IBEW 110, Rice County Habitat enter third decade of partnership

(photo courtesy Logan Beere)

It’s said that many hands make light work. But to make the lights work at a new fourplex under construction in Northfield, Habitat for Humanity tapped the expertise of local union electricians.

About 40 members of St. Paul-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 110 joined a volunteer project at the fourplex Jan. 15, installing light fixtures, hooking up electrical receptacles and switches, and turning on power.

It’s the latest example of a partnership between Local 110’s Faribault chapter and Rice County Habitat for Humanity that has spanned more than 20 years. The union also has supported Habitat builds in Cannon Falls and the Cambridge area.

Union members at People’s Electric began volunteering with Rice County Habitat in 1999, according to retired member Steven White. The union later took over the initiative “wholeheartedly,” White said, and currently partners with contractor Muska Electric to pull permits necessary for the electrical work.

White and Bob Delesha, chair of the Faribault chapter, estimated the union has volunteered on 40 Habitat projects. Local 110 donates the wire, panels, outlets, switches and other materials installed in each home.

“I’ve been fortunate to come back to finish some of the work, and I’ve gotten to meet some of the homeowners,” White said. “They are beyond thrilled. This is a meaningful way to give back to the community.”

Delesha said his wife used to joke that he spends more time volunteering in other people’s homes than his own. “But it’s a skilled trade we were fortunate to learn, and we are fortunate to be able to give back,” Delesha said.

Another benefit of the Habitat partnership, he added, is that it gives Electrical Workers experience with residential work. It also gives apprentices, journey-level workers and retirees an opportunity to learn from each other.

“For most locals out of major cities, a lot of people don’t get much experience with residential wiring anymore,” Delesha said. “We update our education, but it isn’t the same as putting in time on a job. And the younger people get an opportunity to work with some of the gray-hairs, too.”

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