APSO volunteers build communities in Week of Service

APSO volunteers build communities in Week of Service
Making special moments is a talent of Alabama Power Service Organization volunteers, who gave their time and energies to strengthen their communities during the Southern Company Week of Service. During the Michael Perkins Clay Shoot, APSO State President-elect Amanda Lofton, a 'Magic Maker' for Magic Moments in Mobile, announced that Remano Zine and her family would receive a Disney trip. From left: Anitria Zine, Lofton, Mary McAleer - Ronald McDonald House Charities, Kimberly Etherton - Mobile regional director of Magic Moments and Barry APSO member Stacy Simmons, with Remano Zine (front). (Photo courtesy of Amanda Lofton)

Members of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) teamed together for Southern Company’s Week of Service, swarming their communities while pouring their hearts and souls into improvements that will make a lasting difference.

Projects ran the gamut: Southeast/Farley APSO volunteers this week are delivering lunches to clients of the Jaxon Life Senior Center in Eufaula, while two chapters held sporting events to raise money for charitable endeavors. In honor of Earth Day, Western Division APSO held a two-part project to provide raised garden beds for the Freewill Baptist Children’s Home of Alabama in Eldridge. The chapter is partnering with a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) educator, who will teach students about the nutritional benefits of planting their own gardens. Western APSO volunteers will help the children plant seeds.

For Plant Barry APSO members, paying it forward never felt so good. APSO State President-elect Amanda Lofton and her volunteers invested months of planning to make the Michael Perkins Clay Shoot a big success. About 160 participants enjoyed competing at Bushy Creek Clays in Perdido on April 22 while helping support Ronald McDonald House Charities and Magic Moments in Mobile.

The event has drawn huge support since 2010, when Barry APSO founded the clay shoot in honor of Michael Perkins, who had cystic fibrosis, and was the son of then-Barry Maintenance employee Bud Perkins. The event was shuttered for two years because of the pandemic.

“We wanted this to stay a children’s charity,” said Lofton, contractor support specialist – Plant Barry, despite the closing of Mobile’s cystic fibrosis chapter.

This year’s proceeds – about $25,000 – is a large gain from earlier years. Barry APSO puts into play a seasoned logistical team, including employees Joe Baas, Cherie Gatlin and Stacy Simmons. During the five-hour shoot, competitors worked up an appetite, and Baas grilled lunch for the participants.

At the awards ceremony, Lofton thanked Barry APSO’s 26 volunteers and presented trophies to clay shoot sponsors Black and Veatch, Edmonds Contracting, Geosyntec and Mayer Electric. Then, she and fellow “Magic Maker” Simmons announced that 7-year-old Mobile resident Remano Zine and her family will enjoy a weeklong trip to Disney World in Orlando.

It was a huge surprise for Remano, who has suffered from sickle cell anemia her entire life. The little girl gets blood transfusions every three weeks. Lofton and Simmons, who have served Magic Moments since 2013, gave the youngster a trophy emblazoned with the words, “Grab your tiara, Princess Remano, you’re going to Disney,” with a goodie bag that included Mickey Mouse ears and a plush Princess Tiana doll.

Barry APSO gave Magic Moments recipient Remano Zine gifts for her Disney trip. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Lofton)

To Lofton, the mission is personal: It’s her way of remembering Michael Perkins and helping her community. When she was a youngster, Lofton’s single mom couldn’t provide everything despite working full-time.

“Some children can’t do things for medical reasons,” said Lofton, Contractor Support specialist at Plant Barry. “That’s one of the big reasons we are supporting Magic Moments and Ronald McDonald House. It just breaks my heart for kids … I just want to do what I can to make their life a little brighter and happier.”

Remano’s mother, Anitria Zine, said that her mother and extended family enjoyed the clay shoot and meeting Barry APSO volunteers. Zine sang the praises of Barry APSO and Alabama Power.

“We were crying all the way home and asking God to bless Alabama Power,” Zine said. “It was phenomenal. It was like a family reunion out there. They all have put a smile on our faces. I’m so glad we were able to be a part of it.”

Eastern APSO delivers heavenly sleep to underserved kids in Talladega

Working in 83-degree heat on April 23, several Eastern Division APSO members worked in a labor of love.

Instead of lining the stands at Talladega Raceway during race weekend, Eastern APSO volunteers made an assembly line in the hot parking lot of the Talladega Chamber of Commerce, building 43 beds for underprivileged kids in Talladega County.

Mike Barber, who grew up in the area, said it was an honor to help with “build day.” He and his wife, Kelsey, joined Eastern APSO’s Selina Lee and Rhonda McGrue in helping youngsters sponsored by Sleep in Heavenly Peace in Gadsden. The nonprofit assembles and delivers quality bunk beds to children and families in need.

