Alabama Power helps bring smiles with new playground

Alabama Power helps bring smiles with new playground

Peals of laughter are rising again from the newly refurbished playground at Wilmer Hall Children’s Home in Mobile.

Thanks to gifts of volunteerism and donations made through the Alabama Power Foundation and the Mobile Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO), the new play area is fully functional and safe. Young residents – from toddlers to teens – are enjoying the new playground, said Wilmer Hall’s Sally Greene and Margaret Scarborough.

“The playground is beautiful,” said Greene, Wilmer Hall’s executive director for 8 years. “It’s in the heart of the campus, in our quad area. It’s a gathering place for our children and staff, and this new playground has made a tremendous difference for them. Now the little ones have something to play on while the older kids throw around the football or Frisbee.”

Without a grant from the Alabama Power Foundation, she said their new playground would not exist.

“The grant was the seed,” Greene said. “Playgrounds are very expensive! Researching playgrounds was an eye-opening process for me.”

Wilmer Hall, which has operated for 151 years and is Alabama’s oldest children’s home, provides 24/7 residential, educational and community services to 36 children and young adults in need, due to poverty, abuse, neglect and/or homelessness. Mobile APSO members have long considered Wilmer Hall as their adopted family, said Theodore Office Supervisor Sharon Murrill, who has enjoyed volunteering at Wilmer Hall for many years.

Seed money started it all

Greene said the financial gift from the Alabama Power Foundation, which is comprised of nonratepayer dollars, made it possible for Wilmer Hall to proceed. In August 2014, Murrill and several other APSO volunteers helped by preparing and selling barbecue ribs in a two-day fundraiser for the playground refurbishment. But the work – and APSO’s support – was just beginning.

“Sharon arranged for someone to measure and clear the plot we needed, remove the grass and prepare the foundation,” she said. From there, Greene and Wilmer Hall staff selected new equipment and had it professionally assembled. “It was not as simple as I thought – it turned into a big task to stay in our price range and decide on the equipment best suited for our residents.”

Mobile APSO members landscaped the area in fall 2014, and Power Delivery – Distribution employees Bill Clements, Gary Day and Mark Leousis installed railroad ties around the area, said Mobile APSO President Ryan Allenbach. Final touches were made during the week of March 20, with the addition of rubberized safety material around the slides and other equipment, to cushion the children’s falls.

“Alabama Power and APSO have helped us in so many ways here,” said Scarborough, executive assistant at Wilmer Hall for 16 years.

For instance, on Friday, April 17, about 20 Mobile APSO members will serve Wilmer Hall in a Day of Caring event through United Way. “We’ll do whatever we can to help, whether that includes cutting the grass, edging, trimming bushes and raking leaves, or painting,” said Allenbach, Commercial and Industrial Marketing specialist. “We’ll do whatever they need us to do.”

Scarborough said, “In that one day, we become like a whole new campus!”

But the work doesn’t end there, said APSO Associate Director Tan Grayson. Mobile APSO members are on the scene at Wilmer Hall on an as-needed basis. Grayson noted that many Mobile APSO volunteers help provide holiday meals to Wilmer Hall’s children and staff at Thanksgiving. Mobile APSO makes Christmas a special time for Wilmer Hall’s young residents, fulfilling wish lists. Mobile APSO holds an annual summer golf tournament at Rock Creek Golf Club to earn money for Christmas presents.

Award winning effort by volunteers

Mobile members’ dedicated efforts at Wilmer Hall earned the chapter the 2015 People’s Choice award, Grayson said, as more than 200 APSO members voted for the organization’s top project at the recent Pay it Forward Conference. Greene fully agrees that Mobile APSO deserves that honor.

“APSO members have done so much for us throughout the years,” Greene said. “Without their help and the help of Alabama Power, it would be impossible for us to do many of the things we do. That corporate support is so necessary for us, it helps us stay in existence to help our children and young adults. Alabama Power and APSO truly are the perfect example of a genuine corporate partnership, and we value our relationship with all of them.”

This post was originally published on Alabama NewsCenter.