(Story by Teresa A. Hall)
It’s not uncommon, especially after the holidays, to box up clothes, hats and other items that no longer fit for donation to second-hand stores like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. But employees are urged to never donate or give away company-issued hats or clothing with an AEP or operating company logo out of concern the items could fall into the wrong hands.
|Employees are urged to never donate or give away company-issued hats or clothing with an AEP or operating company logo out of concern the items could fall into the wrong hands.|
The issue came to light late last year when two people dressed as AEP employees made their way into the home of an elderly woman in Mabscott, W.Va. The incident is a reminder that the public should always ask for a company ID before letting someone in their home. It’s also a reminder that employees should never donate or give away company-issued clothing or hats with an AEP or operating company logo. The biggest concern is that the items could be used by an impersonator or scam artist.
If clothing no longer fits and is in good shape with current logos, employees may want to see if the items could be of use to a co-worker. If the items aren’t needed or are simply worn out, employees should always cut or shred the items and then throw them away.
“Protecting our customers is of primary concern in situations like this and outweighs our reluctance to throw away a perfectly good article of clothing,” said Jeri Matheney, Appalachian Power’s communications director. “Another concern is protecting our corporate reputation.”
T-shirts or other items that have AEP or an operating company listed as a sponsor of an event can be safely given away to friends and family or donated.
(Story by Pamela Busby)
With the rise of Internet use, many people choose to share information with their family, friends, acquaintances, and with companies that run websites, social networking sites, and mobile applications (apps). Sometimes this sharing of information is deliberate, but other times people are unaware of how much, or what type, of information they have agreed to share.
To commemorate National Data Privacy Day, on Jan. 28, the Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign encourages everyone to take a step back and look at their “digital footprint.” How much information are you sharing on social media? Do you know what information the mobile device apps you have downloaded can access? Is the information you make available enough to allow someone to gain access to your accounts or steal your identity?
Data Privacy Day is an annual awareness day observed all over the world to encourage everyone to protect their personal information. In the United States, Data Privacy Day is led by the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign’s co-leader.
To help secure your online information, follow the simple tips below:
- Secure your devices. Keep your devices from prying eyes. Set passcodes or pass phrases (long passwords) to be sure only you can access your smartphone, tablet or PC.
- Secure your accounts. Passwords are no longer the only protection from would-be hackers. When possible, enable two-factor authentication to add another layer of security. Some sites, such as Google, allow you to opt-in to two-factor authentication, which means you need both your password, and a passcode sent via text or email, to log into an account.
- Make passwords long, strong and unique. Passwords should be different for each account, have as many characters as allowed and include numbers, symbols and letters, capital and lowercase.
- Think before you app. Before downloading a mobile app, understand what information (such as your location, access to social networks, etc.) the app accesses.
- Back it up. Store digital copies of your valuable work, music, photos and other information on an external hard drive or trusted online service.
Americans are becoming more aware of the privacy implications of being online. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 86 percent of Internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints—ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their email.
For more tips on how to protect your data, visit Staysafeonline.
Reprinted with permission from Staysafeonline
Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, discussed leadership traits, the challenges of power delivery in extreme weather conditions and cybersecurity investments needed for the future of the industry Jan. 23 on Bloomberg Television’s “In The Loop” with Betty Liu.
|AEP CEO Nick Akins (right) is interviewed by “In The Loop” moderator Betty Liu during a Bloomberg TV segment Jan. 23.|
Prior to addressing industry issues, Liu asked Akins what it takes to become a leader in the electric utility industry.
“I think it’s all about preparation, opportunity, motivation and passion,” Akins answered. “I think one of the big issues is treating people with dignity and respect all along the way. It’s important to have that passion in what you’re trying to achieve, be happy with what you’re doing and certainly be well-balanced in your approach.”
Liu noted that Akins has spent his entire electric utility career with one company (first with Central and South West and then AEP), and asked him if those days are over for aspiring young managers.
“No, I don’t think they’re over,” he answered. “If there are opportunities that become available, you can expand and enlighten yourself from other perspectives. I’ve moved several times and I’ve done several jobs within the same company. As long as you have that motivation and you’re able to grow as an employee and as a human being, it’s a great thing, and it will continue to happen.”
