Living to Give: Contractors Discuss the Community Causes They Celebrate and Why Giving Back Is Key to Their Success

In Portland, Ore., team members from Christenson Electric pose with students from Wilkes Elementary School, a local institution they have supported with food, toys and daily-use items. Photo Credit: Christenson Electric
In Portland, Ore., team members from Christenson Electric pose with students from Wilkes Elementary School, a local institution they have supported with food, toys and daily-use items. Photo Credit: Christenson Electric

Electrical contractors are a civic-minded group, and the evidence is in the range of community causes and programs they support nationwide. The following are just some of the ways electrical contractors are giving back to local, national and international causes and why they feel community service is vital to their success.

Christenson Electric Inc.

Headquartered in Portland, Ore., Christenson Electric has been dedicated to “building long-term relationships through trust and performance” since its founding in 1945 and has a long tradition of reaching out to help those in need.

Among the organizations it proudly supports is Wilkes Elementary School in Portland. Thanks to encouragement from Christenson Electric’s President Mark Walter, Christenson Electric has given generously to a food and toy drive for homeless and struggling families at the school. Staffers provided food boxes, Christmas gifts, shoes and other basic necessities to dozens of families in need and have grown their involvement each year.

“In 2018, our staff, along with community partners from Local 48, Local 125, Mondelez, local NECA leadership, and Grocery Outlet provided over $8,000 in food and daily-use items for the school’s families in need, which involved a monumental effort and represented our biggest outreach effort to date,” said Clint Burgess, communications manager.

Christenson Electric’s  Communications Manager Clint Burgess said the company’s connection to the school “aligns with our desire to assist those in need, make a difference in the lives of children, and have an impact in the community that supports us.” Photo Credit: Christenson Electric
Christenson Electric’s Communications Manager Clint Burgess said the company’s connection to the school “aligns with our desire to assist those in need, make a difference in the lives of children, and have an impact in the community that supports us.” Photo Credit: Christenson Electric

According to Burgess, children often are the recipients of Christenson Electric’s community service.

“Our involvement with Wilkes Elementary aligns with our desire to assist those in need, make a difference in the lives of children, and have an impact in the community that supports us,” he said.

Sonja Rheaume, vice president of operations, said supporting organizations within their community further bolsters their region as a whole.

“There’s great need all around, and we strive to impact those who are close to us and who reflect our mission and committed values of integrity, respect, quality, safety, innovation, customer service and teamwork,” Rheaume said. “The Pacific Northwest has supported our business for over 70 years, and we’re honored to show our appreciation by giving back and elevating those whom we have the opportunity to help.”

Burgess said the spirit of giving has made an indelible mark on Christenson Electric employees.

“Helping others in our community further strengthens our bond with the people we serve and with each other,” he said.

The Lighthouse Electric team recently prepared more than 10,000 gift-filled shoeboxes for children in need worldwide through Operation Christmas Child. Photo Credit: Lighthouse Electric
The Lighthouse Electric team recently prepared more than 10,000 gift-filled shoeboxes for children in need worldwide through Operation Christmas Child. Photo Credit: Lighthouse Electric

Lighthouse Electric

Lighthouse Electric, based in Canonsburg, Pa., is a 35-year-old contractor that employs around 500 electricians.

“Our mission is to ‘build, serve and connect,’ and serving our customers, employees and community is a significant part of who we are as a company,” said Anton Mikec, chief operating officer. “Giving back to the community has always been part of our culture as an organization, and we actively look for ways to impact the world around us in a positive way.”

Lighthouse Electric’s community service activities are selected by the firm’s executive and ownership team following an open solicitation of ideas from all Lighthouse staff. Among the numerous causes are Boone, N.C.-based Samaritan’s Purse and its Operation Christmas Child project, through which Lighthouse Electric most recently provided more than 10,000 gift-filled shoe boxes to children in need around the world. The company has supported the local Washington City Mission by providing electrical work and project assistance, as well as Washington, Pa.-based Dreamers Co., by helping to restore local parks and volunteering labor for electrical work.

“As electrical contractors, we should be making a difference in the world around us,” Mikec said. “We do this every day by transforming our customers’ spaces with light and power. As we continue to grow and succeed as a business, however, we can expand our vision of transformation one step further by taking time to make a difference in our community and the lives of its residents without expecting anything in return.”

The annual Rosendin/Junior Achievement Bowl-a-Thon fundraiser helps hundreds of Arizona students attend the Junior Achievement Biz Town program to learn about careers. Photo Credit: Rosendin Electric
The annual Rosendin/Junior Achievement Bowl-a-Thon fundraiser helps hundreds of Arizona students attend the Junior Achievement Biz Town program to learn about careers. Photo Credit: Rosendin Electric

Rosendin Electric

“Rosendin is a proud member of our local communities, and it’s our honor to give back through corporate donations, fundraising and volunteer efforts,” said Patti Stapleton, Phoenix-based senior administrative assistant at Rosendin Electric.

The 100-year-old San Jose, Calif.-based firm with 15 regional offices nationwide is involved with a number of community outreach activities, including the Rosendin/Junior Achievement Bowl-a-Thon, a fundraiser that helps Arizona students attend the Junior Achievement Biz Town program to learn about careers, finances and achieving success in a global economy.