“It’s really a great project,” said Barber, who has assisted since 2020. “Their motto is, ‘No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.’”

Valerie Burrage of the United Way of North Talladega County (UWNTC) said that half of those beds will go to children in Talladega County, “right off the top of the list.”

“We’ve got a waiting list of 120 kids right now,” said Burrage, UWNTC executive director for three years. In the past year, the agency has delivered 150 beds in Talladega County and 50 in Talladega. Each bed costs $250. UWNTC provides new twin mattresses, sheets and bedding, along with a stuffed animal.

“We have a great relationship with Eastern APSO and the Alabama Power Foundation, and we’ve had projects since I became executive director three years ago,” Burrage added. “We are able to accomplish so much more in our community with the support of APSO and Alabama Power Foundation.” She noted that Alabama Power Eastern Division Vice President Terry Smiley in 2021 helped facilitate a gift from the foundation to UWNTC for Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

Barber said the work makes him feel good.

“My favorite thing is that you get to do something with your hands, build something, and after you put your own blood, sweat ad tears into it, at the end of the day, you easily see what you accomplished,” said Barber, Eastern Division engineer. “At the end, we’re able to say we made 40 beds. Then later, you can look at the Facebook pages for United Way and Sleep in Heavenly Peace, seeing them deliver those beds to homes of kids that needed them. You can really see the good that you’re doing and, being from Talladega, that’s happening in my community. We’re doing good. It’s very heartwarming.”

Magic City raises funds for Habitat build and helps couple  

Magic City APSO members enjoyed a sporting good time at Top Golf in Birmingham, where about 100 volunteers sharpened their golf stroke while raising money for a future Habitat build. Magic City President Anna Chandler called the event “a perfect way” to help provide a worthy family a new Habitat home.

“We had a great turnout from companies that helped sponsor the tournament,” said Chandler, accountant at Southern Company’s Energy Center in Birmingham. “We hope to be able to help with an existing build for a Habitat home in the September to October time frame.”

On Saturday, April 23, Magic City APSO stepped up to help Hearts in Hands volunteers rebuild a wheelchair ramp for an older couple in the West End area of Birmingham. Chandler’s husband, Keith, an Environmental Affairs engineer at Alabama Power, and her stepfather, Michael Stanley, worked on the project.

Connie Payne, Hearts in Hands secretary, thanked Magic City APSO for helping. For nearly 15 years, Hearts in Hands has made home improvements for needy Birmingham-area homeowners, with assistance from about 270 volunteers.

“We have a long list of people waiting,” said Payne, whose husband, Carl, is Hearts in Hands president.

Within half a day, Blanche and Roderick Dilworth had a new wheelchair ramp.

“We started at around 8 a.m. and finished around 10:30 a.m. to tear out the old, rotted ramp and build a new one,” Payne said. “The guys are ace carpenters. Keith Chandler and Michael Stanley made the work go really fast.”

Blanche Dilworth, 66, was impressed at how quickly the team replaced the 13-year-old ramp.

“They did a very good job, and the ramp looks real good,” said Dilworth, who has been confined to a wheelchair for eight years. “I’d needed a new ramp – the wood was worn out at the bottom and needed to be replaced. In at least the last year, I had to be carried out to the ambulance, and it was rocky being carried out in the bed.

“There are many people in my condition, who can’t walk,” she said. “I am so thankful to everyone who came over and built the ramp. It is a blessing. I can’t wait to get on my three-wheeler and go down the ramp.”

Mobile Division APSO prepares Light of the City for summer camp

Mobile APSO members beautified Light of the City in Bay Minette, a hands-on ministry for children and families.

Volunteers weeded flower beds and painted outdoor benches for the front-line ministry, which provides free, year-round tutoring, classes in science, technology, engineering and math, character education, art, dance, and summer camp and other services. The Light of the City program is sponsored by the city of Bay Minette, Volunteers of America, Baldwin County Public Schools and United Way of Baldwin County.

Site Director Barbara Brown said the organization will serve about 125 to 200 children this summer. She is among five staff members, all retirees, who oversee the facility and children. Some tasks have recently proved difficult for the team, after two staff members were injured.

“We have to prepare every spring for the summer,” said Brown, a retired teacher. “Mobile APSO cleaned our raised beds for seeding and did painting to get us ready for our summer program.”

When Light of the City ran out of materials to redo a flower bed, a Mobile APSO member bought supplies.

“It was more than a gift of labor, it was a gift of the heart,” Brown added. “It was really encouraging and uplifting to have someone come in to help. I can’t put into words how grateful we are for them helping us. They were like Superman – they saved the day.”

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