Duke Energy employees spruce up Cain Elementary

By Jana E. Pye, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

“This is so exciting!” said Carla Watford, Principal of Cain Elementary School in Darlington. “I cannot believe all the work going on!”

Duke Energy employees from Robinson Nuclear Power Plant and members of the Darlington County lineman crew – all wearing aqua work shirts -converged on the school on Thursday, July 30th for their annual Volunteer in Action work day.

Duke Energy employees from the Robinson Nuclear Power Plant in Hartsville painting walls at Cain Elementary as part of their annual Volunteer in Action work day. Photo by Jana E. Pye

Duke Energy employees from the Robinson Nuclear Power Plant in Hartsville painting walls at Cain Elementary as part of their annual Volunteer in Action work day.
Photo by Jana E. Pye

Cars and trucks of volunteers were parked all over the campus, joined by Darlington County School District maintenance crews that were busy replacing sidewalks and working on summer projects. One district employee remarked, “We need to keep these guys in the blue shirts around all week!”
“Our employees are so generous,” said Mindy Taylor of Duke Energy. “Not only financially to projects like Coats for Kids, the school supplies and backpack drives- they are also very giving of their time.”

The Robinson Nuclear Plant employees organized a bicycle drive in the spring, donating bicycles and helmets to children in the Darlington County School District who did not have a bicycle of their own. They also have worked with a mentor program at North Hartsville Elementary School (NHE) in the district for many years.

The planner of the bicycle donation project, Teresa Hodges (also a mentor at NHE) was busy helping at Cain. She looked up and smiled, “We love doing this!”

The enthusiasm to help is so extraordinary, according to Taylor, that the company never has a problem getting volunteers for these projects, despite the high summer temperatures.

“We even have the Robinson site VP here today,” said Taylor. “The employees know they are very fortunate, and they want to give back to the community. That’s a culture that Duke Energy believes – we have a responsibility to the communities in which we serve.”

Approximately 50 volunteers were on hand from 9 a.m. to noon; another group of 20 or more planned to arrive from noon to 3 p.m.; many chose to work the entire day.

The team met with the staff of Cain Elementary to work out goals and plans in the spring, and decided on several key improvements:

• the foyer entrance, to give students and visitors a good first impression of the school
• an outdoor learning area
• new cubbies in classrooms to replace old ones
• renovations of the library

Audrey Childers, public information officer for the school district, remarked, “You have got to see the library!”

The district had already planned to replace the tiles, making the library a natural choice for employees to assist.

Crews worked on dusting off books, painting the walls, and adding vibrant orange along the top in preparation for quotes.

Robinson Plant Vice President Mike Glover stood high on a ladder painting. He has been with Duke for 40 years, and with Robinson for the past three years.

“This is a great opportunity to be able to serve the community. That is a part of what Duke is about.”

He has two sons of his own, and remembers well the time spent in their elementary schools. “It’s great to be able to do this, and give the students something to be excited about when they walk in.”

The crew working on the outdoor learning area were busy sprucing up landscaping, and placing new large wooden picnic tables to replace old, rusted metal tables.

“It’s nice for the kids to get out of the four walls of the classroom and get outside and learn not only about environmental things, but they can get out there and learn math, too.” said Taylor.

The crew working on building new wooden cubbies includes five college interns, who pooled their money together to purchase a new bicycle for the school to use as an incentive.

The Duke employees completed their volunteer hours in one day; the sidewalk renovation by the school district will be completed before the start of school on August 17.

Carla Watford says she and her teachers have had a few neighborhood children stop by already, curious about all the changes.

“We’ve had a lot of our teachers here this week working on their rooms,” said Watford. “They officially start back on August 10th. We really have done a lot of work ourselves, trying to make improvements with the school district. Now, with Duke Energy helping us out, it’s going to be great.

“We always try to come up with new initiatives and this fits right in perfect with us. We are going to be working more with computers and coding with students and we always come up with a focus, so this year we are working on one word that really fits, ‘engagement’ so this will start us off for an exciting year.”

To complement the outdoor learning area, Cain Elementary plans to add on to the playground in the back and maybe do a walking trail for the children to have new learning experiences.

Author: Duane Childers

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