All aboard the ‘Jingle Bus’: Southern Company delivers merrier holidays to Salvation Army Angels

All aboard the ‘Jingle Bus’: Southern Company delivers merrier holidays to Salvation Army Angels
Serving as Santa's elves during the busy holiday season didn't faze shoppers Jeff Pruitt and Karen Wheeler, in pursuit of the perfect toys for a Salvation Army Angel Tree recipient. Pruitt, who works at Southern Company Services, and Wheeler, an Alabama Power employee, were among more than 20 Magic City APSO volunteers who shopped in November for gifts for less fortunate children represented through the Salvation Army. (Donna Cope/Alabama NewsCenter)

With the help of hundreds of Southern Company employees in Alabama – including Alabama Power, Southern Linc, Southern Nuclear, Southern Power and Southern Company Services (SCS) – a merrier Christmas is on the way for many Salvation Army Angel Tree recipients throughout the state.

Thanks to employee volunteers who raised money for gifts and volunteered to shop for less fortunate children, Christmas gifts will be under the tree for many of the state’s needy families. Employees at many Alabama Power business offices take part in the annual tradition of providing for “Angels.” Children’s wish lists went on and on. Clothing, toys and electronics were the top requests.

“The hard work to raise funds and make community connections is a labor of love that goes on the entire year,” said Tan Grayson, Community Initiatives program manager and associate director of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO). “APSO volunteers really focus on making sure the underserved are covered. That really tugs on our heartstrings.”

APSO Jingle Bus helps families in need for Christmas from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The bus stops here

APSO volunteers work tirelessly on myriad projects to help make Christmas possible for many of those underserved – namely, to earn funds for presents distributed through the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, Departments of Human Resources and other charities within their communities.

On Dec. 11, one of the first stops for the Salvation Army “Jingle Bus” was SCS corporate offices off U.S. Highway 280 in Birmingham. About 10 SCS “elves” scurried to and fro, retrieving numerous large bags of gifts and piling them into the bus. About an hour later, the scene replayed at Alabama Power Corporate Headquarters in Birmingham, where bags upon bags of children’s gifts awaited. Magic City Angel Tree Chair Erica Lamar-Coney and other APSO volunteers further packed the bus with gifts for more than 600 children.

This year, Power Delivery (PD) employees from Alabama Power and Southern Company joined hands in raising more than $69,000 for Angel Tree gifts. During PD’s annual golf tournament, Chitra Kirpalani said, a record 50 golf teams competed during the Aug. 18 tourney at Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Oxmoor Valley. More than 30 companies sponsored teams, which was a record.

Engineering and Construction Services employees at SCS held a charity clay shoot that raised $66,000, allowing SCS employees to shop for 416 Salvation Army Angels.

“We doubled the amount we raised in 2012,” said Financial Reporting Accountant Kirpalani. “During the past five years, the APSO Angel Tree Golf Tournament has raised more than $125,000 for the Salvation Army,” which translates to a lot of Christmas gifts.

Charlene Tucker-Robb, project manager for Business Processes, said that PD raised $29,000 at the seventh annual Engineering and Construction Services Charity Clay Shoot at Selwood Farm in Childersburg,

Wishes come true

“Our SCS employees shopped for gifts in November,” said Anne Lugar, Information Services manager – SCS. While SCS supplied gifts to 416 Salvation Army Angels, many employees either adopted an Angel or donated money to sponsor another 100 children.” SCS employees supplied gifts to 200 foster children through various Departments of Human Resources, as well.

Salvation Army provides presents for foster children up to age 21, said Lori Cork, public relations director for the Salvation Army in Birmingham. “About 1,300 Salvation Army Angels will receive presents this year from Southern Company employees,” she said.

This year, Southern Power employees raised more than $4,000 and adopted 30 Angels. Many employees in the Birmingham office contributed to the fund raiser. Volunteers spent an afternoon shopping for the children: From coats and shoes to scooters and superheroes, every gift was selected to make a child’s Christmas wishes come true. Employees bought cribs, mattresses and a toddler bed for two Angels.

“Taking part in Angel Tree is one of my favorite things that we do as a company,” said Southern Power State and Local Affairs Manager Elizabeth Wash. “It’s a privilege to be able to make children’s dreams come true during the holidays. A little bit really does go a long way, and it was so much fun spending some time outside the office to share some joy this season.”

Across the state

In Birmingham, Cork accompanied Magic City APSO volunteers during three November shopping trips for Angels. Afterward, the Salvation Army deposited the gifts at its Birmingham warehouse.

Giving has been ongoing throughout company divisions and business offices since November, said Grayson, noting that APSO chapters within some divisions support DHRs and other charities in their areas.

Barry APSO’s Amanda Lofton (left) presented a $2,000 check to Salvation Army Major Tom Richmond in Mobile. (Amanda Lofton)

On Dec. 7, Plant Barry APSO members held their annual Contributions Breakfast in Mobile, where longtime Barry APSO member Amanda Lofton presented donations to 10 charitable groups, including a $2,000 check to the Salvation Army.

Mobile Division APSO delivers truckloads of presents to those in need during the holidays. APSO volunteers traveled throughout the territory spreading Christmas cheer at the Salvation Army and other 501(c)(3) groups.

Eastern Division APSO bought gifts for 25 Salvation Army Angels on Dec. 7, as well as purchases for other charitable projects.

Alabama Power employees in the company’s Western Division made a big push for the Salvation Army Angel Tree, with individuals and work groups at the Tuscaloosa Business Office and Tuscaloosa Crew Headquarters usually adopting about 40 Angels.

At Western Division APSO’s sub-chapter Plant Greene County, employees and work groups adopted about 30 Salvation Army Angels.

Gorgas gives

About 34 Plant Gorgas employees held a golf tournament in June, raising more than $23,000 for Christmas gifts for children in the Walker County area. Gorgas APSO members sold concessions on Mule Day in Winfield and during the Foothills Festival in Jasper. Throughout the year, Gorgas APSO volunteers held food sales – lunches ranging from Chic-fil-A to burgers and fries to sub sandwiches – all to earn funds to make sure needy children wake up to gifts on Christmas Day.

“This helped build our pot of money,” said Gorgas Maintenance Specialist Terri Black. The big “payoff” came in November, when Gorgas APSO adopted 200 children through partnerships with Salvation Army and the Jasper DHR.

“We took children’s wish lists and spent four hours shopping on two separate days,” said Black, a longtime Gorgas APSO member.

From each child’s list, 30 Gorgas APSO members – along with some employees from Alabama Power’s Jasper Office, Jasper Crew Headquarters and Smith Hydroelectric Dam – purchased a winter coat, shoes, underwear and socks, and a fun item such as a board game or toy. Many parents and guardians requested diapers and wipes for their infants.

“One child asked for an iPod Shuffle, and we managed to get it on sale for $49,” Black said, “so that child got blessed.”

Gorgas APSO members placed Salvation Army gifts in red bags and DHR gifts in green sacks. On Dec. 13, Gorgas APSO volunteers helped the Salvation Army in Jasper distribute the gifts to Angels’ parents or guardians.

“Our employees are a blessing,” Black said. “We bagged and labeled everything so the Salvation Army would know who the gifts belong to. It’s so much fun to do this for the kids. It’s such a good cause.”

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