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Skilled electricians short-circuit retirement to help Habitat for Humanity

"The community needs us and, and what better thing to help Habitat for Humanity," Bill Hagene said.

O'FALLON, Ill. — At a Habitat for Humanity construction site in O'Fallon, Illinois, they're about to see the light.

Workers are in the final phase of installing a new home's electrical system.

It's not often that you'll find a dozen electricians working on one house. And with so much experience.

"I was an electrician for 35 years," said Bill Hagene.

"For me, it was 38 years," said Scott Nicholson.

And you'll get a similar answer from every one of these guys. In fact, they've all "short-circuited" retirement.

"I love retirement," said Nicholson, laughing. "Compared to working, it's fantastic!"

But they are working.

"Yeah, that's true," he said. "But this doesn't feel like work!"

What sparked them to dust off the old voltage tester was the opportunity to give back.

"The community needs us and, and what better thing to help Habitat for Humanity," explained Hagene.

Habitat for Humanity builds homes all over the world for people in need.

"So they can step up in life," said Gary Mueller, the project manager for Habitat. "It's not necessarily handout, it's a hand up to bring them from where they were."

For the past several years, these retired union electrical workers from IBEW 309 have been teaming up with the O'Fallon Habitat Chapter to energize these new homes.

"I mean, initially we had six guys right off the get-go, and now we're up to 14 different guys," said Hagene.

And generosity leads to camaraderie.

"We ski together, we drink beer together, we barbecue together," said Hagene.

Habitat credits these "Electric Pros" for helping them reduce the cost of construction and make dreams come true for families. Like one from a few weeks ago.

"The mother of six children, walks in the front door,"  Mueller recalled. "And she doesn't get a step in and the tears just kept running down her face. And that was just such a fulfillment that we were doing something that really meant something for this family."

"That's why we keep coming back," Hagene said.

Switching off retirement to make a difference. The experience and skill of these electricians is now a light that never goes out.

"It's just a good feeling," said Nicholson.

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