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Akins Receives EEI’s ‘Distinguished Leadership Award’ for His Dedication and Service to the Electric Power Industry

AEP CEO Nick Akins (second from right) receives the Edison Electric Institute’s Distinguished Leadership Award Jan. 11 in Palm Beach, Fla. Looking on (from left) are: Tom Farrell, Dominion Resources chairman, president and CEO; Tony Earley, PG&E Corporation chairman, president and CEO; and Donna Akins, Nick Akins’ wife.

Nick Akins, AEP chairman, president and chief executive officer, Jan. 11 was awarded the Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI’s) Distinguished Leadership Award by his industry peers for his years of significant contributions and commitment to the electric power industry.

“We are pleased to present this award to Nick Akins in recognition of his outstanding leadership and dedication to the electric power industry,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn. “AEP and our industry are in the midst of a major transformation, and Nick is focused on delivering the energy future customers want and expect.”

“Nick is a leader of the highest character, and I am grateful for his service and commitment to our industry as past chairman of EEI and for his continued involvement and engagement as we navigate our industry’s ongoing transition,” said EEI Chairman Tom Fanning, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company.

The award, established to recognize outstanding individual achievement, was presented during EEI’s winter CEO and board of directors meeting in Palm Beach, Fla. Akins is the ninth industry CEO to receive the award.

Akins was elected president of AEP in December 2010, CEO in October 2011, and chairman in December 2013. Prior to being elected president of AEP, he served as executive vice president of Generation from 2006 until 2010, and was president and COO for the AEP-owned Southwestern Electric Power Company from 2004 until 2006. Prior to this, Akins served as vice president of Energy Marketing Services and vice president of Industry Restructuring for AEP. He began his tenure with the company in 1982. Akins served as EEI chairman from June 2015 until June 2016, and is currently on EEI’s executive committee.

Among his many accomplishments, Akins led the industry’s efforts to develop and implement the framework for the National Response Event (NRE), a coordinated, industry-wide and enhanced mutual assistance response to a large-scale outage event impacting several regions of the country. As EEI chairman, Akins created a strategic vision for the industry that is focused on grid modernization, clean energy and customer solutions.

“Changes in our industry are being driven by innovation and evolving customer expectations, and Nick has played a major role in how our industry is adapting to new policies, technologies and demands from our customers,” said PG&E Corporation Chairman, CEO and President Tony Earley. “Nick is truly dedicated to our industry and our customers, and he is a great friend and colleague.” Earley received EEI’s Distinguished Leadership Award in 2014.

“Nick’s wealth of experience and willingness to build consensus on tough issues have been tremendously beneficial for our industry,” said Dominion Chairman, President and CEO Tom Farrell. “Nick has also been a great leader in our industry’s efforts to provide new job opportunities for military veterans who have served our country.” Farrell received EEI’s Distinguished Leadership Award in 2013.

Akins is former chairman and current board member of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). In addition, he is a board member of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI); Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership; the Wexner Center for the Arts; the Columbus Partnership; the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation; Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited; Fifth Third Bancorp; OhioHealth; the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum; and the Business Roundtable, where he also serves on the executive committee and as chair of the energy and environment committee.

5 Reasons Customers Will Love ‘Free Online Immediate Pay’

Free Online Immediate Pay allows customers to instantly make a payment.


(Story by Shanelle Hinkle-Moore)

AEP Customer Operations Centers recently launched a new free service that allows paperless billing customers to make an “immediate payment” for their electric service, via a checking or money market account. Here are five reasons customers will love this payment option.

  1. It’s free!
    Customers have many ways to pay their bill immediately: over the phone, at a pay station, kiosk, or online. But, these options come with a convenience fee which can frustrate some customers. “One of our biggest customer complaints is, ‘Why is there an extra charge to pay my bill?’” Lindsay Chambers, functional system analyst associate, explained. The Free Online Immediate Pay option is another benefit for customers to switch to paperless billing.
  2. It’s quick
    Paperless billing customers can log-in online and make a real-time electronic check payment. The “immediate payment” will be applied to a customer’s account seconds later, empowering Customer Operations Center agents to accurately and quickly respond to service requests.
  3. Helps Retain or Start Electric Service
    Immediate Pay means faster response for electric service, which is good news for customers with time-sensitive transaction needs, such as last minute bill payments to avoid disconnection or late fees, or to make a security deposit to start electric service. It also helps customers to stop payment collection activities or initiate service restoration.
  4. Provides More Flexibility
    Previously, paperless billing customers only had the option to schedule future payments. The Free Online Immediate Pay adds more variety to the list of choices customers can consider to meet their needs.
  5. It’s Easy to Use
    Customers can enroll for paperless billing and make an immediate payment all in one transaction. The smooth customer experience for paperless billing customers to make an immediate payment that “is as easy as click, click, click,” said Chambers.

