A small group of us from the IBEW Wives Facebook Group banded together on January 26, 2012 with an idea of having a basket raffle to help raise funds for the family of John Plante, a JL out of Local 104 who was tragically killed. Searches for non-profit organizations to donate the funds to returned with no results. It was frustrating to us wanting to participate in fundraising for the grieving families that not one charity existed for linemen. The dangers surrounding this profession are abundant. Why doesn’t help exist for the families outside of the brotherhood? Why must they resort to just “passing the hat” at meetings? This was the fire that lit NSUJL’s Mission.
Taking on what turned out to be months of legalities that appeared never ending, we carried on. With no startup money, our original officers, directors and members all donated from their own pockets to fund the “startup” expenses, very passionate and determined to help families. When NSUJL officially became a membership organization in April of 2012, those funds helped assist our ability to pay the $850 IRS filing fee and $500 for the accountant to fill out NSUJL’s tax exempt form 1023. Our first major bill being the required Directors and Officers Insurance of $1400. Unable to even consider paying it all upfront, we spread these payments over the course of a few months just barely scraping together the funds to do so.
While legalities were underway, the operations started to take shape. The country was divided into 6 regions all run by a regional director. Under each regional director we began to nominate State representatives, which in hindsight appears a little risky now. Most of us being perfect strangers to each other prior to the organization of NSUJL. We instantly banded together as Sisters by the family association of the Brotherhood. Back then, donations to families consisted of officers, directors and members donating from their own pockets. Sending a $300 check to a family seemed like the most amazing thing we could ever do. Little did we know, things were about to change, and drastically.
Our first Executive Officers were appointed on March 8th 2012. Many of them also held regional and state positions. We had to hold multiple positions as NSUJL membership at that time consisted of only 21 members. Time consuming does not begin to describe the dedication our members had. Board meetings were on a weekly basis and 2-3 hours long. We voted on every minute detail of the organization, down to the name. All of us steadily worked 40+ volunteer hours a week to finalize everything just to be considered a legal organization, adding to that, the hours to operate, while feverishly determined to stay focused on the goal of helping families.
Our first major task was to contact all outside IBEW Locals in the country to gain support and hopefully help assist them with the ability to help families. This returned a result that is indescribable. On March 21, 2012, we received our first donation from an IBEW local, that local being 222. Tears of joy and pride overcame the membership and it became just that extra lift in our step to carry on. The response from the brotherhood didn’t stop there, local after local called, sent letters of support, donations came rolling in from then on.
Gratefully, on a Wednesday afternoon (May 9, 2012) the call of a lifetime from Ed Mings, a representative of the IBEW International office in Washington, DC. Being a completely transparent organization with nothing to hide, with the main focus to help families, they welcomed NSUJL with open arms. NSUJL’s founder Rae Johnson and accompanied by founding member, Terry Riffe attended NSUJL’s first IBEW Conference in July of 2012. In Oct 2012, President Hill issued a letter recommending all locals support and contribute. This letter is framed and sits in founder, Rae Johnson’s office.
The response from the brotherhood was only the beginning of the support. The officers and directors also began contacting companies to donate products that we could take to rodeos to help raise funds through basket giveaways. The first major companies to sign on and support were Tyndale, Bashlin Industries and Farwest Line Specialties. Those 3 remain NSUJL’s largest sponsors still today. Since, several other companies such as Service Electric, Hubbell, Buckingham, Linemen’s Supply, Valiant and many others have supported NSUJL and our mission. Continuing with the goals, IBEW locals themselves started to sign on as Associate Members. The first being local 1439, shortly afterwards followed by locals 44, 47, 53, 55, 71, 220, 222, 304, 369, 738, 769, 1002, 1245, 1393 and 2150.
In January 2013, just before the 1 year anniversary, the IRS Approved NSUJL’s 501(c)(3) status. Backdating it to Feb 29th 2012, the day the Articles of Incorporation were filed in PA, this being the beginning of the endless opportunities to work on. From what we were told, obtaining Tax Exempt Status in under a year of operation with no questions or correspondence from the IRS during this process is unheard of and very rare. Now we are official, and finally able to really start looking at fundraising and grant options.
In May of 2014, shortly after our 2 year anniversary, we welcomed our first male board members who brought a combined 123 years of IBEW experience and management. Many of the founding members are still with us today and we look forward to a thriving membership for many years to come.
NSUJL now accepts invitations and attends events, conferences and rodeos nationally, and even holds major events of our own. An Annual Climbing for Lost Linemen ceremony and Linemen Benefit Rodeo in June.