When asked about operating a safe and efficient electric utility system through extreme weather conditions, Akins said, “We’ve done pretty well. Obviously there’s a stress on the system at this point in time, but we’re managing through it, and I think the system has held together in a very positive fashion.
“Although, there are some things to learn from it,” he added. “Natural gas gets frozen up at times and you can’t deliver where you should, so it really does bring up a lot of questions in terms of grid resiliency. Post Superstorm Sandy, that’s a big issue in our industry.
“We’re in a transformational stage in this industry,” Akins continued. “We’re trying to find what the utility of the future looks like. When you think about grid resiliency, cybersecurity and other technological changes like distributed generation, we really have to think about how we invest our capital and how we really focus on this business going forward.”
Turning specifically to the issue of cybersecurity, Akins noted that the threats are real and continuous, and utilities like AEP must remain vigilant to guard against catastrophic events affecting the grid.
“Just three years ago, we had hardly any cybersecurity effort going on. Today, an entire floor of our corporate center is focused on cybersecurity,” he said. “So it really is a focus with the federal government to make sure we understand the threats that can occur and make sure our system is resilient enough to not only respond to those threats but also to recover afterward if we need to, and that really plays into the smart grid activity and the grid resiliency activity so we can make sure our system is secure.”
In that three-year period, Akins warned that the cyber threats have become “more defined and more persistent,” and that the industry also seems to be a step behind the hackers.
“We have to be vigilant. We’re always trying to catch up in this business from a cybersecurity standpoint but we have to be prepared,” Akins concluded. “The government and the industry have been working together and even conducting drills to make sure we are doing the right thing to keep the grid sound.”
Robert Diclemente, 86, retired, died Dec. 4.
John Lackner, 46, AEP Headquarters, died Dec. 14.
AEP River Operations
Danny Sayre, 62, AEP River Operations, died Dec. 20.
Dewey Balding, 90, retired, Amos Plant, died Dec. 28.
Leo Barrett, 96, retired, Charleston Office, died Dec. 7.
Joe Hatfield, 88, retired, Williamson Service Center, died Nov. 26.
David Hood, 57, Mountaineer Plant, died Nov. 30.
Larry Leonard, 62, Lebanon Service Center, died Dec. 11.
William Loy, 79, retired, Kammer Plant, died Dec. 8.
Lee Martin, 94, retired, Glen Lyn Plant, died Dec. 25.
Columbus Southern Power
James Acord, 85, retired, Chillicothe Office, died Nov. 29.
Robert Butcher, 83, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Nov. 18.
George Forst, 87, retired, Athens Service Center, died Nov. 30.
Emmy Hack, 85, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Dec. 17.
Eugene Meyers, 88, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Nov. 23.
Jennifer Moran, 36, Conesville Plant, died Dec. 6.
Dorothy Scott, 69, 850 Tech Center, died Nov. 24.
Richard Starcher, 57, Conesville Plant, died Dec. 5.
Charles West, 84, retired, 850 Tech Center, died Dec. 3.
James Wright, 76, retired, Columbus Meter Reading, died Nov. 26.
Indiana Michigan Power
Timothy Kerlin, 55, Cook Nuclear Plant, died Dec. 21.
Margaret Lewis, 94, retired, Spy Run Service Center, died Nov. 27.
Glen Peacock, 82, retired, Marion Service Center, died Dec. 22.
Wilma Pearson, 75, retired, Marion Service Center, died Dec. 4.
John Ule, 67, retired, Spy Run Service Center, died Dec. 25.
Charles “Dick” Lovegrove, 81, retired, Ashland Office, died Dec. 17.
Betty Robinette, 91, retired, Pikeville Office, died Dec. 27.
Douglas Harbour, 72, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Dec. 1.
Roy Jenkins, 68, retired, Southern Ohio Coal Company, died Nov. 6.
Darrell Ost, 101, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died Nov. 21.
Public Service Company of Oklahoma
Thomas Day, 51, Mid Metro Office, died Dec. 25.
