May 21, 2013
Partnership benefits SIU, local carpenters
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A partnership between Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity is a win-win deal for Touch of Nature Environmental Center and the carpenters.
The one-year-old initiative provides for local carpenters to donate their labor for projects at the center. It enables the environmental learning facility to get needed maintenance and repairs while under- or unemployed workers log hours to help them maintain health insurance benefits. A crew of six journeymen carpenters began work bright and early the morning of May 20 and, weather permitting, they plan to continue working from about 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day through Friday, May 24.
“This is a great public-private partnership,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said. “We appreciate the opportunity to help the members of the Carpenters’ District Council, who are helping us complete deferred maintenance projects.”
Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the roofing work carpenters from the Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity are undertaking this week at SIU Carbondale’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center. Weather permitting, crews will be working from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day through Friday, May 24, at the Little Grassy Lodge. The camp is located about eight miles south of Carbondale on Giant City Road. For more information, contact Robert Vosburgh, business representative for the Carpenters’ District Council, at 618/407-5236 or call Touch of Nature at 618/453-1121.
Plans call for finishing the replacement of the Little Grassy Lodge roof, a project begun last year. SIU is funding the cost of the materials while the volunteer carpenters are providing the labor for the installation, according to Phil Gatton, director of Plant and Services Operations at the University.
Robert Vosburgh, business representative for the Carpenters’ District Council, said the carpenters are installing new felt paper, new dimensional shingles and, where needed, new decking. In all, they will be installing about 45 “squares” of roofing. Each square covers 100 square feet. Vosburgh said John Gaal, director of training and workforce development for the council, negotiated the pact last year and the workers are happy to be returning to help at the camp in 2013.
“We have a great relationship with Chancellor Cheng and SIU. We are more than willing and pleased to help out with projects like this,” Vosburgh said.
Carpenters must work a specified number of hours each year to retain their health insurance benefits and with the region’s current economic climate, this project and others like it are helping carpenters satisfy that requirement.
Council officials also note that union members participate in off-campus workforce education and development and industrial technology classes through SIU’s program at Scott Air Force Base.
“This is the second year for this wonderful partnership and Touch of Nature Environmental Center is really grateful for the help the volunteers are providing. We have more than 90 buildings, some dating back to the World War II era, so of course, there are ongoing upkeep needs. We appreciate the great work the Carpenters Council is doing for us,” Alan Teska, conference services program director, said.