By Oren Peleg
On a clear and sunny Saturday morning on Skid Row, Local 11 Business Agent Shomari Davis gathered his volunteers for Local 11’s participation in the National Day of Service.
“Let’s start unloading the tables and get the taco truck parked across the street,” Davis told his 40 volunteers who had assembled bright and early at Gladys Park to get everything ready.
The Day of Service, sponsored by the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC), takes place every year with chapters participating across the nation. “So it won’t just be us here in Los Angeles,” explained Local 11’s EWMC Chapter President Alton Wilkerson. “It’ll be people in New York, it’ll be people in Seattle, and at various locations throughout the country. Today we are going to give out a ton of clothes here in the Skid Row area, and we will be feeding hopefully about 800 individuals as well.”
Local 11 assembled hygiene kits, shirts, socks, pants, kids clothing, “a little bit of everything,” Wilkerson said.
Over the next hour, several vans shuttled EWMC members and their families into the park where they set up the tables and organized donated clothing and other items under the direction of ETI lead senior instructor Summer Zachary.
When she first joined Local 11, Zachary was experiencing hardships of her own, but she said that providing service to those in need helped put things in perspective
“It also helps you to just get your mind off yourself,” she said, adding that working together in a communal environment really helps boost new members’ self-confidence. “We have a lot of up-and-coming apprentices who come to our Days of Service. It really helps build that brotherhood and it helps build that family feeling and that atmosphere.”
The goal to increase the union’s brotherhood and sisterhood resonates with Marissa Zavala. Hoping to eventually become an Inside Wireman, Zavala regularly attends meetings of the Solidarity Committee, which she says are helpful. in building community.
“They provide a meeting place for women and we’re constantly doing workshops and learning about the local and how we can get involved in it,” Zavala said. “You really get as much as you put in, right? So I just really like to be involved. I’m seeing a lot of men here at this event, and I’m not sure what the statistics are on unhoused people, but I would like to see an event more women-focused to create a safe space for them.”
By 9 a.m. a line had formed outside the park with people waiting to come in to get the food and clothing. Pepper, who calls himself the Mayor of Skid Row, helped to keep order.
“Events like this lift up the morale of the community,” said Pepper, who has lived in the area for 41 years. “It puts more food in people’s bellies and gives them hope when a lot of them feel no hope, no love. It just shows love in a different way.”
This effort of giving back and strengthening the community is at the very core of EWMC and IBEW’s mission. “Every business manager that has been in our union has always emphasized giving back to the community,” said Zachary. “Not only is it helpful for communities, but it’s advertising, since we reach our members from that community.”
“The Day of Service is another avenue for us to give back to the community that we work so hard to build up by building new schools, building homeless housing projects, and things like that throughout our community,” added Wilkerson. “It’s just another piece of the puzzle.”
For Local 11 member Carlos Martinez, the mission is personal.
“I like donating my time and giving back when I can to people in need,” said Martinez. “Because that could be me in those shoes right there. We just don’t know. Life could turn around really quickly, and that could possibly be me in the future. I know what it is to have things. And I’m very fortunate to be where I’m at now, where I can help the people that don’t.”