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Employees make a difference through service

by on November 25, 2015
Appalachian Power line mechanic Bubba Smith delivers gift bags and buckets for young victims of domestic and/or sexual violence at the Women’s Resource Center in Radford, Va.

Story by Barry Schumann

As they’ve done every year since 2005, AEP active and retired employees led and participated in local community service projects that benefitted from $300 mini-grants from AEP.  Employees of six AEP operating companies helped plan, coordinate or lend a hand in 22 projects in nine states Oct. 24 as part of the national Make A Difference Day program.

America celebrated the spirit of volunteerism during the 24h annual “national day of doing good”  — the largest national day of community service. The day is sponsored by USA TODAY  in partnership with Points of Light.

AEP has provided grants of up to $300 per project since 2005 to build on employees’ interest in making their communities better places for everyone. The mini-grant program supports AEP’s community relations goal – to support and play an active, positive role in the communities where we live and work.

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Appalachian Power’s Pulaski Service Center in Virginia doubled up on Make a Difference Day projects.

Ocal “Bubba” Smith II, line mechanic A, coordinated efforts with the Youth of Virginia Speak Out program (YOVASO) at Auburn Middle School in Riner to purchase gift bags and gift buckets that the students filled with toys and other items for 21 children served by the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley.  The Radford non-profit provides a safe place to stay and services for adults and children who are victims of domestic or sexual violence.

“The students wanted to show these children that people do care and one way to do that was by giving them a little something to put a smile on their face while they’re in a safe place,” said Smith. “I would like to thank AEP for the generous donation to be able to do this.” Joining Smith in the project were fellow service center employees R. Mark Dalton, Anthony Austin, Wayne Armbrister and Gregory Boksa.

Also in Pulaski, Jim Casteele, senior technician, joined fellow employees in collecting and purchasing food for the Beans and Rice Inc. backpack program that supplies food to feed low income children in the Pulaski area. Each weekend, backpacks are filled and sent home with students to ensure they have healthy food over the weekend.

“Here in Pulaski, we do our best to assist those less fortunate in the community,” Casteele said. “This money really helps out and it feels good to let people know that this is a benefit of working for AEP and Appalachian Power.”  Joining Casteele on the project were Tommy Akers, Jeff Worrell, Elizabeth Whitman, Wayne Queen and Jon Fitzwater.

Other Make A Difference Day highlights:

Albany, Ohio – Active and retired employees from Mountaineer Plant and service centers in Athens, Pomeroy and Wellston rolled up their sleeves to help prepare informational mailings to prospective donors on behalf of Alexander Local Schools and Spartan Athletic Boosters. The organizations are building a wellness center and clinic to serve this southeastern Ohio area. The mailing was focused on fund raising to complete the interior of the building and purchase related equipment.

Columbus, Ohio – Postponed due to delays in relocating The Ohio State University Star House to a new facility, central Ohio employees plan to hold a birthday celebration for homeless youth from the Columbus area. The OSU Star House is a 24-hour drop-in center for homeless youth ages 14 to 24.

Delaware, Ohio – AEP Service Corporation employees assisted the Humane Society of Delaware County with facility-related projects to improve the overall appearance. The volunteers spread mulch on dog runs, spruced up landscaping and cleaned highway right-of-way in front of the facility. Employees also collected and donated pet food for use at the facility.

Long Bottom, Ohio –  Employees including several from Gavin Plant helped the Chester Ball Association erect outfield fences around new ballfields at the Angela Eason Memorial Park in southeastern Ohio.

Fayetteville, Ark. – Employees and family members assisted in cooking the pre-meal for Sunday Supper, a community meal for homeless and food insecure families in northwest Arkansas. The meal is served in partnership with local churches, businesses and Tri Cycle Farms, a non-profit vegetable and fruit garden that stewards food awareness, education and empowerment. Volunteers also worked on maintenance of kitchen equipment and the kitchen area. Grant funds were used for cooking equipment and food staples for the Sunday Supper kitchen.

Fort Wayne, Ind. –  Employees and family members distributed food items and filled food baskets during the Saturday Helping Hands Food Distribution at the Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana, while others stocked the food bank’s Community Cupboard. On a typical Saturday, the food bank serves 700 households with perishables including bakery, dairy and fresh fruit and dairy. The AEP Foundation in 2013 awarded a $250,000 grant to upgrade the food bank and expand and enhance operations.

