IBEW journeymen helping restore power in Mayfield because 'the union is all about brotherhood and sisterhood'

Thanks to Liles Taylor for sending us this from the IBEW media center: Following Deadly Tornados, Kentucky Local Gets Special Help from Ohio, West Virginia Neighbors

By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Mayfield’s Seven Oaks Church of Christ were able to get supplies to re-wire houses damaged in the deadly Dec. 10 tornado that swept through the Graves County seat and its environs.

But when Trent Kendall and Seth Whitenton learned the church was looking for electricians, the two IBEW Local 816 journeymen volunteered.

“I’m free in the afternoons, so what’s an hour out of my time to go and get somebody’s power back one who otherwise would have to wait a very long time,” said Kendall, whose home was spared by the nighttime twister that spun a path of death and destruction across western Kentucky.

“Joel Crider, my high school electricity teacher, who goes to Seven Oaks, contacted me and said they had the material but needed electricians,” said Kendall, a 2014 Mayfield High School grad.     

The twister came within a quarter-mile of Whitenton’s house on Fox Road east of Mayfield. “I had some windows broken and a few trees knocked down, but that’s all,” he said. 

Chad Rennison, an organizer with Paducah-based Local 816, knows Crider, who was on the faculty at the Mayfield/Graves County Area Technology Center, which shares the MHS campus. “He was in touch with Joel Crider somehow, and Chad contacted me,” Whitenton said.  

Explained Whitenton: “We’ve been going around rebuilding services on houses for people who are less fortunate. We also put up few trailer pole services for campers for people that are displaced from their homes.”

At the same time, Kendall and Whitenton volunteered to connect and disconnect generators from homes. “We took time off from work and went around and hooked up generators, unhooked them when they weren’t needed any more and brought them to other people’s houses.”

Kendall and Whitenton work at Beltline Electric in Paducah. 

While Mayfield First Baptist, Kendall’s church, sustained significant damage, the tornado missed Chief Cornerstone Baptist, southeast of Mayfield, where Whitenton worships. “We had a warming center set up with food and supplies that people needed,” Whitenton said. “When I was hooking up generators, I’d get a list of what people needed and send the list to somebody at our church.”

Whitenton said he’s “just glad to help people out. I’m thankful the tornado didn’t get me and glad to help the people who need help.”

Whitenton said unions help people—not just union members—who need help. Kendall agreed.

“The union is all about brotherhood and sisterhood,” said Kendall. “The union is always about coming together as working class people to help one another.

“Unions want to raise everybody up out of poverty and into the middle class.”