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Union volunteers join Chaska's 'Christmas in May' home fix-up day

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, June 24, 2011

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

CHASKA — For the fourth year in a row, union volunteers organized by the South Suburban Labor Council provided welcome hands and skills for Chaska’s “Christmas in May” day of community service.

The annual event helps Chaska residents who are elderly, disabled or of modest income to undertake needed home repairs.

This year’s Saturday, May 21 event included about 30 union volunteers and 220 community volunteers, who set out to complete projects at seven homes.

Unfortunately, the onset of heavy rain that day impeded some of the work.

“One of the things the weather highlighted was how important the skilled work of union members was — because they were able to get the work done quickly and efficiently,” said Grant Bendix, South Suburban Labor Council organizer.

The labor volunteers, originally scheduled to work at one house, were asked to help at other houses, too. “The morning of — when we realized the weather was not going to cooperate — I was getting asked for skilled union help at other houses,” Bendix reported.

Skilled union members who volunteered included Carpenters, Cement Masons, Painters, and Sheet Metal Workers.

New this year, the volunteers included a group of 10 students from the Humphrey Job Corps Center in St. Paul who are enrolled in a pre-apprentice program run by District Council 82 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

“We were out there for three days doing prep work before Saturday,” related John Kaiser, a Painters Local 386 member who is the painting instructor for the Job Corps program. “My guys have been really happy contributing,” he said.

“It’s great to give back to the community,” said Job Corps volunteer Terrell Bradley, Hopkins.

Scott Wildes, Savage, was one of eight volunteers from Sheet Metal Workers Local 10. “This is the second year I’ve done this,” he said. “I enjoy volunteering.”

“I’m unemployed,” he noted. “You’re better off volunteering than wasting your time… A person needs to be busy and be occupied.”

“When you help out, at least you can feel good about yourself at the end of the day,” Wildes said. He added: “Everything comes back to you.”

Volunteers from Cement Masons Local 633 went back to Chaska June 13 — a day of better weather — to finish up work pouring a new driveway for the homeowner, a retired Machinists union member.

Volunteers included a team of students from the Humphrey Job Corps Center in St. Paul who are enrolled in a pre-apprentice program run by Painters District Council 82. Left to right: Anthony Reed, Jason Vang, instructor and Painters Local 386 member John Kaiser, Terrell Bradley, Jesse Eaddy.

Eight volunteers came from Sheet Metal Workers Local 10 (left to right): Pat Alfonso, Nick Parris, Pete Parris, Linda Starr, Deb Kukowski, Danna McCutcheon, Scott Wildes, Pete Madland. Pete Parris and MRLF organizer Gayle McMahon served as house captains helping to organize the work needed for the project, which was the home of a retired member of the Machinists union.



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