Jeff Schmitz is a longtime Alabama Power employee in the Mobile area, and a veteran volunteer with the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO), going on a quarter-century.
Lots of things have shifted in the world the past 25 years, or transformed entirely. But for Schmitz, a community relations manager in Saraland, the desire to help make Alabama communities better, and the pleasure that comes from helping others, hasn’t changed.
“I would say APSO is the same as it was when I first joined nearly 25 years ago: a group of individuals working together to improve the quality of life in our communities. The focus is still the same today,” Schmitz said.
It’s the same for Johnetta Jackson, another APSO veteran who manages Alabama Power’s downtown Mobile Business Office.
“We are still about serving and making our communities better,” Jackson said. “If anything is different, we have expanded how we serve by providing service, supplies and donations to more organizations – within and outside of our service territory – when the need arises.”
This month, Alabama Power volunteers are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Alabama Power Service Organization by conducting 30 service projects during the 30 days of November. All across the state, volunteers from the company, as well as Alabama-based employees of Southern Company, Southern Nuclear and Southern Linc, are in their communities or taking part virtually in projects that benefit a host of nonprofits and community organizations, including several initiatives that will help make the holidays brighter for children and seniors.
Indeed, many longtime APSO volunteers through the decades have taught their children – many of them grown now – about the joy that comes from selfless acts of volunteerism by bringing them to APSO service projects.
“Both of my girls are now actively involved in volunteering as a result of working on APSO projects with me,” Jackson said.
“It gives me a sense of giving back, and has taught my daughters about giving back and doing good in the community,” she added. “Their love for service will continue to ‘pay it forward’ for future generations.”
Kami Nesmith, a customer service representative in Phenix City, also talks about paying it forward by supporting community service projects through APSO.
“I believe it is important,” Nesmith said. “Our community will become our legacy.”
Cherie Gatlin, a power generation analyst at Alabama Power’s Plant Barry and an active APSO volunteer, also speaks about legacy in community service. “It changes lives,” Gatlin said.
Brittany Killingsworth is an administrative assistant at Plant Farley, the company’s nuclear facility in southeast Alabama. She is a proud and active member of the Southeast/Farley chapter of APSO, one of nine chapters spread across the state.
“I believe in having a servant’s heart, providing my time and efforts to organizations that give back to so many,” Killingsworth said.
She said supporting service projects through APSO not only helps her neighbors in need, it provides valuable fellowship and some good times while doing good.
“It strengthens ties to the community and broadens my support network, exposing me to others with common interests, community resources, and fun, fulfilling activities.”
Frances Damian, a meeting and events specialist in Birmingham, said that volunteering through APSO helps her expand her knowledge about the community and its needs. “I volunteer for the opportunity to learn more about the community’s strengths and weaknesses. It allows me to better serve.”
Growing personally through volunteerism
Joyce Boshell, a longtime APSO member in the Mobile area, said she has “grown personally” through company volunteerism. “I have more compassion and am more aware of the needs in our community. I look for projects where APSO can participate and make a difference.”
Malinda Golden, a field service representative in Eufaula, also has a personal take on volunteering through APSO. “I volunteer to help others because, if I can make one child smile, feed a family or keep the elderly warm with a blanket, I am getting to share my love with people.
“I volunteer because of the love I have for my community and the people in it,” Golden added.
Cindy Harcrow, a customer services representative in the company’s Western Division, eloquently described her volunteering through APSO: “I enjoy knowing that I get to be a part of something that means so much to those in need and leaving footprints of grace.
“I get to support causes I truly believe in, raising awareness, helping in times of need and putting smiles on people’s faces – all the things I love,” Harcrow said.
Ed Barnes, who works in Western Division field operations, said, “I volunteer to help others because at some time, everyone needs some form of help.”
Steve Marlowe, a community relations manager in the company’s Eastern Division, put it this way: “I volunteer to help others, simply because it’s the right thing to do.”
Mack Jenkins, a field services rep in Montgomery and APSO volunteer, said: “I enjoy helping people in any way I can, no matter what the circumstance is, or the need.”
APSO volunteers can choose from a range of projects that touch them. But they are also quick to pitch in wherever it’s needed – after natural disasters, for example.
Schmitz, a fisherman and volunteer fishing coach, said one of his favorite projects is the Alabama Coastal Foundation’s annual Coastal Cleanup, in which APSO volunteers join people from multiple organizations and schools to remove trash from area waterways. “Protecting our natural resources and fisheries can have a lasting impact in our communities,” Schmitz said.
Boshell said it’s a “three-way tie” as far as her favorite community projects. Her top ones are participating in Christmas toy shopping for needy children, painting homes in the historic Africatown community and helping with grounds upkeep at Wilmer Hall children’s home.
Tan Grayson is a longtime APSO volunteer in Birmingham. Her favorite is the “Good Samaritan” project in which volunteers help collect and provide clothes and meals to area shelters. The meals are prepared during lunch breaks and delivered in the evenings.
Don Franklin works in Birmingham. The longtime employee has been part of APSO for 25 years. His favorite project, among many over the decades, was the “Achievers Baseball League” in which volunteers served as “buddies” for children and young adults with physical and emotional disabilities who took the field in two-inning ballgames. After the games, APSO volunteers joined the players for snacks and drinks that were supplied by APSO.
“I have benefited from APSO more than anyone I know,” said Franklin, who has stayed active in the organization throughout his company career and changing job positions. “It has helped me grow as a person instead of living in my own little world.”
Franklin oversees the Energizers, the volunteer service organization made up of Alabama Power retirees – many of whom were involved in APSO when they were employees. He credits securing his current position to the experiences and relationships he developed through APSO projects.
“I have received much more from APSO and the Energizers than what I have given. I have been and am still very blessed,” Franklin said.
Learn more about Alabama Power employee and retiree volunteers here.