Ruth Harper, 89, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Dec. 28.
Frederick Leippe, 81, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Dec. 6.
Jack Woods, 93, retired, Tulsa General Office, died Dec. 17.
Southwestern Electric Power
Gerald Ready, 77, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Dec. 2.
Johnnie Reeves, 61, Pirkey Plant, died Dec. 23.
Jimmie Robison, 98, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Dec. 2.
Leslie Somerville, 71, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Nov. 28.
Don Talbot, 75, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Dec. 4.
Carolyn Warren, 88, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Dec. 4.
Bobby Zachary, 83, retired, Shreveport General Office, died Dec. 17.
H.E. Foelker, 86, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Nov. 26.
Jeanie Jobe, 89, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Dec. 18.
Milton Pierce, 92, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died Nov. 4.
Perry Thomson, 77, retired, Abilene General Office, died Dec. 18.
David McConnell, Crooksville Service Center, retired Dec. 1 after 40 years of service.
Alfredo Garcia, Pharr North Service Center, retired Dec. 17 after 35 years of service.
AEP Utility Operations
Charles Bulich, Pirkey Plant, retired Dec. 4 after 29 years of service.
Johnnie Godwin, Amos Plant, retired Dec. 1 after 23 years of service.
Claude Hamilton, Rockport Plant, retired Dec. 1 after 26 years of service.
Michael Horvath, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired Dec. 1 after 35 years of service.
Jameal Joseph, Amos Plant, retired Dec. 1 after 25 years of service.
Gregory Morris, Central Machine Shop, retired Dec. 1 after 38 years of service.
Curtis Newsome Jr., Gavin Plant, retired Dec. 28 after 39 years of service.
Thomas Seward, Conesville Plant, retired Dec. 1 after 36 years of service.
Jeffrey Spade, Amos Plant, retired Dec. 17 after 34 years of service.
Steven Stotts, Central Machine Shop, retired Dec. 1 after 39 years of service.
James Trail, Clinch River Plant, retired Dec. 1 after 27 years of service.
James Hurley, Hazard Service Center, retired Dec. 1 after 33 years of service.
Policy, Finance and Strategic Planning
Alice Anderson, Canton Computer Center, retired Dec. 1 after 15 years of service.
Oscar Anzaldua, Eagle Pass Service Center, retired Dec. 21 after 37 years of service.
Linda Scott, Elkhart Service Center, retired Dec. 1 after 27 years of service.
Arlen Henderson, Clinch River Plant, retired Dec. 1 after 39 years of service.
Gregory O’Dell, Athens Service Center, retired Dec. 30 after 16 years of service.
Carlos Brewer, Zanesville Station, retired Dec. 1 after 34 years of service.
Joseph Freeman, Newark Service Center, retired Dec. 1 after 43 years of service.
Kathy Luman, Zanesville Station, retired Dec. 1 after 33 years of service.
Keith Stevens, Upper Sandusky Service Center, retired Dec. 1 after 28 years of service.
(Story by Fay White)
The end of AEP Ohio’s gridSMART Demonstration Project Dec. 31 marks an exciting beginning for the company’s future.
|This map shows the gridSMART Demonstration Project test area.|
Launched in 2009, the project — a unique pilot program — tested approximately 110,000 smart meters, new distribution grid technology and energy sources, plug-in electric vehicles, smart appliances, consumer systems and products to help customers manage electricity use and costs. AEP Ohio residential and business customers participated in the testing of more than 13 field technologies.
“What we’ve learned from the gridSMART Demonstration Project will help us continue to enhance the way we serve customers well into the future,” said Pablo Vegas, AEP Ohio president and chief operating officer. “The project allowed AEP Ohio to illustrate how smart grid technologies can provide customers with greater energy control, improve electricity delivery and reduce energy consumption to delay the need to build more power plants. With gridSMART Phase 2, we plan to take what we’ve learned to deliver electricity more efficiently while improving reliability, customer service and energy savings.”
