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Employees Show Heart in Making a Difference

by on December 28, 2016

Contributing to this article were: Ed Bettinger, Teresa Hamilton Hall, Eladio Jaimez, Peter Main, Barry Schumann, Tracy Warner and Karen Wissing.

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SWEPCO Texarkana employees cleaned up around the Senior Citizens Services of Texarkana Center, organized shelving stock, repaired shelves and disposed of used materials.

AEP employees at four power plants led the way on community service projects that benefitted trail users in Michigan, school children in Oklahoma, a rescue squad in Virginia and a Boys and Girls Club in Texas during Make a Difference Day 2016.

The power plant employees were among AEP active and retired employees from every operating company who coordinated and participated in 27 projects in nine states as part of the 24th annual Make a Difference Day Oct. 22. The event is the largest national day of community service and 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.

Near Lawton, Okla., nearly a dozen employees and contractors at Comanche Station joined with Flower Mound Public Schools to work through a sizable list of fix-up projects at the school. The volunteers trimmed trees and shrubs, removed trees and stumps, purchased, built and placed new benches, repaired old benches, and made repairs to a playground wall and water fountain at the school.

“It was a joint venture,” said Kristin Duggins, administrative assistant at Comanche. “We told the school system what we could provide in resources, and they came up with the projects. It was a win-win.”

Dax Trent, Flower Mound Schools superintendent, valued the effort at approximately $10,000 to $15,000 worth of work and supplies. “Partnerships and collaborations like this will allow those dollars to filter right back into the classroom for our students in curriculum and learning resources,” Trent said.

At Buchanan, Mich., Cook Nuclear Plant employees, Friends of the McCoy Creek Trail and PLAY (Projects Leading to Amazing Youth) in Buchanan worked to purchase and install new bicycle racks along the multi-use trail so that riders can park their bikes when stopping at points of interest.

“The trail runs along a trout stream,” said Bobby Blaylock, fire protection shift supervisor at Cook. “So from athletes to fishermen, there are a lot of people who love the trail.”

In Dante, Va., five employees from the Clinch River Plant worked with the Dante Rescue Squad to create and erect signs identifying the squad’s two buildings “as emergency medical service locations so people would know where to go for help,” according to the Lebanon (Va.) News. “Without the support of these employees, the grant would not have been possible,” the news article noted. The two signs, which took almost nine hours to erect, also display the Dante Squad’s contact information.

In Longview, Texas, six SWEPCO Pirkey Power Station and Longview Service Center employees teamed with Girl Scout Maddie Johnson, Lions Club International, Rotary International and Boys and Girls Club of Gregg County to update and repair the Boys and Girls Club facility. The volunteers painted walls, cleaned gutters, fixed leaky faucets, reorganized rooms and clean carpets to help Johnson achieve her Girl Scout Gold Award. “The project was a big success,” said Becky Whitenack, administrative assistant at Pirkey.

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PSO Comanche Plant employees (from left) Brandon Munro, Joey Haynes, Bryan Black (Sun Tech contractor) and Chance Doze shovel concrete to anchor new benches at Flower Mound Schools. Comanche employee Clifford Cherry works in the background.

Other Make A Difference Day highlights:

Columbus, Ohio – AEP Energy employees assembled “blessing bags” containing toiletries, comfort items and non-perishables for distribution to families who utilize the Faith Mission Homeless Shelter in Columbus. The shelter serves about 220 individuals daily.

Columbus, Ohio – More than a dozen AEP employees and friends hosted a Celebrate YOUth! party for homeless youth ages 14-24 at The Ohio State University Star House drop-in resource center. The event included games, treats, pumpkin decorating, photo booth, community resource table and an “Empowerment Corner” to provide motivational moments to value and empower the homeless youth.

Delaware, Ohio – AEP Service Corp. employees assisted the Humane Society of Delaware County with facility-related projects to improve the overall appearance. The volunteers painted benches, did landscaping and yard work, and mulched dog runs.

Gallipolis, Ohio – AEP and AEP Ohio employees gathered to repair and improve a 90-foot wheelchair ramp at Serenity House, a shelter for battered/homeless women and their children that serves Gallia, Meigs and Jackson counties in Ohio. Volunteers nailed down loose boards and installed non-skid material to make the access ramp and nearby steps safer for use by all.

Fayetteville, Ark. – Nearly a dozen Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) employees joined with Washington Regional Foundation Faith in Action serving homebound senior citizens to wash the exterior of a Springdale senior citizen’s home, prune and remove trees and shrubs next to a wheelchair ramp, mow the yard and clean flower beds.

