Annual Meeting, Co-op News

Volunteers Transform School

By Michael W. Kahn | ECT Staff Writer Published: February 15th, 2010

LITHIA SPRINGS, Ga.—It was 25 degrees outside, and the remnants of a snowstorm had turned to ice on the roads. But that wasn’t enough to deter a group of volunteers from leaving their warm Atlanta hotels and nearby homes to come to this suburb 18 miles west, where they spent their Saturday hard at work.

Volunteers switch out old fluorescents for new energy efficient bulbs at Lithia Springs High School. (Photo By: Luis Gomez)

Volunteers switch out old fluorescents for new energy efficient bulbs at Lithia Springs High School. (Photo By: Luis Gomez)

Nearly 90 folks ventured to Lithia Springs High School, Feb. 13, for this year’s Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives service project, a follow-up to 2009’s successful effort in New Orleans. Once again timed to coincide with NRECA’s annual meeting, the mission this year was to turn the school equivalent of a gas guzzler into a Prius.

“The focus is on energy efficiency,” said Mike Sims, general manager of Butler REC, Oxford, Ohio, and president of the Touchstone Energy board.

And a great way to start was with changing out the light bulbs—thousands of light bulbs.

Dennis Young, a director from Hawkeye REC, Cresco, Iowa, was climbing up and down a ladder, swapping old inefficient fluorescents for new ones. He said it made a “nice change” from his usual job as a rural mail carrier.

Those old bulbs weren’t just thrown in the trash. Instead, they were hauled outside by the box load and fed into the “Bulb Eater.” Mounted atop a 55-gallon container, the device crushes the bulbs for recycling, while capturing almost all of the vapors released.

Jim Johns, a director at GreyStone Power, totes a box of energy efficient bulbs. (Photo By: Luis Gomez)

Jim Johns, a director at GreyStone Power, totes a box of energy efficient bulbs. (Photo By: Luis Gomez)

By lunchtime some 1,300 bulbs had made it through the Bulb Eater, much to the amazement of Alan Shedd, Touchstone Energy director of C&I Business Development. A day earlier, he helped move seven truckloads of supplies from Greystone Power Corp., Douglasville, Ga., which serves the school.

“I thought, ‘How are we going to do it in a week, let alone a day?’” Shedd said. “But you did most of it before lunch,” he told the group as they enjoyed barbecue provided by Planters EMC, Millen, Ga.

Graham Bryant, 17, Virginia’s representative on the Youth Leadership Council, spent part of his day doing “a mixture of all jobs,” including manning the Bulb Eater. He’s all for energy efficiency. “I firmly believe in the Our Energy Our Future program,” Bryant said. “If we get out the message we’ll slow our dependence on fossil fuels.”

He was one of 38 YLC members participating; weather delayed the others’ arrival to Atlanta. Osha Shireman, 17, Kentucky’s YLC representative, also supports energy efficiency, but saw another key reason to be there.

“It’s important to give back to a school,” said Shireman, a high school senior. She and the others found deep appreciation for what they did.

“This has been a blessing for us,” said Dan Rodenberry, facility maintenance supervisor for the Douglas County, Ga., Schools. “We have 33 schools and there are just not enough of us.”

The 1,800 students of Lithia Springs High School would return from their weekend to find their school a better place. And while they weren’t there to express their gratitude, Rodenberry was.

“Thank you,” he told the volunteers, “each and every one of you.”

Related content: NRECA Annual Meeting

 


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