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Wright County Labor Council helps organize donated labor to rehab building for new emergency foodshelf serving Rockford

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, March 19, 2010

By Steve Share, Labor Review editor

ROCKFORD — A new emergency foodshelf opened in Rockford March 8, thanks in part to donated labor and materials organized through the Wright County Labor Council.

Council members had been looking for a community service project last year when they learned about a new nonprofit’s goal to rehab a local building and open a local foodshelf.

The nonprofit, Riverworks, was a new community development organization founded by members of Riverwood Covenant Church.

Riverworks gladly accepted help from the Wright County Labor Council to complete the project, which required extensive work on a 2,300 square foot 1920s building. “We had plumbers, we had electricians, we had guys who did cement work,” said Denise Kesanen, Riverworks’ executive director. “That’s the stuff we needed professional people to do,” she said. “The guys who came had a great attitude about wanting to help.”

The project attracted other local community volunteers, too, for drywall, flooring and painting.

“The labor union guys, together with the community guys, it was a great fit,” Kesanen said.

Devin Hall, a member of the Wright County Labor Council, helped coordinate labor union members’ participation in the project. Hall is a business representative for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 292 and services Wright County. “We moved at a fairly quick, rapid pace,” he said. “Everything fell into line.”

Other union building trades workers who volunteered their labor included: Jeff Heimerl and Jason Vieaw, IBEW Local 292; Jake Glander, Pipefitters Local 539; and from Cement Masons Local 633, Tom Reger, Greg Johnson, and Dan Humble. All live in or near Wright County. “Everyone gave their extra,” Hall reported.

Union contractors also pitched in to help. “Egan Companies donated all the material for the plumbing and refrigeration,” Hall noted. “Medina Electric donated for electrical.”

The scope of work included interior demolition and a complete remodel, installing plumbing for a new bathroom, adding lighting, fans, and power for the freezers and refrigerators for the foodshelf.

When a donated cooler showed up in pieces the night before the foodshelf inspector was due, a last-minute hunt for help and parts ensued, Hall reported. “It was all up and running” in time for the inspection.

Hall estimated that union members contributed 175-200 hours of work on the project.

“I can’t thank you guys enough,” said Rick Apolloni, a Riverworks board member who managed the rehab project, which took nine months from conception to completion. “To get the contact with the labor unions… was a vital part of the job, to get the job done right, to get the job done safely.”

Riverworks estimates that the new foodshelf will serve 195 families in the Rockford-Greenfield area, who no longer will need to drive to a foodshelf in Hanover. The first night the foodshelf was open, 1,300 pounds of food were distributed.

“I wish everyone was working and we didn’t need to talk about putting foodshelves together,” said IBEW’s Devin Hall. “We know we have brothers and sisters out there who are out of work and need this.”

The Wright County Labor Council next will be planning a fundraising drive to help support the foodshelf’s operations.

The Riverworks foodshelf is located at 8230 Cedar Street in Rockford. The foodshelf will be open Monday and Thursday from 5:30-8:00 p.m. and Tuesdays from 9:00-11:00 a.m. For more information, visit www.riverworksonline.org.

For more information on the Wright County Labor Council, contact Erik Evans at 612-379-4206 ext. 103.




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