As the holidays loom and temperatures slide downward, many Alabama Power Plant Miller employees are warming the hearts of less fortunate folks. That’s the case for members of all 10 chapters of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO), who pull out all the stops to assist during the Christmas season.
The unwavering focus of Miller APSO’s board and 300 chapter members is helping meet community needs in one of Alabama’s poorest areas.
“The need is real,” said Miller APSO President Kevin Chappell. Indeed, about 22% of Walker County’s 64,000 residents live below the poverty line.
In freezing weather, the homeless seek a warm place to stay at the City of Lights Dream Center in Dora. In January, the center opened 20 beds to the public, along with providing hot meals and showers. Miller APSO members volunteered for 400 hours in helping prepare the center for opening.
Jamie Massey, founder of City of Lights, said that volunteer hours and donations by Miller APSO members are making life more bearable for the center’s homeless and needy clients. When temperatures go below freezing two or more consecutive nights, the center opens its warming stations.
Adding touch of home for the hurting
“It’s not just the homeless,” said Massey, who operates the center with her husband, Sumiton Church of God Pastor Victor Massey. “We have families that are cold and don’t have running water, for instance. With it being this cold, we want to make sure it’s for anybody that needs to get warm.”
In August, Miller APSO provided a donation for school supplies to assist with the center’s Back 2 School Bash for needy families. More than 800 families picked up free paper, pens, pencils and backpacks before school started. The City of Lights Dream Center provides free day care services to approved families and a Celebrate Recovery program for people fighting addiction.
“It’s our dream to make life better for people in Walker County,” Massey said. “I can’t thank Miller APSO enough for their kindness.”
Working for others
When APSO members met for the 2019 APSO Convention, Miller board members assembled 150 hygiene bags to give to the Walker County Coalition for the Homeless in Jasper.
“Our board is so dedicated, they make it really easy to accomplish what we’re working to do in our community,” said Chappell, electrical and instrumentation journeyman.
The chapter holds several “big earning” fundraisers annually: cake auctions on Halloween and Valentine’s Day; a Sporting Clays Shoot; the Miller Open Golf Tournament at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, Oxmoor Valley, that earned $19,000; and a bowling tournament at Vestavia Bowl that earned $1,700.
Miller elves scramble to fill Christmas lists
Miller APSO members know that Christmas holidays can be a sad time for the less fortunate. That is why, throughout November, Miller APSO puts a heavy emphasis on its Adopt A Child program, Project Coordinator Beth Shumate said. Miller members give Christmas gifts to Salvation Army Angels for Jefferson County and children sponsored by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) for Walker County.
“We always do two days of Christmas shopping for the kids,” Chappell said.
In Sumiton, Miller APSO will sponsor 200 children, spending $75 for each child. Project coordinators Shumate, manager – SCM Transactions Procurement, and Tina Valles, buyer – Generation, lead shopping sprees for Angel kids. Miller APSO will write a $15,000 check to the Salvation Army. In Jasper, employees will spend $150 each on Christmas gifts for 100 needy kids.
Miller APSO took part in the West Jefferson Festival of Trees earlier this month. The proceeds benefit West Jefferson Elementary School. The theme of Miller’s APSO tree was “Night before Christmas,” and displayed organizations the chapter has supported throughout the year, Miller APSO Project Coordinator Rachel Edgil said.
Miller APSO has a long-standing relationship with area senior citizen centers. Project Coordinator Jamie Driver said members will fill more than 250 bags for seniors who visit the center, as well as homebound seniors.
“Gifts include personal hygiene items, paper, pens, candy and seniors’ favorite item, which is postage stamps,” Driver said. Each year, APSO members wear their red logo shirts and Santa hats while delivering bags at each center.
“For some, our smiling faces and the Christmas bag may be the only gifts they receive this year,” Driver said.
Paying good forward
Thirteen years ago, Chappell recognized APSO as the perfect avenue to make a difference. He joined the employee volunteer group during his first month at Gaston.
“In my own life, so many people have helped me along the way,” Chappell said. “When I started working here, I knew that Alabama Power would be a great job for me and my family. I knew I’d be able to help others.”
Longtime Power Generation Analyst Edgil said serving in APSO has given her the means to “pay it forward” in life. She’s enjoyed many opportunities to meet people inside and outside work.
“Being in APSO is my way of giving back for what I’ve received,” Edgil said. “I love helping people.”
This story originally appeared in Powergrams.