Lawrenceburg, Ind. –  Lawrenceburg Plant employees assisted People Helping People in shopping for food to supplement the Thanksgiving meal provisions of several local food pantries. People for People raises funds to help feed the less fortunate throughout the year through 14 food pantries in three counties in southern Indiana.

McAlester, Okla. – McAlester Service Center employees joined with the McAlester Make a Difference Day organization and the McAlester Knights of Columbus to make minor home repairs, winterizing and maintenance projects for senior citizens and individuals with disabilities at three residences. Volunteers installed smoke alarms, covered windows with plastic, replaced incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, pruned and hauled away trash. Funds were used to purchase supplies and tools for the projects.

Milton, W.Va. – Employees from a number of West Virginia locations including the Hurricane Call Center, Amos Plant, Milton Service Center and the Charleston area carefully repaired about 350 feet of barbed wire fence at the River Cities Therapy and Recreation Center, which provides equine-assisted therapy and activities for children and adults. The mini-grant also enabled the purchase of sawdust for horse stalls.

New Haven, W.Va. – Active and retired employees from Gavin, Mountaineer and Sporn plants and the Southern Ohio Coal Company joined with the New Haven and Community Volunteer Fire Department to purchase and distribute smoke detectors to first-grade students at New Have Elementary School. The mini-grant enabled the 15-year-old program to continue despite funding cuts from the local county government.

Pataskala, Ohio – AEP Service Corp. employees assisted Licking Heights High School National Honor Society students in collecting books, making blankets and creating activity bags to be distributed to young patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

Prue, Okla. – Active and retired employees at the Tulsa General Office purchased and installed concrete benches at the commons green space at Prue Public Schools northeast of Tulsa. The installation continued employees’ efforts to improve the community green space, where they planted trees and shrubs using a 2014 Make a Difference Day mini-grant.

Roanoke, Va. – Roanoke area employees and family members cleaned and organized the food pantry and freezer at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Virginia. Volunteers also updated the toy room at the home-away-from-home for families of critically ill children. Grant funds will be used to buy locking devices for video gaming systems at the facility.

San Angelo, Texas – San Angelo employees volunteer each week for Meals for the Elderly, and used the mini-grant to support the non-profit in purchasing food containers, kitchen supplies and office supplies. Meals for the Elderly provides nourishing meals to the homebound in the west Texas community.

Shreveport, La. –  Although the event was postponed due to inclement weather, Shreveport employees once again worked to improve and refurbish Right to Play’s inclusive playground for all children including those with physical, sensory or developmental disabilities. Work included adding soil and mulch, picking up trash, pruning, planting new shrubs and flowers, repainting equipment, applying rain sealant, sweeping sidewalks and replacing bricks.

Stevensville, Mich. –  D.C. Cook Plant employees and spouses working with Brighten Your Corner through the Berrien County Baptist Church purchased, prepared and boxed delivery-ready Thanksgiving meals for six needy families. Recipients will include senior citizens, young adults and children served by Brighten Your Corner. Meals including turkey, ham, potatoes, green bean casserole ingredients, rolls, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pies will be delivered just prior to Thanksgiving Day.

Texarkana, Texas – Employees from the Texarkana Service Center and Annex worked at Senior Citizens Services of Texarkana to assemble a kitchen cart used in food preparation for home-delivered meals, provided yard maintenance and pruned bushes and trees. Senior Citizens Services delivers more than 16,000 meals each month to the elderly and disabled in Bowie, Cass, Red River and Titus counties. The mini-grant was also used to purchase kitchen utensils and other equipment for the preparation and delivery of meals.

Tulsa, Okla. – Active and retired employees at the Tulsa General Office gathered donations of 223 items of new and gently used warm clothing for Iron Gate Trust, a non-profit soup kitchen serving at-risk and homeless individuals and families. Iron Gate serves about 600 plates of food daily and provides warm clothing to those in need as the weather turns colder.

Tulsa, Okla. – Tulsa General Office employees, along with the Association of Caring Employees (ACE) Team, collected food donations that will ultimately be boxed and delivered for Thanksgiving to 10 of the neediest families at partner school Central High School. The employees will use the mini-grant to purchase any needed foods not donated.

Zanesville, Ohio –  Employees at the Zanesville Service Center supported the Zanesville Jaycees’ Redball Golf Tournament, which annually raises funds to take between 40 and 60 economically disadvantaged children Christmas shopping.

To learn more about national Make a Difference Day, visit

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