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Mobile APSO’s ‘56 Days of Blessing’ helps Alabama community this spring

A café latte here, a candy bar there and it’s not long before you’ve spent a chunk of change.

From Feb. l7-April 13, several Mobile Division employees decided to forgo some daily indulgences to support the Mobile Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO).

Through Mobile APSO’s “56 Days of Blessings,” employees sacrificed some of their favorite things, such as barista-made coffee, manicures and pedicures, restaurant meals, hair appointments and fancy fishing lures. They donated nearly $2,000 to help area residents this spring.

“First off, we did an Easter project where we made small Easter baskets and donated those to four nonprofit organizations,” said Sharon Murrill, Mobile APSO president.

Among those efforts, Mobile APSO spent $560 on Easter baskets and treats for less fortunate children served by Light of the Village in Prichard and Sybil H. Smith Family Village, a program for children provided by Dumas Wesley Community Center in Mobile.

John Eads, founder of Light of the Village with his wife, Dolores, said the children were thrilled with their treats.

“We were privileged to hand out the Easter baskets to the kids directly,” said Eads, who has led the nonprofit for 12 years. “Some were distributed to different places. It’s fantastic to see a variety of people come together to help; this ministry is such a team effort.”

Sybil Smith Family Village sent a handwritten note to Mobile APSO.

“Thank you so much for your donation of Easter baskets for our kiddos at Sybil Smith Family Village,” wrote Associate Executive Director Sarah Laurio. “Both the kids and the parents were delighted when they saw them! We are so appreciative of your faithful and continued support of our program. We really would not be able to help these sweet families get back on their feet without kind, community minded folks such as you guys.”

Mobile APSO making a difference

While the endeavor wasn’t tied to a religious denomination, Mobile APSO asked employees to make a small sacrifice and donate to their community.

“We’re constantly brainstorming for virtual ideas – things we can do during the pandemic while social distancing,” said Murrill, Community Relations manager – Alabama Power Mobile Division Office.

For two months, Mobile APSO provided daily Facebook posts about employees’ efforts.

“We had many really, really cute ideas,” Murrill said. “We had one lady, Vivian Ballard, that, instead of going and purchasing some type of a fish meal, she reeled hers in. She actually got on a boat and caught a fish,” Murrill said, laughing. “That was very original.”

“When we decided to do this, I told everyone, ‘I want our folks who are giving this money to see that we are giving this back to our community,’” said Murrill, who made treats at home instead of buying smoothies. “It was a collaborative effort. I have a great board this year.

To help Mobile APSO, Ward saved the money he usually spends for grooming his five springer spaniels. (Tripp Ward / Alabama Power)

“We kept building and building on the idea – it was a lot of fun,” she said. “I think it’s so important to keep our members engaged, as well as letting them know we’re still doing things. We’re truly supporting the community where we work, we live, we go to church.”

Giving back was a labor of love for Tripp Ward. The Economic Development representative for Mobile Division groomed his AKC-registered pups to save money to donate.

“Our family has five springer spaniels,” said Ward, who uses a professional groomer in Baldwin County to bathe and trim the dogs. “I decided to groom one or two of them myself and send in that money to APSO. The one negative thing about springer spaniels is they shed. We find ourselves brushing them every day and using a Shop-Vac to clean up.”

For the long term, he’ll leave the task to professionals: “I will depend on my groomer,” said Ward, who worked at Mississippi Power 11 years before transferring to Alabama Power in 2018. “It’s a lot of work, especially when you don’t have the time and the right equipment.”

As part of the blessing project, Ballard put 30 years of fishing skills to use while spending quality time with her husband in the Mobile Delta. “Not only is it exciting to catch fish, it is very peaceful,” said the Mobile Division customer service representative, who donated to Mobile APSO instead of indulging in an expensive fish dinner.

Employees found many ways to give back. For instance, Ryan Allenbach, a market specialist in Partner Management, had family dinners at home on Friday nights instead of eating out, and donated the savings. Community Relations Manager Clinton Johnson gave up his monthly gym membership and personal trainer and worked out at home. Customer Service Manager Erin Delaport sacrificed her favorite “cookie two step” ice cream. Gayla Cunningham, Tionne Robinson and several other employees cut out shopping sprees and wrote a check to Mobile APSO.

In May, Mobile Chapter will use those funds in support of APSO’s state project to improve nutrition for underserved residents.

The first week, Mobile APSO members will fill backpacks for children at Light of the Village, providing snacks, fruit and water. The second week, members will donate tuna packs and ravioli to Housing First for distribution to Mobile County’s homeless. The third week, Mobile APSO will provide lunch at McKemie Place, which provides emergency overnight shelter to homeless women. The final week, members will give backpacks to children of the Boat People SOS-Bayou La Batre, an underserved Vietnamese American community.

Murrill said employees’ thoughtful sacrifices will provide big blessings to Mobile’s less fortunate residents.

“This was a small way for our employees to take part in a fun event while also giving back to our communities,” she said. “We may do this project again next year.”