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60,000 Visitors Expected for IBEW Holiday Display


December 22, 2011

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Encouraged by a blitz of local media coverage, more than 60,000 Minnesotans are expected to drive through the Twin Cities’ fourth annual IBEW Holiday Lights in the Park between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

The volunteer effort involving 150 members of Minneapolis Local 292 and St. Paul Local 110, now in its fourth year, has raised more than $110,000 for four local nonprofit agencies, including UnderConstruction, an effort to introduce young people to the construction industry and promote life skills that will help them deal with future challenges.

 A TV feature on KARE- 11, shows IBEW Twin Cities Marketing Director Vicki Sandberg throwing the switch to power the lighting exhibit in St. Paul’s Phalen Park She promotes the skills of electricians who worked for four days to set up 55 displays leased by their local unions and delivered on two large trucks. The two locals are among the display’s co-sponsors. Says Sandberg:

The local media has really embraced Holiday Lights in the Park. It has greatly helped with IBEW’s brand recognition and marketing campaign. Residents know what the IBEW stands for in a positive way.

Co-sponsored by King of Kings Lutheran Church, Holiday Lights in the Park has its own Web site and also produced a CD of holiday music by 15 local artists, which is sold in local supermarkets with proceeds going to the nonprofits including Second Harvest Heartland, a food pantry; Union Gospel Mission and the St. Paul Parks Conservancy. Says Sandberg:

In this tough economy, IBEW members are impacted as much as anyone else. Volunteering on Holiday Lights in the Park is a chance for electricians to give back to their community by supplying affordable family entertainment to thousands.

Mary DesJarlais, who coordinates UnderConstruction, says funds received from the annual lighting exhibit are invaluable in sustaining the program during a time when philanthropies, sponsoring contractors and labor organizations have trouble maintaining past donations. 

The seven-year-old program is open to high school youths who submit resumes to work on a small construction project for the summer. Unlike young people who are steered by family elders into apprenticeship programs, many have no adults in their families with construction experience. Says DesJarlais:

It’s extremely rewarding to see young people blossom over six to eight weeks in a summer and bond as a crew. They see how the real world works and learn what is expected of them to hold down a job. And they get hands-on experience that helps them decide if an apprenticeship is the direction they want to take.  We are grateful to Holiday Lights in the Park for helping us provide this experience.

Says IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill:

Holiday Lights in the Park demonstrates how local unions can harness the creativity of our members and reach out to our communities to construct not only powerful partnerships with positive programs, but favorable memories that will endure for generations.