Why This Matters

An AEP Strategy for the Future is a Customer Experience (CX) where customers’ needs are met or exceeded. Free Online Immediate Pay demonstrates one way the company listens to customer’s concerns and improves technology and business processes to develop a solution. “CX is the main driver behind this first free digital immediate payment option that is both quick and easy to use. This new feature allows our paperless billing customers to make a free immediate payment, which provides a win-win for the customer and the company,” said Diane Moore-Nichter, credit policy and payment administration manager.

It also supports our goals to encourage customers to enroll for paperless billing which lower operations and maintenance costs and increase J.D. Power scores in customer satisfaction. After seeing a demonstration of Immediate Pay, Roger O’Dell, customer operations center manager, said, “It’s an outstanding opportunity to respond to the voice of the customer. The enhancements to the system are intuitive which will lead to reduced customer frustration and effort. It includes safeguards that help decrease customer complaints and avoids duplicate payments. It is another step forward in improving the CX.”

Eldredge Helps Pull Victims Out Of Fiery Car Wreck

Shawn Eldredge joined with others to rescue several people from two burning vehicles December 22. Photo by Zach Read.

(Story by Ed Bettinger)

After completing his Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) job duties for the day, Shawn Eldredge, network apprentice 2nd year-Mid Metro Tulsa Distribution, was working in the garage at his rural home west of Sapulpa, Okla. It was early evening December 22, and he expected his wife to arrive home at any moment.

Out on Highway 33, a two-lane road about a quarter-mile distant, the scattered evening traffic sailed by at a steady pace with tires humming.

The tranquil scene was abruptly shattered by the sounds of crunching metal and squealing brakes.

Eldredge bolted from his garage and ran to the highway, fearing at first that his wife might’ve been involved in a car wreck just as she was getting home.

Reaching the road, he found not his wife’s vehicle, but a three-car accident. One vehicle was lying on its side and another was erupting in flames. Worse, both vehicles were still occupied.

Eldredge ran to the burning car where a Creek County sheriff’s deputy, who’d happened upon the scene, was trying to remove the driver. Learning that the deputy did not have a fire extinguisher in his car, Eldredge sprinted to his home, grabbed two of his own extinguishers, and dashed back. As he sprayed one extinguisher to knock down the fire, the deputy and another passerby smashed out the car’s windshield and got the driver to safety.

Meanwhile, the car that had been knocked onto its side burst into flames. Eldredge, the deputy and others on the scene rushed to remove its occupants. As Eldredge expended the last of his fire extinguishers’ contents, the group of helpers pulled everyone in the car to safety.

Several of the people were hospitalized for their injuries.

State troopers said witnesses reported seeing a car swerving as it headed west and suddenly hit another car, which rolled over several times. There were four people inside.

The original car kept going and hit an SUV with five people inside.

Several small children were in the vehicles.

Eldredge said that neither he nor any of the others who helped at the scene would consider themselves to be “heroes”.

“I’m pretty confident that about anybody would’ve done the same thing. It’s just something you do,” he said. “There were quite a few people just doing what they could do to help.”

Eldredge, who is a 15-year employee, served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps before coming to work at PSO. He and his wife, Allison, are the parents of a 12-month-old daughter.

To learn more about this extraordinary response by Eldredge and the group of strangers who came together to save the lives of the victims, please see the story that aired on KOTV Channel 6 December 23.


Employees Show Heart in Making a Difference

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


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.


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


AEP River Transportation Division

Chila Carter, 99, retired, River Transportation Division, died November 17.

Daniel Jones Jr., 84, retired, River Transportation Division, died November 8.

AEP Service Corporation

Larry Myers, 74, Columbia Transmission Service Center, died October 21.

Gregory Vassell, 94, retired, AEP Headquarters, died November 3.

Appalachian Power Company

Sonja Burnette, 65, Fieldale Office, died November 7.

Weldon Holliday, 69, Welch Service Center, died November 18.

William Horton, 85, retired, Bluefield (W.Va.) Office, died November 15.

Timothy Howard, 60, Bluefield (W.Va.) Service Center, died October 25.