Demonstration Project tested a number of energy-saving programs
The heart of the gridSMART Demonstration Project is the smart meter, a digital electric meter equipped with two-way communications technology. With the installation of the smart meter, the company was able to develop and offer many beneficial services and programs.
|The heart of the Demonstration Project is the smart meter, a digital electric meter equipped with two-way communications technology.|
Because smart meters collect real-time information about customers’ power usage, the company is better equipped to detect power outage locations, improve reliability and provide faster response to certain customer service requests such as meter reading and service connections.
One of the project’s goals was to develop programs that would help customers manage their electricity use and save money. Some of the programs AEP Ohio tested include SMART Shift, a time-of-day rate plan that helped customers save money by moving electricity use to off peak times, and SMART CoolingSM, an air-conditioning conservation program that helped reduce peak demand during the summer months.
Smart meter technology also was instrumental in developing the eViewSM device, which not only helps customers monitor their electric use and costs, but also estimates current month’s usage so customers can stay within their budget.
Other smart grid technologies also tested
In addition to smart meters, the company was able to test other smart grid technologies, such as:
- Distribution Automation Circuit Reconfiguration (DACR) – A system that allows the re-routing of electricity, resulting in quicker restoration times.
- Volt Var Optimization (VVO) – Technology that manages voltage as power moves from substations to household appliances.
- Smart Appliances – Clothes washers, dryers, refrigerators and other appliances that can work with smart meters to respond to high energy demand and operate all or parts of the appliance when costs are lower.
- Community Energy Storage (CES) devices – Battery units that help keep the lights on for a period of time during power outages.
- Plug-In Electric Vehicles – Automobiles that are powered by gasoline engines and electric motors.
Many AEP Ohio and Ohio-based employees worked on the project
The successful deployment of these technologies was made possible through a collaborative effort of employees, contractors and vendors, calling on various areas of expertise within AEP Ohio and the AEP Service Corporation, including engineering, IT, operations, research and development, customer service, distribution, corporate communications and marketing.
“More than 820 employees and contractors have worked on the gridSMART project, clocking almost a million hours combined,” said Scott Osterholt, AEP Ohio manager of advanced meter infrastructure and project manager for the gridSMART project. “The input provided during the program by employees has been invaluable in numerous ways. Most significantly, employee evaluation of devices and programs allowed for fine-tuning and adjustments before deploying them to customers.”
Industry leaders also contributed to the success of the project, including Battelle; General Electric; Silver Spring Networks; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center managed by Battelle; Lockheed Martin; and S&C Electric. Other regulatory and stakeholder collaborators include the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO); the Ohio Consumers Counsel; PJM; and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).
gridSMART from AEP Ohio Tour mobile
To educate consumers about the project, the company traveled to project-area community events, festivals, fairs and schools with its gridSMART from AEP Ohio tour.
|The gridSMART from AEP Ohio Tour mobile travelled to more than 65 Ohio events during the project period. Approximately 40,000 consumers visited the mobile to learn about new smart grid technologies.|
The tour featured a converted recreational vehicle outfitted with six interactive exhibits designed to demonstrate aspects of the gridSMART Demonstration Project.
Over the course of the project, more than 40,000 consumers visited the gridSMART mobile to learn about smart meters, programs and other technologies.
Lessons learned helped shape company’s new business model
Customer experience and feedback received during the project helped the company learn better ways to deliver electricity more efficiently, keep costs lower and reduce or even eliminate the number of customers affected by outages.
“Results have also aided AEP Ohio in evaluating how we do business and shaping the company’s new business model as we evolve from being an integrated utility to a wires-only utility, focused on efficient and consistent delivery of electricity,” said Karen Sloneker, AEP Ohio director of customer services and marketing and project director for the gridSMART project.
“Four years of testing a variety of technologies and the impact they have on the power grid has helped determine which technologies work best for both customers and AEP Ohio,” Sloneker added.
Next steps to ensure efficient electricity delivery
In September, AEP Ohio proposed a plan to the PUCO to expand Smart Meters, DACR and VVO technologies throughout areas in its service territory. Following regulatory review and approval, the technologies will be deployed during a four-year period.
Plans also are under way to organize community outreach with the gridSMART mobile in some of the proposed Phase 2 communities to educate customers about the benefits of smart meters, DACR and VVO.
