Members of Sarnia, Ontario, Local 530 got the chance to give back to a piece of their childhood when they volunteered to help upgrade Camp Attawandaron, part of Scouts Canada.
"We're pretty big on giving back," said Business Manager Frank Harris. "Especially for something like this, since a lot of us have a personal connection to it."
Scouts Canada is the leading youth organization in the country, with co-ed programs for Canadians ages 5 to 26 that allow campers to have fun in the outdoors while also building friendships and leadership skills. Camp Attawandaron serves the youth of Sarnia and Lambton County in southern Ontario. A number of Local 530 members have been involved with the organization, said Harris, as former campers themselves as well as volunteer leader scouts.
"For a lot of members, working on this project was like getting back to their roots. It's why they wanted to participate."
Local 530 member Jeff McRae, who is also a Scout leader, told Powering Communities that he and Kris Osborn, owner of signatory contractor Christopher Electric, both attended the camp when they were young. It's why they decided to take on the project. McRae also noted that Osborn's grandfather was a camp caretaker and built some of the original buildings like the chapel.
"It's fair to say the community is very involved with the Scouts and Camp Attawandaron," Harris said. "It's huge here in Sarnia."
Despite its popularity, and a demand for year-round facilities, the camp was only able to operate during the warmer summer months. And last year, because of the coronavirus, the camp wasn't able to host campers at all and had to temporarily close. So Harris, Osborn and McRae led the project to winterize the campsite so it will eventually be able to serve more of the community throughout the year.
About two dozen Local 530 members, including apprentices and journeymen, offered their time and skills to help. They installed all the necessary electrical equipment including underground cabling, distribution panels, lights, receptacles, smoke detectors and heaters.
"The camps aren't just set up for year-round service, they're also safer now," Harris said. "And now the campers can even charge their phones."
The work began in 2019 and was completed around the end of July. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 threat however, the camp has thus far only been able to offer small-group day trips, Harris said.
Funding was provided by the IBEW Construction Council of Ontario and the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario, with about $35,000 worth of materials being donated, Harris said.
Located in one of the few Carolinian forests left in North America, Camp Attawandaron is a valued environmental educational facility and was designated a Scout Centre of Excellence for Nature and Environment by the World Scouting Organization, according to Powering Communities.
"We're really happy to help the camp grow," Harris said.
The campsite project is one of many that the roughly 500-member local has done for its community. Members have also wired scoreboards for area schools, handed out hand sanitizer to a women's home, worked with boys' homes and local health centers, and sold carnations on Mother's Day for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. They've also participated in charity bike rides, powered lights for Christmas and donated junior hockey tickets to low-income students.
"That's what the IBEW is, a big family," Harris said.
Usually for the holiday season, Local 530 would host a Christmas party and give out gifts to members' children. Harris would even play Santa. But last year, they're planning to do a drive-through-style event instead.
"We're just trying to do our part, and make sure nobody's left out at Christmastime," Harris said.