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Community Connection


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Woodlawn Cemetery, like other areas in Columbia, is on the road to recovery thanks to recent landscaping done by volunteers from Mississippi Power’s Environmental Stewardship Council, Community Connection members and Keep Mississippi Beautiful.

Six months after a powerful tornado caused widespread devastation, the scars are still visible, especially at this 20-acre cemetery that was directly in the storms’ path.

“The community decided that restoring the cemetery was their primary focus,” said Senior Environmental Specialist Patrick Chubb. “We’ve worked on several projects in Columbia since the tornado, but this is the largest and the one that’s taken the most coordination.”

“After the tornado more people went to the cemetery to check on their loved ones before checking on their homes and businesses,” said Sarah Kountouris, executive director of Keep Mississippi Beautiful. “That’s when we knew we wanted to assist them in restoring the cemetery.”

Rene’ Dungan, chairman of Keep Columbia & Marion County Beautiful, said the landscape of the cemetery relied heavily on the live oaks that were present before the tornado.

“Before the storm, there were approximately 83 trees inside the cemetery. The arborist examined every tree and we were able to save about 40 live oaks,” Dungan said. “We could not have planted these large trees without Mississippi Power volunteers because of the equipment and manpower needed.”

Using a derrick truck with an auger and a mini-excavator, about 15 employees planted southern magnolias and crepe myrtles at the two entrances to the cemetery. They also prepared gardening areas for additional work in the cemetery.

Both Dungan and Kountouris could not thank the Mississippi Power volunteers enough for their time and hard work.

“We have partnered with Mississippi Power on beautification projects since before Hurricane Katrina,” Kountouris added. “I get emotional every time I arrive at an event and see Mississippi Power workers volunteering.”


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At the beginning of the year, members of the Pine Belt chapter of Community Connection discussed several local organizations they could support and how they could show that support.

There was overwhelming interest in assisting food pantries and fighting hunger across the area. After further discussions, the group decided to host its first golf tournament in seven years and donate the proceeds to Extra Table.

“Extra Table is a non-profit that provides services throughout our service territory,” Administrative Support Supervisor April Freeman said. “They purchase healthy food in bulk from Sysco and distribute it to food pantries and soup kitchens.”

The tournament committee formed, set the date for April 24 and started working on securing sponsors and players.

The response was tremendous.

More than 110 golfers – employees, customers and vendors – turned out at Timberton Golf Club in Hattiesburg.

“We donated more than $24,000 to Extra Table from this one event,” Freeman said. “$1,500 buys you one ton of food, so they’ll be able to purchase 16 tons of food to fight hunger in the Pine Belt. That’s just incredible.”

Extra Table, which was founded in 2009 by Hattiesburg native and chef Robert St. John, purchases food and has it delivered to emergency food centers in need.

“We are so fortunate to have the support of Mississippi Power and their Community Connection employees,” said Stacy Ahua, program coordinator at Extra Table. “This unbelievable donation will help to get new, healthy food to those who desperately need it.”

When the committee was putting together the golf event, they realized that Extra Table was not providing any services in Jones County. That’s when Customer Service Representative Emily Shows got involved.

“I made contact with agencies in Jones County to see if they would be interested in a partnership with Extra Table,” Shows said. “I assisted Good Samaritan with their paperwork and they will receive their first shipment from Extra Table in late June.”


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Mississippi Power’s employee volunteer organization, Community Connection, boasts nearly 1,000 members spread across the company’s 23 county service territory and at the Kemper County energy facility.

At the annual meeting held Feb. 11 at the Great Southern Club in downtown Gulfport, more than 100 attendees from all seven chapters were treated to highlights of service projects that were completed in 2014. Additionally, the volunteers of the year were announced and honored for their incredible service.

During his opening remarks, CEO Ed Holland thanked the members for their work and commitment to serving others.

“There’s not a week that goes by without your community service being mentioned in a news article,” Holland said. “What you do truly makes a difference for the people we serve. You put others first, whether a coworker, a customer or an entire community. Because of your actions, we are respected and admired in the community, both as employees and as a company.”

Johnny Atherton, vice president, Corporate Services and Community Relations told the group they are appreciated more than they will ever know.

“A good community strategy starts with a good employee strategy. I am proud to be a part of this program myself,” Atherton said.

Volunteers of the year include:

  • Kim Necaise, online customer care analyst, Coast Chapter
  • Brad Cates, senior community development representative, General Office Chapter
  • Karen Waters, senior customer service representative, Jackson-George County Chapter
  • Stephen Moore, lineman, Meridian Chapter
  • Josh Ulmer, apprentice electrician-substations, Pine Belt Chapter
  • Cathy Sowell, administrative assistant, Plant Ratcliffe Chapter
  • Charlie Smith, senior safety specialist, Plant Watson.

“2014 was an outstanding year by all accounts for Community Connection and all the officers and chapter members should be congratulated,” said Community Development Corporate Giving Manager Rodger Meinzinger. “With all the positive momentum built this past year, I’m excited and confident that 2015 will be a banner year and become our best one yet.”



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On a beautiful October morning, across Highway 90 from Biloxi Beach, more than 20 Mississippi Power employees participated in the United Way’s “Day of Caring.” The group, led by District Manager Stephen Schruff, planted five live oaks on the grounds of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed 18 of the 36 live oaks on the Ohr-O’Keefe campus. Today’s tree planting was called another step in the recovery efforts for the City of Biloxi.

“The oak trees that line Beach Boulevard are icons of South Mississippi,” Schruff said. “To be a part of today’s planting and know that these trees may be around for hundreds of years is quite remarkable. Getting our employees to volunteer for this event wasn’t difficult at all.”

The volunteers, members of the Coast chapter of Community Connection, Mississippi Power’s employee-based service organization, planted five-foot tall oak trees, tilled a flower bed and picked up trash around the museum’s buildings.

“This is another milestone for the museum and the greater Biloxi community,” said Carol Meeser, assistant museum director. “We truly appreciate the spirit of these volunteers who are trying to make this part of east Biloxi more beautiful than it was yesterday.”

Today’s volunteer effort is the 70th of 2014 for the Coast chapter of Community Connection. These employees have already registered more than 1,700 volunteer hours this year.

“Mississippi Power believes in strengthening the communities we serve,” Schruff said. “This is an effort that will be recognized by generations to come and we’re happy to be a part of it.”

The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum opened at its current location on the beach in east Biloxi in November 2010.