Harlingen, Texas – AEP Texas volunteers joined more than 150 volunteers to plant more than 5,000 native plants and grasses at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park. Participating were Keep Harlingen Beautiful, the City of Harlingen and Texas State Technical College. AEP funding helped to feed the volunteer work force.

Hurricane, W.Va. – A half-dozen Appalachian Power Company (APCO) employees helped place wooden “Buddy Benches” and tables at the Hurricane Town Elementary School playground. The benches give children a place to sit during recess if they aren’t involved in play or games, and enable other children to identify students to join them in play.

Idabel, Okla. – Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) employees Tory White, Dyrick Leonard, Brad Farley, Harolynn Wofford and retiree Jerry Wofford joined about 20 community volunteers from Idabel High School student council, Idabel Main Street and the Idabel drug court, Junior Main Street, library and chamber of commerce in cleaning and weeding downtown flower beds, trimming shrubs, mulching and planting flowers.

Lancaster, Ohio – AEP and AEP Ohio employees joined with the Tarhe Trails Elementary School PTO to construct wooden benches and place them along the student walking trail at the school.

Logansport, La. –SWEPCO employees Belinda Berry, Sherri Conde, Shelia Blankenship, Maverick Boyer, Clintrey Pennywell, Wesley Groves and Victor “Mac” Verzal joined community volunteers at God’s Food Panty to box up food for the elderly and the less fortunate in the Logansport area.

Milton, W.Va. – AEP and APCO employees from a number of West Virginia locations and volunteers from the River Cities Therapy and Recreation Center repaired barbed wire fence at the facility, which provides equine-assisted therapy and activities for children and adults.

Pataskala, Ohio – AEP Service Corp. employees assisted Licking Heights High School students in collecting media and craft supplies to create activity bags to be distributed to young patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.

Pikeville, Ky. – Kentucky Power employees collaborated with the Appalachian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help find foster homes and permanent homes for pets in eastern Kentucky.

Pikeville, Ky. – Kentucky Power employees collected and delivered canned goods to the Westcare Emergency Shelter to provide food and meals for the area’s homeless and less fortunate.

Pulaski, Va. – Seven APCO employees served more than 150 meals to local individuals in need at Pulaski Daily Bread. The kitchen served more than 36,000 meals last year.

Roanoke, Va. – APCO employees participated in the Roanoke Heart Walk to celebrate life, honor survivors and learn more of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Salem, Va. – APCO employees from the John W. Vaughan Center raised funds and purchased toys for distribution to children in need through the Roanoke Valley Community Christmas Store. The store provides a free, dignified shopping experience for clothing, toys, household items and food for between 600 and 700 families in need.

Shreveport, La. –  SWEPCO employees Kawona Abmas, April Bailey, Barney Bates, Ray Fenton, Twila Griffin and David Langston joined other community members to care for the Right to Play playground park for the disabled. Volunteers cleaned, repaired playground equipment, trimmed trees, planted flowers and shrubs, mulched and prepared the park for the winter months.

Stonewall, La. – SWEPCO employees Belinda Berry, Sherri Conde, Maverick Boyer, Sheila Blankenship, Bryan Evans, Josh Dice, Mike Mathews, Vera Severin and Joni Waddle teamed with the Town of Stonewall to beautify the town park. The volunteers weeded and mulched flower beds and winterized fruit trees in the park.

Texarkana, Texas – SWEPCO’s Paul Knowles led a group of employee volunteers in cleaning and maintenance projects around the Senior Citizens of Texarkana service center. The team cleaned outside the center and organized shelving stock, repaired shelves and disposed of un-needed materials inside. Funds were used to purchase heating units to keep meals warm during delivery to seniors in communities served by the center.

Tulsa, Okla. – Active and retired employees at PSO’s Tulsa General Office gathered $400 in cash and 700 new and gently used warm clothing for Iron Gate Trust, a non-profit soup kitchen/pantry serving at-risk and homeless individuals and families. Effort coordinator Karen Graham, Transmission Field Services scheduling supervisor, reported the donations helped Iron Gate meet its cold weather clothing needs for the season.

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

Williamson, W.Va. – APCO and Kentucky Power employees hosted a Halloween-themed party for youth who frequent the Southern West Virginia Action for Youth after-school center. The center provides computers, games and tutoring for all children but most are from low-income families.

To learn more about national Make a Difference Day, visit makeadifferenceday.com.

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