In the spring of 2003, Rob Finn, president of Service Electric Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind., and Marvin Foote, business manager of IBEW Local 305, noticed an industry publication that announced nearby Lutheran Hospital was requesting monetary donations to build a Children’s Hope Hospitality House (CHHH). Intrigued by the prospect of helping a worthy cause, the two men brought the idea of having area electrical contractors and electricians donate the labor and materials for the project to the local Labor Management Cooperation Committee (LMCC).

“The Children’s Hope Hospitality House is a not-for-profit organization established to provide inexpensive housing for parents or relatives of sick children who are in a local Fort Wayne hospital for an extended period of time,” explained Jim Kratzat, vice president and secretary of the Fort Wayne architectural firm of MSKTD & Associates Inc. Kratzat, a member of the project’s advisory board, became vice president of CHHH’s board of directors after completion of the house.

The house offers six private sleeping rooms with baths, a fully equipped kitchen, a stocked pantry, television lounge, a reading room with computers, a playroom and a meditation room for quiet moments. The fee charged to guests is minimal, and no one is turned away because of an inability to pay. Priority is given to the parents and families of sick children who reside beyond commuting distance to Fort Wayne, and highest priority is given to families who live more than 45 miles away from a medical-care facility and have a child in the neonatal or pediatric intensive care unit. Families with a child in the pediatric oncology or pediatric units of an area hospital get second priority.

Genesis of a project

The CHHH was formed in 1996 after it was decided the community needed an inexpensive place for parents and relatives of sick children to stay. Using the famous Ronald McDonald House as a model, and the informational resources of the National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses (NAHHH), the CHHH board began soliciting donations in 1998 from corporations and local foundations. By 2003, the nonprofit had enough funds to begin searching for a construction company to build the $1.2 million house and finally chose W.A. Sheets & Son Inc. as the project’s construction manager.

Enthusiastic about the idea of helping, the area LMCC gave Finn and Foote the green light, as well as money from its community-relations fund. Finn and Foote immediately informed Lutheran Hospital and the CHHH that local electrical contractors and electricians would be donating money, time, labor and materials for house’s electrical and low-voltage systems.

“Lutheran Hospital accepted the offer and put us in touch with W.A. Sheets & Son, after which we began soliciting wholesale electrical houses for donations,” said Finn.

It was obvious that gear and lighting would be the most expensive materials. “Without a substantial donation from gear and lighting manufacturers, we didn’t know if we could convince enough contractors to donate their material and labor,” Finn recalled. However, with Ruud Lighting agreeing to supply all of the necessary lights at half of the company’s cost, All-Phase Electrical Supply donating the necessary equipment to install the switchgear, and donating panels, conduit, wire, cable and fittings and other local suppliers donating the balance of necessary components, Finn began speaking to area contractors about the project. “Six contractors immediately volunteered their time and labor to install the house’s electrical systems,” said Finn.

When Randy Amstutz, president of Central Electric Contracting, heard about the project he decided it was a wonderful opportunity to help sick children and their families. “We have worked on about 30 other community projects over the years and really believe in giving back to our community,” he said.

The total cost of the electrical systems was more than $120,000. However, because of the generosity of local contractors, wholesalers, manufacturers and government, only $10,000 was needed from the LMCC’s community-relations fund.

Completion of a project

Donated materials and supplies are great, but it takes electricians to install them. Hearing the call, 11 apprentices, three retirees and 19 local journeymen volunteered to perform the electrical-systems installation. In addition, journeyman Darrell Sade was paid a minimal salary to be the project’s foreman and to coordinate the volunteers’ efforts.

Work began on the 5,000-square-foot, single-story house in September 2003 with the installation of the underground conduit that brought in power from the local utility’s transformer. Inside the conduit, the electricians ran the feeder and branch circuit wiring to the house’s two main panel boards. A total of 80 branch circuits were run from the boards into all of the various rooms and were terminated at the approximately 110 receptacles and various other devices such as lights, switches, fans and HVAC equipment located throughout the facility. A total of 50 light fixtures were also installed in the various rooms.

The kitchen required either metal clad (MC) cable or electrical metal tubing (EMT) to hold the wiring. “Because it is a commercial-grade kitchen, we had to comply with more stringent National Electrical Code standards and local codes,” explained Sade. In the kitchen, the electricians wired the exhaust fans, dual ranges, two microwaves, a refrigerator, freezer, outlets, switches, the automatic gas fireplace’s electrical starter, and the decorative and can-light fixtures.

Volunteer electricians also installed the phone cabling for each room and the administrative office, the TV cabling for the main recreation room and the six individual apartments, and the voice/data/video cabling for the computers in the library and office, and the fire alarm system. “The life safety system included smoke detectors in every bedroom, pull stations, speaker strobes, duct-smoke detectors and heat detectors, all of which were wired to and terminated at the main fire alarm control panel installed in the administrator’s office,” Sade said. Also included in the installation was a security intercom system that controls entry to the front door and is integrated with the fire alarm system to release the door in case of emergency evacuation.

The emergency lighting system wired by the electricians on the site consists of battery-operated wall-pack floodlights, along with battery-operated LED exit signs. “The final component of the installation was three light poles in the house’s parking lot, along with mercury-vapor lamps that are aimed downward to reduce light pollution and to illuminate the facility’s entry sign,” Sade added.

As with most jobs, challenges on the house site included the coordination of manpower and getting materials there in a timely manner for installation. “We set up a weekly delivery schedule with the donators of materials, equipment and tools, as well as communicating closely with the foremen of the other trades on-site to ensure that the project ran smoothly,” Sade says.

The efforts of Lutheran Hospital, the CHHH board, project sponsors and donors, and the volunteer electricians paid off when the building was completed in the spring of 2004. “We are proud to support our community and to have provided a valuable resource for sick children and their families,” concluded Finn. EC

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or darbremer@comcast.net.