A strong sense of altruism and a desire to help his community has driven Sean Counihan throughout his life, and it’s led to him receiving the 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award from Local Union 25 Plumbers and Pipefitters.

Counihan will be honored for his community efforts in putting on multiple career fairs and outreach programs to help recruit students into the skilled trades during the Local 25 Awards Banquet in February.

A third-year apprentice with Local Union 25, Counihan moved to Rock Island three years ago from Boston, where he was a transportation coordinator for special needs children. With the Quad Cities lacking a comparable career path, he went into pipefitting and was happy to join organized labor.

“I had friends who were involved with the union, and organized labor is something I’ve always supported. I’m proud to be a part of it,” Counihan said. “It was a good fit for me. I’ve got good mechanical skills, and this is a great career path to be able to sustain a good life. The pay and the benefits are terrific, and the schedule is very conducive to having a family and spending time with them, which is very important to me.”

In fact, his own satisfaction with his job and the union are what led him to become an advocate for both, for which he won his award.

“I live in Rock Island, and I’ve seen a lot of people around me who have had a difficult time finding that career path that’s going to be rewarding for them, and so I wanted to help other people find a way into this career,” Counihan said. “I don’t really look at it as volunteering — I look at it as trying to help people and build the community up. I think one of the greatest things about organized labor is the aspect of brotherhood to it, and that spirit of we’re all in this together, and I feel that way about the community too. I think bringing more people into the trades allows more of us to have those good paying jobs and good benefits that make everybody stronger.”

In looking to make that outreach, Counihan teamed up with Ametra Carrol of the Community Caring Conference, Paul Fessler with the Black Hawk building trades program and Jerry Lack of Tri-City Building Trades to put together a number of career expos and outreach programs to tell people about the opportunities in the trades and Local Union 25.

“The great thing has been seeing so many people from so many different backgrounds come through the doors,” he said. “We’ve probably had over 150 people who have taken action and signed up, including some of my neighbors, which is really great to see. The more you build up your neighborhood and your community the more it helps you, the more it helps everyone.”

“Sean made a significant impact in 2019 by educating our community about the many career opportunities available with Local 25 Plumbers and Pipefitters and the other building trades,” said Matt Lienen, Business Manager for Local Union 25. “He joins a long line of Local 25 members who have dedicated their personal time to making the Quad Cities a better place to live.”

Counihan is humble about the recognition.

“Of course I was surprised and grateful when I heard the news, but it’s something I feel we should all be doing and to be recognized for something I think I should be doing is odd to me,” he said. “I feel like it’s my responsibility as someone benefitting from this to pass it on and to help the community at large grow.”

Counihan follows the same path in his own home. His wife, Carly, is a phlebotomist at an area blood center, and he says they raise their children, Liam and Layla, with their same philosophy of helping others.

“I’m extremely proud to be a part of Local Union 25 and to do what I do. We’re a strong union of true professionals in everything we do,” he said. “When I tell my kids about what I do or show them pictures of projects, they’re awe-struck, and that makes me happy. That’s something I want everyone to feel about their career, and that’s why I do so much outreach to let people know and get them involved and to help them. I strongly believe that we’re stronger together and if we bring each other up, everyone benefits.”

About Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 25

Since the early 1900s, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 25 has guaranteed the professionalism of its journeymen, and the value of their work through a training program that is thoroughly unique in the plumbing and pipefitting industries.  Their five years of rigorous classroom and on-the-job training in a state-of-the-art training center produces a workforce so skilled in the mechanical service and construction business that they provide roughly 85% of all plumbing, HVACR and pipefitting performed in the Quad City area.

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Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.