Hamilton homeless shelter gets help from electrical union

The “Serve City” homeless shelter in Hamilton wasn’t merely giving assistance Saturday to poor families. On this weekend, and other recent days, members of the local electric union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 648 were volunteering their help to Serve City itself by installing energy-efficient LED lights.

About 90 light-emitting-diode fixtures were installed in the shelter at 622 East Ave., which is operated through the efforts of several area churches.

Jim Pate and Dick Von Stein were among two IBEW volunteers who were installing fluorescent tubes in the center’s conference room and elsewhere. As with other improvements they and others have been helping with through the city of Hamilton’s sponsorship of the Columbus-based Efficiency Smart program, these lights are brighter, and much easier on electric bills.

Von Stein — father of Hamilton Council Member and IBEW Local 648 President Matt Von Stein — was working from about 8 a.m. into the early afternoon on the installation of lights. Efficiency Smart, which Hamilton’s utilities to pay to help cut into consumers’ bills and the city’s need to produce more power, provided the lighting equipment.

Serve City spends an average of $13 per day helping a person with such needs as clothing, shelter and case management.

Efficiency Smart estimates the new lighting will save the shelter $4,700 in annual electric costs, or the equivalent of 361 daily doses of help for individuals who need assistance.

Linda Kimble, executive director of Serve City, said her organization’s group is to offer food, clothing, shelter and higher levels of self-sufficiency so they can become independent. “The cost savings from the new lights will go a long way toward being able to help more individuals in need.”

The program also offers free energy-efficient LED bulbs for Hamilton people who use the shelter, to make it easier for them to afford ongoing costs.

Serve City began more than 20 years ago as a food pantry in the basement of a local church. It still performs that function, but now also operates Chosen, Choices, and Shekinah Place in Hamilton. Chosen offers shelter to up to 52 people at once. Choices provides transitional and permanent housing through 12 apartments with 48 beds. Shekinah Place, meanwhile, consists of 25 efficiency apartments.

During 2016, Serve City served food to 8,400 families and provided 14,000 nights of shelter to 450 people.

“Many of our members call Hamilton home, so being part of this project has a special meaning to us,” Matt Von Stein said. We know that volunteering our time will ultimately result in more people in the community receiving the assistance they need.”

Dick Von Stein waved off the fact he was giving up a big part of his weekend: “I’m retired, so it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Meanwhile, Glenna Carroll, director of the pantry, said she couldn’t wait until the volunteers reached the part of the large area where she has her desk.

“I think they’re going to be a lot brighter, a lot better,” she predicted. Already, she noted, other lighting not far from her desk had made a big improvement.

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