their home. After getting permission, 80 solar lights were installed. Now that sidewalks and alleyways are lit-up, crime has decreased in the neighborhood.
Now that’s good karma!