AUBURN — Eleven electricians were working — for free — on an old Cleaves Street house Wednesday.

Under the supervision of instructor Greg Cushman, 10 high school seniors in their second year of the Lewiston Regional Technical Center’s electricity program are rewiring a house owned by the Odd Fellows of Maine.

The Odd Fellows is refurbishing the property to turn it into a shelter for abused women and a low-cost day care to help working parents, Odd Fellows Grand Secretary Ken Grant said.

“It’s an old house in need of a lot of tender loving care,” Cushman said over the sound of drills. “We are totally rewiring the house. Old wiring is a fire hazard, and some of the old wiring methods weren’t grounded,” he said. Students will install all new wiring to bring the house up to code. It’s a $10,000 job, he said.

The Odd Fellows bought the four-bedroom house last year, Grant said. A fraternal organization, the group pays attention to community needs, he said. For a working parent on the edge, day-care costs can take up a lot of income. In addition to providing emergency shelter for families in crisis, the group wants to subsidize day-care costs “to help keep young families off welfare,” he said.

Improvements so far include new plumbing, new windows and a new kitchen. But renovating is expensive. The lodge was running out of project money and the building had “ancient wiring from the turn of the century,” Grant said.

He called Edward Little High School to ask whether students could help. He was referred to LRTC, which serves students from six high schools: Lewiston, Edward Little in Auburn, Poland Regional, Leavitt Area in Turner, Oak Hill in Wales and Lisbon.

To Grant’s delight, he was told a week before Christmas that LRTC students would rewire  the house as a class project, at no cost for labor.

“The kids have been doing a wonderful job,” Grant said. “They’re just a wonderful bunch of kids.”

LRTC students only do nonprofit work so as not to compete with commercial electricians. As the house gets rewired, “my students get experience which is invaluable,” Cushman said.

They have installed lights in the basement and a new circuit for the boiler. On Wednesday, they were drilling and running wires from the basement for new dining-room outlets.

Of the 10 students, Mary Turmel of Lewiston is the only female. Learning electrical work “is a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s a good trade to learn.” Working on the Cleaves Street house allows them to give back to the community, she said.

Ayman Mohamed of Lewiston, a native of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, signed up to become an electrician “because electricity is a good thing to learn,” he said. “After graduation, I will go to college and learn more.”

Steven Sorensen, also of Lewiston, said electricians run in his family. His father and cousin are electricians. He likes the hands-on work. “I get to see what I did.” It’s satisfying, he said, “knowing I can do something not a lot of people can do.”

As helper electricians, LRTC students who complete the program can earn $12 to $15 an hour working with experienced electricians, Cushman said. When they become journeymen electricians, which requires four years of experience, the pay increases to $20 to $24 an hour. Master electricians earn more than $60 an hour, he said.

New electricians are needed to replace those who are retiring, Cushman said. “The average age of an electrician is 59.”

LRTC’s electrician program has been full in its first year, but there has not been a waiting list, Director Rob Callahan said.

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