Helping others has always been important to Shannon Sampson.
The president of the Energizers chapter in Alabama Power’s Southeast Division said it’s fundamental: “I have always enjoyed serving others.”
Sampson worked for 32 years at Farley Nuclear Plant until her April 2018 retirement as training support manager. A 1984 graduate of Alabama A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in zoology and a minor in chemistry, Sampson was the first Black and first female to serve as the plant’s radiation protection manager.
While at Farley, she volunteered for 10 years with the Southeast Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO). Joining Energizers – the service arm for Alabama Power and Southern Company retirees in Alabama – was a natural next step after retirement. It wasn’t long before she was drafted to serve on the board of the Southeast Division Energizers.
Sampson is a longtime volunteer for numerous causes. In the late 1990s, she was a candy striper volunteer at Southeast Health Medical Center in Dothan. About 20 years ago, she became heavily involved in Make-A-Wish after her niece and nephew became recipients, prompting her to take the project to Farley APSO.
“At Farley, we had a group of employees who became ‘wish granters’ when there was a shortage of volunteers in southeast Alabama,” she said, with several employees receiving training from Make-A-Wish in Birmingham. Relying heavily on volunteers, Make-A-Wish has served to create life-changing wishes for more than 360,000 critically ill children across the U.S. and its territories since 1980.
“It can be heart-wrenching sometimes,” said Sampson, who helped fulfill wishes for many youngsters. “They tell you not to get attached, but you can’t help it.”
Sampson has been instrumental on the Headland Main Street Committee, after becoming a member of that board for about three years. The committee has held fundraisers for Wiregrass United Way, ranging from a silent auction and “wing night” to sales of pork loins and yard sales.
“Part of the focus is to bring more activity and more businesses to our downtown, Headland Square,” said Sampson, whose efforts center on promotions, planning and providing volunteer services for events.
One of the biggest is Under the Oaks, an outdoor concert in the park, during which residents enjoy live bands and food vendors. The event is held every third Friday from April to October. “As a sponsor, I would go up there and help welcome the crowd,” Sampson said.
In March, the Headland Chamber of Commerce celebrated Sampson, honoring her with the prestigious Gemmy Award for community service.
Turning tragedy into a cause to help others
In addition to her work in Headland, Sampson puts much time and planning into publicizing the need for blood donations. Spurred by the death of her niece, Akira Hollis, from sickle cell anemia in 2015, it has since been Sampson’s mission to support the American Red Cross. Despite numerous blood transfusions, Hollis died at 17.
Since 2017, Sampson has worked at up to six Red Cross blood drives yearly in Dothan, Ozark and Enterprise, registering and encouraging donors and handing out snacks. Hollis’ death prompted Sampson to educate others about the need for blood donations.
“Sickle cell disease is hereditary and is passed down genetically,” said Sampson, who began donating blood during college. “There are several in my family, me included, who have the sickle cell trait, but my niece was the first one ever in our line that I am aware of who had the disease.
“It’s important for people to get tested and know whether you’re a carrier or not, because my sister and her partner didn’t realize they were carriers until Akira was born. Akira needed blood transfusions to live her short life. We lost count of how many blood transfusions she had.”
Sampson and her family host an annual blood drive in Hollis’ memory. During fall 2022, the Red Cross wrote to Sampson, notifying her that the family’s event was among the area’s most successful. Sampson’s son, Darius Brown, owns the Dothan Hoops Training Facility and last September sponsored a four-hour drive. Sampson’s team collected 19 units of blood and more than $300 in donations.
“This is my pet project because of my niece,” Sampson said. “We make a lot of contacts with people we know and make personal calls to people who knew her. It gives a little added incentive to give blood … it takes some persuasion, sometimes.
“By them knowing us, knowing the family, knowing the situation, knowing over her life span how many blood transfusions she had to have just to live the short period of time that she did live, it makes it personal,” Sampson said.
The family works to educate people about the need for blood, Sampson said, because many don’t realize that sickle cell patients often require blood transfusions to sustain life.
“That’s a piece of the education theme: We try to use this platform to get people to know the importance of getting tested and knowing the status before you begin building your family,” Sampson said.
To learn more about Alabama employee and retiree volunteerism, visit powerofgood.com and click on “Volunteers.”