Rodney McCready, 70, Marion Office, died November 12.

Becky Roush, 80, retired, Amos Plant, died October 18.

Emily Thomas, 64, retired, Pulaski Service Center, died November 1.

Columbus Southern Power Company

Eva Darling, 92 retired, Conesville Plant, died September 17.

Bernard Fisher, 92, retired, Conesville Plant, died November 2.

Raymond Fluharty, 70, retired, Conesville Plant, died November 6.

Don Graves, 86, retired, 850 Tech Center, died November 18.

Robert Hoy, 68, Mound Street Service Center, died October 29.

Roger Kinnamon, 74, retired, Picway Plant, died November 8.

Daun Knox, 72, 850 Tech Center, died October 31.

Scott Shonk, 56, Energy Delivery Headquarters-Gahanna, died November 10.

Neil Stanfield, 86, retired, 850 Tech Center, died June 6.

Indiana Michigan Power Company

Mildred Enders, 92, retired, Cook Nuclear Plant, died November 23.

Harold Feller, 83, retired, Tanners Creek Plant, died February 17.

Gerald Forbes, 87, retired, Breed Plant, died November 24.

Richard Frakes, 91, retired, Avilla Service Center, died November 9.

Annabelle Heller, 94, retired, Decatur Service Center, died November 10.

Irene Martin, 90, retired, South Bend Service Center, died November 3.

Nelson Roush, 89, retired, Rockport Plant, died November 14.

Dallas Turner, 79, retired, Tanners Creek Plant, died November 17.

Kentucky Power Company

Herbert Charles, 89, retired, Robert E. Matthews Service Center, died November 14.

Robert Franks, 80, retired, Ashland Office, died November 22.

Ohio Power Company

Ronald Clark, 75, retired, Lima Service Center, died November 27.

Jack Cook, 90, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died November 9.

Robert Fancher, 87, retired, Lancaster Office Building, died November 25.

David Gilliland, 74, retired, Muskingum River Plant, died November 15.

Corinne Gulling, 88, retired, Canton Eastern Regional Office, died October 24.

Robert Lacy, 69, McConnelsville Service Center, died November 22.

Joseph McCullough, 88, retired, Steubenville Service Center, died November 10.

William Moore III, 75, retired, Gavin Plant, died November 22.

Jacklyn Sebulsky, 70, Kammer Plant, died October 21.

Mark Shepherd, 54, Kammer Plant, died October 25.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

Earl Kendell, 79, retired, Tulsa General Office, died November 11.

Harvey Smith, 86, retired, Tulsa General Office, died October 21.

Southwestern Electric Power Company

Mervin Barbo, 77, retired, Shreveport General Office, died November 25.

Albert Berry, 83, retired, Shreveport General Office, died November 13.

David Crile, 65, Flint Creek Plant, died October 14.

Johnny Cross, 74, retired, Fayetteville Operations, died November 10.

John James, 93, retired, Shreveport General Office, died November 7.

John Prince, 56, Pirkey Plant, died November 21.

Jack Strong, 86, retired, Shreveport General Office, died November 9.

Texas Central

Benito Flores, 89, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died November 5.

Rene Garcia Jr., 68, retired, Laredo Service Center, died October 23.

Michael Henry, 65, Lipan Service Center, died October 19.

Joe Mueller, 88, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died November 27.

Paul Olivares, 85, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died November 6.

Lionel Rodriguez, 87, retired, Corpus Christi Office, died November 4.

Texas North

Craig Brooks, 43, T&D Operations, died November 4.

E.J. Deanda, 82, retired, Abilene General Office, died October 29.

November Retirements

AEP Ohio

Daniel Hemphill, Belmont Service Center, retired November 27 after 43 years of service.

AEP Service Corporation

Bryan Conery, Arena Building, retired November 19 after 36 years of service.

AEP Texas

Paul Longoria, Harlingen Service Center, retired November 15 after 37 years of service.

Appalachian Power Company

Edward Argabright, John W. Vaughan Center, retired November 1 after 28 years of service.


Patrick Helton, Cook Coal Terminal, retired November 1 after 39 years of service.

Mark Hudson, Gavin Plant, retired November 5 after 39 years of service.

Vicky Ohlinger, Gavin Plant, retired November 8 after 27 years of service.

Kenneth Parker, Cardinal Plant, retired November 1 after 38 years of service.

Paul Schoepf, Cook Nuclear Plant, retired November 11 after 35 years of service.

Russell Starcher, Gavin Plant, retired November 5 after 37 years of service.

