Photo by Jeff Thompson
0313 Making a Way
MWP Volunteer Coordinator Nick Dimitri, NECA Assistant Manager Andrew Varvoutis and BEJATC Training Director Matt Dudley.
It was Saturday, and like a hive the cabin was busy – full of workers clad in flannel and thick belts with burlap pockets that fell halfway to their knees. Their tools and fasteners were spread through most every room of the building. Their clamor, as a whole, was entirely indecipherable.
But come close to each, and you could pick out the sounds of charity.
On Feb. 2, more than 100 participants in the Birmingham Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (BEJATC) filled a rural house in Chelsea. That day, they doled out an estimated $30,000 in volunteer labor – partly as training, and partly to combat the global problem of human trafficking.
The house, when finished, will be the new headquarters for Make Way Partners, a Birmingham-based, Christian nonprofit organization that provides support to missions in areas vulnerable to trafficking including Sudan and Romania. The organization currently coordinates with its network of indigenously led ministries from a house in Hoover, but there was a need for the stateside staff to operate from somewhere more serene, said Volunteer Coordinator Nick Dimitri.
“Our staff deals daily with difficult situations,” he said. “One of the reasons we chose this location was to give them somewhere beautiful and quiet to work from.”
Last year Make Way purchased the four-level cabin off Shelby County Road 51 just outside Chelsea. But as the organization began renovations, Dimitri said it became clear that expensive repairs were needed in the electrical system. The organization feared funding the repairs would diminish its ability to care for the approximately 1,000 orphans in its of the 7,000-square-foot house, leaving little more than a skeleton. They removed all the existing wire and started over from the basement up. Materials and work donated by BEJATC, NECA and IBEW will prevent any pauses in services provided by Make Way Partners. For more on the organization, contact Dimitri at firstname.lastname@example.org or 566-8789. network in Sudan.
“We had hit a brick wall,” Dimitri said.
Word soon spread through a string of local connections, and the local chapters of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 136 – groups that partnered to create the nonprofi t Apprenticeship Committee – reached out to Dimitri and Make Way Partners. Andrew Varvoutis, assistant manager with NECA’s Gulf Coast Chapter, helped push to provide the service, not only assisting in organizing the BEJATC but also in securing approximately $10,000 in donated materials.
“(BEJATC Training Director) Matt Dudley brought it to me, this idea to get people in the apprenticeship program involved in something bigger than themselves – bigger than Birmingham,” Varvoutis said. “It’s great training, and they get to see how becoming an electrician can mean more than they ever thought.”
Varvoutis said the project provided particular challenges, namely that the cabin’s solid walls prevented apprenticeship participants from running wires in them. They instead gutted the entire inside of the 7,000-square-foot house, leaving little more than a skeleton. They removed all the existing wire and started over from the basement up.
Materials and work donated by BEJATC, NECA and IBEW will prevent any pauses in services provided by Make Way Partners.
For more on the organization, contact Dimitri at email@example.com or 566-8789.