“I would like to personally thank everyone who supported and participated in the project,” Sloneker said “Your role in this unique pilot program has been essential to its success and to the company’s future.”
A complete report on AEP Ohio’s gridSMART Demonstration Project is being prepared for the Department of Energy and will be available in the very near future.
|Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, appears on the cover of the January/February edition of Electric Perspectives magazine, a publication of the Edison Electric Institute.|
Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, is featured on the cover of the January/February 2014 edition of Electric Perspectives magazine, the publication of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).
Authoring an article entitled “Securing and Strengthening the Grid,” Akins discusses in detail how the electric utility industry has changed following a number of significant weather events such as Hurricane Ike and Superstorm Sandy, and what companies are doing to revise and enhance strategies for storm response and restoration.
“The industry has a strong track record of maintaining high levels of reliability,” Akins said. “When power outages do occur, we respond quickly — and unlike any other industry — we can call on our peers to provide assistance when and where we need it. Our decades-old mutual assistance network is the cornerstone of our commitment to get the power back on as quickly as possible following a major incident.”
Akins told Electric Perspectives that — according to the Department of Energy – during the unprecedented restoration effort following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, an estimated 65,000 utility workers from across the United States and Canada helped restore power within two weeks to 99 percent of customers who could receive power. AEP sent about half its line and contract resources — more than 2,600 workers — to assist.
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, EEI, its member companies, along with municipal and cooperative organizations, gathered to discuss lessons learned from the event and came up with a number of suggestions for improvement. Akins said the result was the development of a new National Response Event framework. From that framework, the industry also created a new National Response Executive Committee, made up of senior utility executives from all regions of the country, to govern the process, and a National Mutual Assistance Resource Team that will pool and allocate resources to best meet restoration needs in a major event.
“We partnered with federal and state agencies to begin putting in place processes that will improve the flow of information between utilities and government emergency personnel, expedite the movement of resources across state and national borders, and leverage the logistical support and security abilities that the military can provide during emergencies,” he told Electric Perspectives.
Moving forward, Akins said, states can explore several public policy issues, if they have not already, to help support the industry’s efforts:
- increase utility system hardening to withstand extreme weather more effectively;
- foster installation of microgrids in strategic locations to support rapid recovery of critical loads; and
- continue to encourage the implementation of smart grid technologies.
Akins also noted that AEP has had great success with its “One Voice” communication process during major storm restoration events. The information communicated through One Voice, he said, includes:
- number or percentage of customers restored;
- pertinent weather information;
- number of crews working on restoration or on their way to assist;
- utility needs such as road clearing, security, and traffic control;
- public safety messages; and
- items of interest such as major areas restored, copper theft concerns, road conditions, etc.
“We share these updates internally and externally through e-mail, our websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and You Tube,” he said. “Our external affairs, community affairs and emergency preparedness coordinators share them directly with public officials and appropriate agencies.”
Building on best practices throughout the industry, Akins said AEP is focusing on three key areas for improvement over the next three years:
- Implementing the Incident Command System (ICS). Numerous utilities are moving to this nationally used crisis management tool as a standard for responding to small and large emergencies and incidents.
- Technology improvements. Introducing new tools and improving our systems to better manage our workload during major events and to provide more timely and accurate information to customers and other stakeholders.
- Process improvements. Working to standardize our assessment process and implement a number of restoration process enhancements that will improve how we manage our crews and other resources.
Akins also noted that AEP joined 165 organizations this past fall to take part in GridEx II, a simulated physical and cyber attack that damages the bulk power system and causes widespread outages. The two-day exercise, conducted by North American Electric Reliability Corporation, included utilities from across North America, as well as U.S. government agencies and universities.