Public Service Company of Oklahoma

Peter Belkin, Tulsa General Office, retired November 8 after 15 years of service.

Gary Semke, Mid Metro Office, retired November 1 after 46 years of service.

Peggy Ward, Tulsa General Office, retired November 1 after 10 years of service.

Southwestern Electric Power Company

Larry Permenter, System Control Center, retired November 1 after 32 years of service.

Employees Restore Power and Christmas Joy to Young Flood Victim

Pictured are the Appalachian Power employees who doubled as “Santa’s Helpers” to make a little boy’s Christmas wish come true. Kneeling are Jeremy Barr (left) and AJ Shaffer. Standing left to right are Terry Whittington, Andy Jackson, Rob Morrison and Eric Holtzapfel.

(Story by Teresa Hall)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With a little help from Appalachian Power, Santa recently made a young boy’s Christmas wish come true. After the family lost their West Virginia home to historic flooding in June, the child wrote to Old Saint Nick and plans were soon under way to grant the child’s wish in time for the holidays.

The little boy and his family lost their Clendenin home in June when heavy rain and severe flooding swept through the West Virginia community. The family eventually relocated to a new home, but starting over wasn’t easy.

On a recent fall day, the child’s teacher asked the boy and his classmates to write a letter to Santa so he knew what they wanted for Christmas. The little boy’s list included a remote-controlled car, a bed spread or comforter for his bed, and a white or snowy Christmas, but it was another item that tugged at the hearts of those who read it. The child’s first wish was to have electricity in his new home.

Appalachian Power employees who heard about the family quickly got to work hoping to make the child’s wish come true in time for Christmas. Lassey Munsey, Greta Boggess and Rick Cobb worked as a team to secure the equipment and resources needed for the 1,250-foot, six pole primary extension.

The line crew that completed the project — affectionately known as Santa’s Helpers — included APCo employees Andy Jackson, Rob Morrison, AJ Shaffer, Jeremy Barr, Terry Whittington and Eric Holtzapfel.

This Christmas story was shared with APCo Now by Teresa Tudor, distribution line coordinator in Huntington. For Tudor, the story is evidence Appalachian Power genuinely cares about the people who live in the company’s service area.

“Crossing boundaries and working together to provide service to our customers shows we care,” she said. “We made a little boy’s Christmas wish for his family come true.”

The child’s father said his son’s wish for a remote-controlled car and blanket were also fulfilled. But we will all have to wait and see if Old Saint Nick is able to pull off a white Christmas.

Study Names SWEPCO, I&M 2016 Utility Customer Champions

Receiving the SWEPCO Market Strategies award are (from left) Sandra Bennett, vice president, Finance & Regulatory, Malcolm Smoak, vice president, Distribution Operations, Brett Mattison, director, Customer Services & Marketing, Venita McCellon-Allen, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer, Carey Sullivan, director, Corporate Communications, and Brian Bond, vice president, External Affairs. Photo by Scott Truelove.

Market Strategies International has named Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) and  Indiana Michigan Power Company (I&M) 2016 Utility Customer Champions for their strong relationship with customers.

SWEPCO was recognized as both a Commercial Customer Champion and a Residential Customer Champion. According to Market Strategies International, “These utilities represent best practices in how they have grown strong customer relationships, built trusted brands and developed operational satisfaction among their customers.”

“Utilities deserve a lot of credit for building strong relationships with businesses that drive local economies,” said Chris Oberle, senior vice president at Market Strategies International. “This year’s Customer Champions are strengthening engagement with unmanaged account customers by offering them choices on rates, demand-side management programs, energy management tools, distributed energy and other offerings.”

“SWEPCO is very humbled and excited to receive the award for being a Customer Champion in the residential and business sector according to  the results of the Cogent/MSI Brand Trust Studies,” said Brett Mattison, SWEPCO director, Customer Services and Marketing. “We have always worked hard to ensure that we provide the customer with great service but over the last several years, we have intentionally increased our focus on the customer experience through the great work of the Customer Experience Work Plan. Every employee is familiar with our Customer Experience Values and have dedicated themselves to ensuring that the customer experience is always taken care of. This award is a reflection of the excellent work of all SWEPCO employees.’’

I&M was one of just three Midwest electric only utilities to receive a Residential Customer Champion award.

I&M was one of just three Midwest electric only utilities to receive a 2016 Residential Customer Champion award.

