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September 4, 2013

On-the-road pipeline wives foster goodwill

NEW CASTLE — A transient group of wives has found ways to occupy themselves while their husbands are building a natural gas pipeline.

One of the wives is Stevi Gregory, 46, of Crystal Beach, Texas, who designs T-shirts for wives of pipeline workers.

But more importantly, she and other pipeline wives staying in Lawrence County and other places nationwide are fostering goodwill by raising funds for less-fortunate people in a community they temporarily call home.

The women travel throughout the country with their husbands, settling in different towns for several weeks to a year at a time, then move along with them to different job sites.

The local crews are working for Associated Pipeline Construction Co., laying natural gas pipelines in the Pulaski and Mahoning Township areas.

The pipelines will extend west into Ohio to transport natural gas from Marcellus and Utica shale wells being drilled in the area. There are about 300 workers on that job who belong to various labor unions, Gregory said, and her husband, Kevin, is one of them.

The workers organize each morning at a warehouse site off Martin Kelly-Speers Road in Mahoning Township before going out to work.

Most of those families are here from other states.

Right now, the Gregorys, along with about 25 other pipeline families, are staying in Heritage Hills Mobile Home Park in Pulaski Township.

The wives have formed their own support group as strangers in a strange town who need something to do while their husbands are at work.

Gregory is spokeswoman. About 30 of them go to lunch once a week. They try to frequent restaurants that are locally owned, she said.

“We’re also putting money back into the local economy,” Gregory noted. “We shop at locally owned stores instead of corporate-owned ones.

“Our ‘pipeline lady lunches’ are where we scheme about what we can do for people.”

They’ve started their own Facebook pages — one called Pipeline Ladies Lunching, and the other, selling T-shirts and other pipeline-themed clothing, called Pipeline Wife Mafia Clothing.

“We don’t always get a good reception when we go into some towns,” Gregory explained, but some of the negative stigma goes away when people learn of their philanthropic efforts.

“We hold fundraisers for people with needs.”

For example, a pipeline wives group in Zanesville, Ohio, raised $42,000 in three weeks to help a child who needed heart surgery.

When the pipeliners went to work in Zanesville, the residents there had put up signs saying pipeliners were not welcome. But after that fundraiser, the signs came down, Gregory said.

Locally, a Mahoningtown woman is testament to their goodwill.

Kimberly Campbell made a new friend in Gregory when Gregory reached out to her family with funds after Campbell’s house burned. She and the other women passed a bucket among pipeline workers one day to collect the money.

“I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done, especially for someone you didn’t even know,” Campbell told Gregory when the finally met face to face.

They were strangers until Gregory handed her the check.

The Gregorys have been to about 11 states so far, including North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, New York and Kentucky.

They travel in a 40-foot recreational vehicle they call home. It has two bedrooms and their two sons and two English mastiffs live with them. The children are home-schooled.

Typically, when one job is finished they go back to their hometowns to regroup before leaving again.

“We move along with the workers,” Gregory said, “because you really can’t keep a family together if you’re separated all the time.”

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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