In L.A. County, IBEW Local 11 Helps Organize Massive Food Drive

from Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 11 in Commerce, Calif., on their participation in this year’s Letter Carriers “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive.

Across the United States, 50 million adults and 17 million children lack sufficient food every single day. To combat this, the Letter Carriers (NALC), for the past 20 years, has collected and donated food from mailboxes across the country.

For the second consecutive year, IBEW Local 11 donated its Electrical Training Center in Commerce as the home base for all donated and collected food in Los Angeles County.

IBEW members have volunteered in the collection, sorting and distribution of food for more than a decade. But last year, Business Manager Marvin Kropke made the decision to donate the Training Center as a site to support what he calls a “great cause.”

It is extremely important to give back to the community in which we live. In a time when so many of our brothers and sisters are struggling, we need to give where we can. It is these types of programs that provide relief for families in need, and we want to help in any way we can to make sure there are options out there for those who need it most.

Kropke expressed his hope to continue providing a landing pad for the generous donations of the community.

Our facility is something that we can provide as assistance and support for this program. We have had members volunteering for this program for over a decade, but it is nice to be able to provide support in the form of our facility and that is something we hope to continue.

In each of the past nine years, more than 70 million pounds of food were collected across the country. The numbers are staggering. Red Godfrey, executive director of Labor Community Services AFL-CIO, United Way, says:

On a daily basis we are tending to families who struggle to put food on the table, keep the lights on and maintain a bare level of income. The growth of partnerships that we work with has been a primary focus to ensure we stay in tune with the changing nature of requests. Our commitment to our union members and community at large is to be prepared at all times.

The Trades Are About Helping
Ronald Maefau, a first-year apprentice with IBEW Local 11, said in a time when California is facing a major budget deficit, a high rate of unemployment and poverty, it is important to help those who are struggling.

The Trades, IBEW, are about helping and assisting others, the Building Trades is about the betterment of the community. IBEW does a great job of reaching out to and helping the youth, the schools and the community as a whole, and this is just another great example of giving back. The unions are about living together and living better.

Maefau said that although his family isn’t struggling, he has struggled in the past.

I was really moved how much food we have here. The amount of food shows the kindness and how really great this community is. We need to stick together in these hard times. Not only community members, but Local 11 members are in need of this food and we have to help each other out.

Helping each other out is exactly what the residents of Los Angeles County are doing, said Margarita Chavez, liaison for Labor and Community Services.

Last year, Godfrey and others were ecstatic over the 82,000 pounds of food collected. But this year, on the 20th anniversary, 325,000 pounds of food were donated to “Stamp Out Hunger.”

In fact, it was so much food, that Labor Community Services immediately had to find shelters for more than 100,000 pounds.

“This is a complete and total record,” Chavez said. “We collected four times more food than we did last year.”

All donations in Los Angeles County made the trek to the IBEW Local 11 Training Center. Each item of food came from one of 11 different collection sites that were placed in every ZIP code in Los Angeles County.

Largest Food Collection Event
The drive is the largest one-day food collection event in the nation.

Maven Faatiliga, a first-year apprentice with IBEW Local 11, said that volunteering is part of being in the community.

It is these times, the difficult times, that we need to come together as a community and Building Trades family and help each other out. This is what unions are all about—helping the little guy, the less fortunate—and it is something I am proud to be a part of. I will always be proud to be part of a group that never leaves anyone behind.

In partnership with the NALC and IBEW Local 11 are the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, Campbell Soup Co., Valpak, U.S. Postal Service, United Way, AFL-CIO, Feeding America, Uncle Bob’s Self-Storage and AARP.

For the NALC, the key came with the special “Stamp Out Hunger” grocery bags, which were provided to all mailboxes. After receiving their bags in their mailbox, the residents had a day to fill the bag before the mail carrier would return to pick it up.

Between high unemployment, high food and gasoline prices and budget cuts to many federally funded programs, it is important to put the focus back on giving.

“We make sure we give back to the communities we are from,” Kropke said.

It is extremely important to us at IBEW. In the past year, we have had tremendous amount of unemployment and our members have been a major beneficiary of this program and many others like it. We will continue to support these programs in any way we can.