“We are happy to designate Indiana Michigan Power as a 2016 Customer Champion. Their customers have said they have strong and trusted relationships with this company,” said Oberle. “Specifically, I&M has improved customer scoring on environmental dedication, product education, safety, reliability and communications. So, they are now among the utility industry’s best customer brands.”

“I&M is truly honored to be presented with this award,” said Paul Chodak III, I&M president and chief operating officer. “Our I&M team strives to responsibly serve our customers with safe, reliable, affordable power and to enhance the service we provide our customers.”

Market Strategies International is a top, worldwide market research firm. The research firm’s Utility Trusted Brand and Customer Engagement: Residential study examined 130 of the nation’s largest electric and natural gas utilities to gauge their relationships with residential customers.

Appalachian Power Employee Helps Make Season Bright With Santa Train

(Story by Teresa Hall)

ROANOKE, Va. — For nearly 75 years, the Santa Train has delivered hope and joy at the holiday season to people who live in some of Appalachia’s most economically challenged communities.

Appalachian Power employee Rob Arnold, customer design supervisor – Kingsport, knows the story of the Santa Train well. Arnold recently volunteered with a team that followed behind the train last month handing out food, toys and backpacks to children.

This was the 74th year that the Santa Train made its annual trek across the southern Appalachian mountains from Kentucky to Kingsport. Along the 110-mile journey, the train made 14 stops for Santa and his helpers to give out clothing, toys and food.

Arnold’s experience was one he won’t forget.

“I had the pleasure of working one of the food trucks that follows the train,” Arnold said. “Our job was to hand out food bags during the stop and to stay after the train left to make sure no child was missed with toys and backpacks filled with clothing.”

The annual journey begins in Shelby, Ky., near Pikeville in Kentucky Power territory, and crosses through Appalachian Power’s territory in the mountains of southwest Virginia before ending in Kingsport, Tenn. Over the route the train travels, approximately 15 tons of food, gifts and clothing are distributed along the way.

CSX donates personnel, equipment, logistics support, gift bags, train cars and track time to support the Santa Train each year; other sponsors are critical to the Santa Train’s success. Food City and the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce provide many of the donations and volunteers to staff the train, stuff gift bags, and provide gift storage, and Dignity U Wear provides the winter weather accessories included in each gift bag.

Loose in the School: APCo Readers, Gingerbread Man Unleashed on Hundreds of Schools

(Story by Jeri Matheney)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A gingerbread man running through the halls makes for an exciting day at school. So does another kind of visitor in the school – an Appalachian Power employee who’s come to read a story!

Almost 17,000 elementary students in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee were treated to just such a visit on Nov. 17. The visits were part of Read to Me Day, an annual event in which employees volunteer to read to students at schools throughout the company’s West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee service territory.

This year, employees read the book, “The Gingerbread Man: Loose in the School,” by Laura Murray, a Virginia author. They then donated the book to the school library.

“It’s such a magical experience for kids to have someone come to their school just to read them a book. It’s so rewarding for our readers to witness that,” said [Charles Patton], Appalachian Power president and chief operating officer, and a volunteer reader at Weberwood Elementary in Charleston. “Our reason for devoting so much effort to Read to Me Day is to reach as many children as possible with the magic of a good story. Children who enjoy books will read more. Ultimately, they’ll be better readers and do better in school.

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“It’s always exciting to have a visitor in school,” Patton added. “And it’s certainly a big change from an ordinary day for our line mechanics, meter readers and call center representatives who volunteer to read. It makes for a memorable day for both the kids and the employees.”

This year, 314 readers read to students at 418 schools. First started in 2001, Read to Me Day coordinator Debby Pannell, corporate communications representative, estimates employees have read to more than 250,000 students and donated approximately 6,000 books over the 16 years of the program.

A social media hashtag, “RTMD2016,” helped schools and readers share their photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Dozens of photos were posted on Appalachian Power’s social media pages, plus photos from many more schools and readers were shared on the company’s pages. For a sample, go to Appalachian Power’s Facebook page, or on Facebook, search RTMD2016.

Usually, volunteer readers sport a new shirt with the Appalachian Power logo, given by the company in recognition of their volunteer effort. But this year, employees decided to instead put that money toward donations to libraries in flood-damaged areas of the state.

The Elk Valley and Clendenin branches of Kanawha County Library, the Clay County Library, the Walton Library in Roane County, and the Rainelle Library in Greenbrier County all received donations in the name of Appalachian Power readers. In all, the libraries received $8,000, which is designated to the children’s areas in each library.