Recently, Rosendin raised more than $10,600 for the cause, which will enable nearly 300 Arizona students to attend the Biz Town program during the 2019 school year.

“We support Junior Achievement because it helps local children attend an educational and rewarding program that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford,” Stapleton said.

Rosendin has long been committed to supporting its local communities whenever possible.

“All of our regional offices work with local charities at the recommendation of our employees, and we encourage our team members to get involved and give back to those causes they feel passionate about,” Stapleton said. “Rosendin employees don’t just work in the Phoenix community. We live here, too, and feel it’s important to give back to our neighbors.”

West Side Electric Co.

As an established provider that has served the Portland, Ore., metro and southwest Washington State area since 1961, Portland-based West Side Electric Co. has been a respected and highly supportive member of the community for nearly 60 years.

“We’re known for residential wiring and are referred by other construction industry leaders as specialists in that field, so we’re regularly contacted by charities requesting help with housing,” said Karl Jensen, president. “A lot of our charitable giving is based on who the charity is, its timing relative to our current work load, and the financial commitment requested of us, but everything we give presumably helps the particular charity achieve its goals of providing safe housing for its end-users.

We choose causes that we know we can help in a meaningful way though our electrical work as opposed to just donating money. —Karl Jensen West Side Electric Co.

“We choose causes that we know we can help in a meaningful way though our electrical work as opposed to just donating money. The causes we select are decided by executives at the top, but suggestions come from all of our employees as well as from outside sources, and it’s important for our company because it shows our employees and community that we care, even though we rarely publicize our efforts. Most if not all of our employees are in a much better financial position than those we’re helping, so it feels good to do the right thing,” Jensen said.

Ultimately, it’s up to everyone how they choose to serve their community.

“I think it’s a personal thing whether you want to give back or not,” he said. “I’ve been very successful in my business, and it may be a cliché, but I feel good giving back to our community and others, both personally and professionally.”

Cannon & Wendt Electric Co.

“Giving back to the community is important to Cannon & Wendt because the greater Phoenix metropolitan area has helped support our growth and success for 74 years,” said Shane Snyder, executive vice president of Cannon & Wendt Electric Co.

The Phoenix-based firm’s generosity extends to a variety of organizations, from a pet food drive for the Arizona Humane Society and a bottled water drive for the Phoenix Rescue Mission to a clothing drive for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and a toy drive for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Cannon & Wendt supports the 100 Club of Arizona, which provides resources and financial assistance to families of first responders who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty. In January 2019, the firm sponsored the 100 Club’s Heroes Day at the Park event, during which Cannon & Wendt raised $50,000 to help the families of injured or fallen first responders.

When it comes to determining which causes to support, Snyder said his firm has adopted a democratic approach.

“To better serve our community, we created the Cannon & Wendt Charity Committee, which is made up of four labor and four management employees,” he said. “Each opportunity to give back is reviewed, and those which the committee chooses to support are presented to company leadership. Our entire firm is then recognized for events or activities we sponsor or any publicity we garner in the media.”

For the Cannon & Wendt team, the results of their community involvement provide endless rewards.

“Our communities are our life blood, and through philanthropy, we’re able to impact the lives of thousands locally,” Snyder said.

Through ELECTRI International, a team of students from California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo recently installed a complete photovoltaic system at the San Pedro Roman Catholic School in San Pedro, Belize. Photo Credit: Electri International
Through ELECTRI International, a team of students from California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo recently installed a complete photovoltaic system at the San Pedro Roman Catholic School in San Pedro, Belize. Photo Credit: Electri International

NECA student chapters

Reflecting the National Electrical Contractors Association’s longtime tradition of philanthropy, numerous NECA Student Chapters have participated in ELECTRI International-sponsored projects to provide reliable, safe and efficient electrical resources to communities worldwide.

Recently, students from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif., undertook a $30,000 project in San Pedro, Belize. Working with partners from the IBEW, ELECTRI Council, and a Belize-based contracting firm, the students installed a complete photovoltaic (PV) system at San Pedro Roman Catholic School.

In addition to wiring a subpanel, trenching, completing the installation of 14 PV panels, an automatic transfer switch and an inverter installation, and making final connections to the main panel, students on the project learned how to design, plan, budget, procure materials and coordinate logistics on a project such as this.

Similarly, 19 members of NECA Student Chapters at Penn State University and Georgia’s Kennesaw State University worked with local contractors in Honduras in March 2018 to build a PV power system to provide more reliable access to water for the West End community. The project involved the successful installation of two 18-panel solar arrays on top of community cisterns so that residents could enjoy more regular access to water.

“ELECTRI is proud to sponsor student competitions which impact communities around the world by meeting needs and improving learning, productivity, safety and life as a whole,” said Joey Shorter, executive director of ELECTRI International and NECA’s director of research. “These students are better prepared for careers in electrical contracting because of projects like these, which require problem-solving, planning, organizing, budgeting and coordination. [These projects] not only change lives in the targeted communities, but they impact the learning process and transform the lives of the student participants as well.”

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