Carpenters Build Little Libraries

There’s no job too big or too small for union carpenters. Over the weekend, SWRCC partnered with the El Monte Coalition of Latino Professionals (EMCLP) to complete 25 Little Libraries for El Monte and South El Monte communities. Fellow EMCLP members Roz Keeler and Joe Vu started crafting Little Libraries as a tool to improve literacy and promote the importance of career planning to greater El Monte area communities last year. “We needed to figure out how we were going to translate this huge vision into something we could accomplish as a small organization. We started out trying to build them ourselves, but we’re certainly not craftsman so it was slow going,” Keeler said.  Local Mountain View School Board President Adam Carranza, knew the carpenters were the perfect neighbors for the job. “Ted [Jimenez] came out and met with us because it gives back to kids in the community,” Keeler continued. “This is a community where many of the carpenters live, raise their kids, and go to school. As soon as we got involved with the carpenters union, it exploded. We were able to take our huge dream and make it a reality. We had three Little Libraries and it took us over a year to get that, now in a matter of months we have 25.”

“This stuff is great, I’ve been here 37 years and this is all new; the union hasn’t always done stuff like this,”  said Jesse Loera Local 213 Carpenter and member of the Volunteer Committee. “It feels good to give back, but you know this is also my bread and butter, too. It’s really opening up my eyes to how getting involved can help my union. It’s what puts food on our table and I hope the other members see it that way, too,” Loera continued.

After the initial framing was completed, the carpenters returned the libraries to schools across the area, to be hand-painted by students.  As word of the Little Libraries spread, donations started pouring in. More than 700 kids donated a book to the El Monte Little Library initiative. On Saturday morning, Assemblyman Ed Chau, Mayor of El Monte Andre Quintero, EMCLP, and volunteers from the community gathered with the carpenters at the Whittier Training Center to add the final details before distributing them to neighborhoods. While the carpenters took volunteers through a roofing 101 course, showing  them how to cut and place shingles, Local 213 Womens’ Auxiliary made sure each library’s official “Built by Union Carpenters” plaque was nailed flush.

“I live in El Monte so when I go to the grocery store I see these and I know we were a part of this. It’s a very rewarding feeling to tell people the carpenters built these,” said Richard Burns, chairman for the 213 PAC committee. “I don’t think everyone has caught the fever yet, but it’s coming I think they’re going to get it.” If you’re interested in volunteering for the next Little Libraries project with EMCLP register for the next CUPP opportunity today!