In the middle of the night on December 21, 2022, Local #10 member Kelly Catterton and his family were asleep in their home in Mechanicsville, MD. After finishing a long shift working on elevator modernizations as a mechanic for Action Elevator, it had been an evening like any other.
“My one-year-old was sleeping in his crib, my four-year-old was in his room, my wife had gone to bed,” Kelly said. “I just happened to fall asleep on the couch. And then around 12:30-1:00, I woke up because I smelled something burning. I thought I left something in the oven.” He ran into the kitchen and pulled the oven open, but found the stove was off. “And then I opened the door to the garage – it was like an inferno in there. I ran back to the bedrooms, grabbed my kids and my wife and got everyone outside. Once I knew everyone was safe, I went back in to grab the car keys because it was 18 degrees and we were all out there in t-shirts and pajamas.”
Within minutes, Kelly’s house was completely engulfed in flames. Amazingly, everyone in his family had escaped unharmed. But with only four days before Christmas, two small children, and another baby on the way in a few short months, it was just about the worst time for a tragedy like this to happen.
A few hours later, Charmain Colicchio, Office Manager from Local 10, received a call from a retired member with the news. “My immediate thought was – what can I do, how can I help right now. It was like my own family at that point.”
Charmain reached out to EIWPF National Coordinator and longtime Local 10 member Matt Rusch. Having served as a volunteer firefighter for Queenstown and Solomons Fire Departments for close to 30 years, Matt had an idea of what the family would need in the aftermath. And having been Kelly’s teacher when he was an apprentice in the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP), he was especially concerned about the family.
Matt and Charmain got right to work coordinating donations of clothing, shoes, diapers, coats – anything they could think of that could help. They also set up a GoFundMe so that the family could have access to funds to meet their immediate needs quickly. Once it was ready, it was shared widely on Facebook and other online platforms. Within four days, 165 people from all across the country contributed and raised over $17,000. “All of the members came together. We even received donations from folks who had been laid off,” said Charmain.
It wasn’t just the people in Local 10’s jurisdiction who contributed. Friends and family members set up additional GoFundMe accounts. And the membership of Local 5 in Philadelphia sent an additional check for $5,000. Kelly was floored by the generosity of his IUEC brothers and sisters. “I don’t know anyone in Local 5. I’ve never even been there.” he said.
Business Manager John O’Connor reached out to IUEC Regional Director Jim Chapman, who had worked in the past with Michelle Maxia at the Toy Box Connection, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that provides toys and emergency supplies for children and families in need – including those who have been affected by fires, floods, tornadoes, and other disasters. Receiving a request for help so close to Christmas – their busiest time of year – may have fazed other organizations, but with Michelle at the helm, they jumped into action and sent a truckload of donations all the way to Mechanicsville, MD the next day.
Members of Local 10 had also loaded up a truck with more clothing, household goods, and Christmas gifts for Kelly and his family. And to the delight of the children, when they arrived, Matt Rusch had dressed up as Santa Claus to deliver them. “We wanted the kids to know that wherever they were, Santa could find them,” said Charmain. “We didn’t want them to worry about Santa not knowing where to bring their gifts on Christmas.”
While it will take a long time for Kelly and his family to rebuild their house, he emphasized over and over how thankful he was for the support of his IUEC brothers and sisters. “In the relatively short time I’ve been in the IUEC, I’ve made lifelong friends. There are some really good people here,” he said. “Five years ago, before I worked in the elevator trade, I used to paint cars. I hate to think where I’d be right now if I hadn’t become an elevator constructor. This is a great trade – it’s very rewarding if you put in the effort and are willing to learn. Wherever I go, if I’m wearing a union shirt, people come up to me – we take care of each other.”
For more information, visit IUEC Local 10’s website.