Special to CONTRACTOR
ST. LOUIS — Nearly 100 families benefited in May from the time, talent and donations of local union plumbing contractors as part of the 12th annual Rebuilding Together St. Louis.
St. Louis Plumbing Industry Council contractors, supplier members and members of United Association Plumbers and Pipefitters’ Local 562 joined to provide plumbing repairs and home renovations for elderly, low-income and disabled residents in the metropolitan area. The union contractors have partnered with Rebuilding Together St. Louis for five years.
Contractor members of the PIC donated about 50 service trucks loaded with tools. A wide array of plumbing products, such as sinks, faucets, toilets and pipe, are donated by PIC supplier members, and two supplier members kept their supply houses open during the event to fill orders. Members of Local 562 donated their time and talent to assist those in need.
Merlo Plumbing Co. has been participating for the past five years, said Norman Merlo. This year the firm had four plumbers and four apprentices driving Merlo vans to perform the repairs.
“I’ve been involved with the Plumbing Industry Council since Day One,” Merlo said, “and this is a charitable-type event that they put on, and we felt it would be good for the city and county of St. Louis for the plumbers to donate their time and suppliers to donate materials.”
Most of the work is done in older areas of the city, Merlo noted, and frequently consists of basic plumbing services that the homeowners can’t afford, such as cabling a sewer line or replacing a faucet. This year, two of his trucks performed basic repairs and the other two replaced old galvanized pipes, full of lime scale and corrosion, with new copper pipe so that more pressure could flow to the fixtures.
“A couple years ago this particular elderly woman had plumbing problems with her bathtub and she could never get enough water out of her faucet to take a decent bath,” Merlo recalled. “We rejuvenated her bathtub fill valve. She took the time and effort to call and said she was ‘glorified’ that she could take a bath and the tub would fill up in a matter of minutes. She was overjoyed.”
Suppliers have been more willing in recent years to donate materials, Merlo said. He’s also happy to use his own trucks in case the plumbers need other supplies that have not been donated.
The effort is catching on, Merlo said, and his employees are eager to donate a Saturday to do volunteer work. The crews get breakfast, get their work orders, put in about four hours and then meet for a closing lunch.
St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay issued a proclamation and took part in some of the repairs, Merlo noted.
“The generosity of the local union plumbing industry is an integral part of the success of Rebuilding Together St. Louis,” said Lynne Rajani, executive director of Rebuilding Together St. Louis. “It is inspiring to know that we can count on them every year to step up and help.”
The homes for Rebuilding Together St. Louis are selected after being referred to the program by churches, neighborhood and community service organizations. Individual homeowners can also request services.
“Rebuilding Together is so much more than just cosmetic work — some of the people we help are living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions,” said Don Orf, business agent for Local 562.
Rebuilding Together is made possible by the extensive volunteer work of many contractor members of the PIC and the local union. From man-hours worked to products donated, the value of the contractor members’ work is equal to nearly $100,000. While the union contractor members complete needed repair work on the houses, they also participate, along with groups from local high schools, churches and corporations, in completing cosmetic work on the properties.
Since its beginning in 1993, Rebuilding Together St. Louis has renovated 623 homes. Every year, Rebuilding Together St. Louis renovates 70 to 90 homes. The organization is dedicated to helping homeowners live independently in comfort and safety. The PIC is a local union trade group affiliated with the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association.