“As threats to the grid increase and become more sophisticated, we must continue our work to make the grid stronger, more reliable, and more resilient,” Akins concluded. “Just as important, we must continue to prepare for situations that could impact our ability to fulfill our core mission — reliably providing the power that enhances our customers’ lives and fuels our nation’s economy.”
|AEP IT employees presented members of the Vietnam Veterans Association of America Chapter 1045 with 20 laptop computers. Front row (l-r): Gary Lewis, US Army, Ret., AEP employee Victor Linsten, US Army, Ret., Mike Deible, US Air Force, Ret., and AEP employee Jason Sebourn, U.S Army, Ret. Back row (l-r) Aaron Huffman, U.S. Air Force, Ret., and AEP employee Steve Shepherd, .|
(Story by Pamela Busby)
AEP made the holidays a little brighter for Vietnam veterans with the donation of 20 surplus laptop computers. The computers will be distributed to members of the Vietnam Veterans Association of America Chapter 1045 in Lancaster, Ohio.
Steve Shepherd, manager-IT Service Desk, said the idea for the donation came from Jeannie Phillips-Ball, an IT support technician who reports to him. “It’s great when employees recognize organizations like the Vietnam Veterans and I’m glad we were able to donate the computers to those who have done so much for us and our freedom,” Shepherd said.
Normally, IT sends surplus assets to its vendor Intechra for safe and secure recycling. Each donated PC was equipped with OEM operating system, carrying case and power supply. All AEP data was removed. Shepherd said his team was able to prepare the PCs while fulfilling their regular duties, so there was no significant cost to the company.
Philips-Ball, a self-described Army brat, volunteers with the Lancaster Chapter and helped bring the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial to Lancaster in November. She also leads an expressive signing group called Remnants who performs at local events including the annual “Freedom Isn’t Free” Veterans Day program.
Having gotten to know many veterans over the years, Phillips-Ball was concerned that those who couldn’t attend the monthly meetings were missing out. “A lot of them are older and they either don’t have the funds to purchase computers or aren’t sure what to do with them if they were to get one,” Phillips-Ball said. Homebound veterans can use the computers keep up with chapter activities, keep in touch with family and friends or access their healthcare benefits online.
“They’re a great group of guys. Who better to honor and do what we can for those who fought for our freedom,” she concluded.
AEP has selected Teladoc to provide employees, under age 65 retirees and their eligible dependents with 24/7/365 access to U.S. board-certified doctors and pediatricians by phone or online video. Teladoc is the first and largest telehealth provider in the nation, founded in 2002. The benefit will start Jan. 1, 2014, for AEP employees and under age 65 retirees.
Teladoc physicians can diagnose, recommend treatment and prescribe medication, when appropriate, for many non-emergency medical needs, including sinus problems, bronchitis, allergies, poison ivy, cold and flu symptoms, urinary tract infection, respiratory infection, and more.
Under age 65 retirees enrolled in a medical plan through AEP (except for FirstCare HMO) will receive a welcome letter with details on this added medical benefit. The letter includes a tear-off ID card with the Teladoc access information, how to set up an account, and how to initiate a consultation with a Teladoc physician.
Cost for each physician consultation through Teladoc is $40 (compared to an average cost of $70-$80) for a regular office visit, and will be processed through the employee’s medical plan.
Aetna participants will be charged a $20 co-pay, the same as an office visit co-pay today. Aetna HDHP participants will be charged $40 for a consultation until meeting the $2,500 individual/$7,500 family deductible, then the plan would pay a Teladoc visit at 100 percent. Under the Anthem HRA plan, if HRA dollars will cover, a participant will owe nothing. A participant in the deductible phase will owe $40. After meeting the deductible, the plan pays 85 percent and a participant pays 15 percent or $6. Teladoc is not available to FirstCare HMO participants.
Just like an in-person visit to the doctor, the cost of a Teledoc consultation is not refundable if the Teladoc physician refers the patient elsewhere for care, such as the patient’s primary care physician, a specialist or the emergency room.
Due to the interpretation of state regulations, a Teladoc online video consultation with a physician is not available today in the states of Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas, but phone consultations are available.
PLEASE NOTE: Over Age 65 Retirees — Please Read
In mid-December, over age 65 retirees were mistakenly sent a welcome kit describing the new Teladoc program (described above) which enables individuals to interact with doctors remotely via telephone or Internet. Please be advised that the Teladoc program is not included in the AEP benefits package for our over age 65 retirees, and you were sent this mailing in error.
