February 21, 2024

THE LIGHTS IN A WOMEN’S SHELTER in Kitimat, B.C. are shining brighter this winter thanks to Alyssa Rogers and a sisterhood of electricians from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 993 (IBEW 993).

Rogers is a second-year apprentice and member of the IBEW 993 women’s committee. Chaired by Mollie Routledge and Angie Camille, the committee does outreach work including supporting women’s shelters through fundraising and the donation of services. During a committee meeting, Routledge encouraged Rogers to talk to a local shelter in Kitimat and offer free electrical work.

“So, I called them up,” said Rogers, who reached out to Dunmore Place Transition House. “Turns out I actually knew the person who runs the shelter, Danielle, because I trained dogs and I trained her dog. She has the sweetest Irish setter.”

Built in 1979, Dunmore Place, an eight-bed transition house, was in dire need of electrical updates. An emergency shelter for women, with or without children, who are fleeing abusive relationships, or escaping violence, the Dunmore is staffed by women around the clock.

“It was pretty run down,” said Danielle Aiello, transitional housing manager. “We had really old lighting. Half of it wasn’t working. It was dim, not bright. Lighting fixtures were falling out of the ceiling.”

Rogers got to work and set up an all-women crew to update the lighting at Dunmore Place with the help of Routledge, Camille, Tammy Schneider, Lexus Curry, Kimberly Wypych, Shelby Westbury, Kate Hancock and Cassandra Smyth. Women from the nearby liquefied natural gas project including Colleen Ryan, a member of IBEW Local 230, apprentices from the Terrace Hospital project and WSG Energy Service helped on the job site.

Wesco Distributors donated all the electrical materials and WSG Energy Service donated wages, temporary lighting and ladders to complete the work as well as a purchase order for extra supplies.

“It takes a lot of planning, and a lot of hands in the pot to make it happen, but we did it,” said Rogers.

The team of Red Seal electricians and apprentices had their work cut out for them. Over the course of three days, they found exposed wire in the walls — a major fire risk — and repaired it, fixed all three-way switches, which had been wired improperly, and removed and replaced old plugs and light fixtures on the three-floor building.

“It was great. They were fast and efficient. They had a plan and really made it work with the women in the house,” said Aiello. “That it was all women was nice, a lot more comfortable. I couldn’t imagine 10 males around the house. Males can be triggering for women who have been in a domestic violence situation.”

Gender-based violence is a significant problem in B.C. and across the country. In 2021, 173 women died of gender-based violence. According to Statistics Canada, 44 per cent of women who have been in an intimate partner relationship have reported experiencing some kind of psychological, physical, or sexual abuse.

“Alyssa was hell-bent on making this happen,” said Aiello. “Electrical work is not cheap, and the upgrades were needed. Not a lot of people would do that, and it was very much appreciated. It was really nice to see the union helping our community.”

By Tatiana Tomljanovic