AEP Human Resources offers its apologies for any confusion this welcome kit may have caused. Over age 65 retirees may throw away the Teladoc materials received in the mail. If you have any questions, please call Aetna at 1-800-243-1809.
|AEP Texas employees — along with family members and friends — helped frame up two houses recently for Habitat for Humanity. Photos by Omar Lopez.|
(Story by Omar Lopez)
For the past 18 years, Norma Resendez has never had a place to call her own.
Resendez has never been homeless, but she has always raised her children under someone else’s roof. She has lived in apartments and in shared houses all over Texas — from Beaumont to Pittsburgh. Today, she lives in a garage of sorts in Pharr, Texas, measuring 60 square feet.
All of that will change this Christmas.
Resendez, her husband and her two sons will finally live in a home of their own, one that Rio Grande Valley employees helped to build recently for Habitat for Humanity of the Rio Grande Valley. Nearly 50 AEP Texas employees — along with family members and friends — framed two houses for the organization.
Habitat for Humanity is a worldwide Christian ministry devoted to making sure families have the chance to live in safe and affordable housing. The organization builds and repairs houses, and then sells them to families using non-profit, no-interest finance options or alternative financing methods. Across the world, Habitat for Humanity has helped over 4 million people find housing.
This year, the chapter in the Rio Grande Valley celebrates its 25th anniversary. Veronica Villegas, executive director of the chapter, said the group has built over 36 houses in the Valley, including Habitat Circle, a neighborhood built entirely of Habitat for Humanity projects.
Villegas said company efforts and volunteer labor, like the AEP Texas RGV initiative, are the magic that makes the mission of the non-profit work.
“Our lifeline is volunteers,” Villegas said. “Without groups like AEP Texas who come out and provide us with these services and volunteer labor, we are unable to help families. Through these kinds of donations we are able to build homes.”
Employees on this day donated labor – a lot of it.
The Resendez house is being built in a neighborhood in San Juan, Texas, next door to another Habitat project. In fact, four Habitat houses will eventually stand next to one another on this street. On this day, employee volunteers framed two houses, side by side.
|From left, Areli Serna, daughter of Jesse Cedillo, meter electrician, Pharr Service Center; Marissa Espinoza, daughter of Frank Espinoza, community affairs manager in San Benito; and Susie Cedillo, wife of Jesse Cedillo, work on the Habitat house.|
Families must also contribute 300 hours of “sweat equity” to the house before they are handed the keys.
Resendez was at the work site with her two sons, Octavio, 16, and Abraham, 11. The boys hammered and nailed and Resendez combed the work site with a magnetic roller, picking up nails and screws.
Community affairs managers Frank Espinoza and Lee Jones teamed up to coordinate the activity. He said that exercises in culture like the building day define what he feels is the strongest component of the company: our people.
“The AEP Texas employees of the Rio Grande Valley gathered to assist a family secure a home, a dream that they have wanted for many years,” Espinoza said. “More importantly as a company, we engaged our employees in our community.”
Employees who volunteered work Valley-wide, from Post Isabel to McAllen.
“Our employees wanted to work on a project where they could ‘get their hands dirty,’ and immediately we thought of Habitat. Habitat for Humanity is an organized, respected organization with an established blueprint on how to do something like this,” Espinoza said. “For me, this day is a reminder that when we give back, we increase our self-worth. When you reach out and meet the people who you are building the home for, and you see them working along with you, that in itself will builds self-esteem in our employees. We will all be able to say, ‘My fellow employees and I took part in that. We helped to make that happen.’”
Villegas agrees. She said the day would give back to AEP Texas much more than the employees contributed.
“Not only have the employees helped someone in need in their own community, but we have built a lot of camaraderie today,” she said. “People come together on different days and build a home, but they build a team. When you lift a piece of plywood, you have to depend on someone to share the load. The family we help today gets to see that, and the employee volunteers get to take that with them.”
Best of all, Resendez said for the time, her family will be together under their own roof.
“We have been renters for 18 years or living with family,” Resendez said. “This is the first time we’ll be alone, as a family, together in our own home.”