The Season for Giving

’Tis the season of giving, and Duke Energy’s nuclear teammates in South Carolina and North Carolina are always finding rewarding and creative ways to give to their local communities.

South Carolina

At Oconee Nuclear Station (ONS) in Seneca, S.C., the Women in Nuclear (WiN) organization held its annual Salvation Army Angel Tree drive, which is always a favorite among ONS employees. This year, ONS employees set a record for the site by sponsoring 400 children – 250 children were sponsored in 2013. WiN also collected 350 gently used coats this fall from ONS employees that were distributed to Our Daily Rest, Safe Harbor and Helping Hands for the cold, winter months.

WiN members and Oconee Nuclear Station volunteers pack toys Dec. 16, for 400 children into the Salvation Army truck.

Oconee Nuclear Station’s Women in Nuclear (WiN) members and employee volunteers pack toys Dec. 16, for 400 children. WiN partners with the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.

Catawba Nuclear Station teammates donated hundreds of toys and more than $2,000 to Toys for Happiness. Toys for Happiness provides Christmas presents to underprivileged children in York County. Roughly 20 volunteers came out Friday, Dec. 12 to load and deliver these toys to the Toys for Happiness warehouse.

A Catawba Nuclear Station employee distributes

A Catawba Nuclear Station employee packs toys Dec. 12 for Toys for Happiness. These toys will be distributed to children in York County, S.C.

At Robinson Nuclear Plant (RNP) in Darlington County, more than 100 coats and 50 pairs of gloves were donated as part of RNP’s winter coat drive. Engineering Manager Sonja Meyers spearheads this effort and hand-made more than 20 coats for at-risk children. The team also donated 250 turkeys to local charities, food pantries and churches as part of the plant’s annual turkey giveaway. Robinson employees each receive a free turkey in November, but have the option to pay it forward and give their turkey to charity. RNP then matches a portion of the employee turkey donations. Additionally, employees participated in a food drive for the Carolina Kids Hunger Buster program, which brought in 1,200 boxes of cereal, macaroni and cheese and jars of peanut butter. RNP also participated in the Giving Tree program, similar to Toys for Happiness and the Salvation Army Angel Tree programs.

North Carolina

In North Carolina, Brunswick Nuclear Plant (BNP) recently collected $27,010 for their bike drive, which will provide 273 less fortunate children at schools in Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender and Columbus county schools bikes and helmets this Christmas. BNP raised more money than needed, so the remainder will go to purchase additional bikes and helmets for Toys for Tots.

At McGuire Nuclear Station (MNS) in Mecklenburg County, employees donated 150 winter items, including coats, hats, scarves and gloves that will help children at Oakdale Elementary School this winter. In addition, the MNS team donated nearly $18,000 to Toys for Tots and brought in 30 bags of toys and 197 bikes.

Mecklenberg County's McGuire Nuclear Station employees recently load 197 children's bikes for Toys for Tots.

Mecklenburg County’s McGuire Nuclear Station employees recently load 197 children’s bikes for Toys for Tots.

Finally, Harris Nuclear Plant (HNP) and its Employee Activities Committee has sponsored Wish Upon a Star for more than 20 years – the site, near Raleigh, collects cash and gifts for 10 local families. Last year, HNP employees collected 400 presents and grocery gift cards for families.

Pen Pal Program Empowers Young Minds

Publication12,200. We’re not referring to the number of megawatts one of our nuclear plants produces. Instead, it’s the total number of students and employees who have participated in the pen pal programs at Catawba and McGuire nuclear stations since its start more than 10 years ago.

Initially, the pen pal program was created to help elementary school students improve their writing and reading skills by providing a fun and interactive way to practice and improve those skills. But, as it grew, the program has come to mean much more. Through letters and conversations with pen pals, employees spark students’ interest in careers they may have never known about. In return, the pen pal program has enabled employees to serve in mentorship roles, possibly empowering young students to pursue a career in the nuclear industry.

Each year, Catawba and McGuire nuclear station employees are paired with students who engage in spirited exchanges of ideas and updates throughout the school year. This year, nearly 90 eager employee pen pals, representing a variety of departments, are participating in the pen pal project, working with children via handwritten letters and connecting them in lasting ways.

“Not only does the project allow students to improve their penmanship, but writing about their world and reading about someone else’s helps build vocabulary and reading skills. It also develops critical thinking and problem solving skills and helps children feel connected by sharing their stories and reading about another person’s life experiences” explains Lisa Leonard, a long-time pen pal at McGuire.

After several months of sharing letters, pen pals meet face-to-face to share conversations and experiences over a picnic lunch and games.

Girl Scouts Help Fill a Vital Role at Robinson Nuclear Plant

More than a dozen Robinson Nuclear Plant volunteers assisted members of Girl Scout Troop 119 with earning their painting badges recently. Each member received her own bird house to paint and take home. They also painted several bird houses for Robinson volunteers to put at the plant site.

The bird houses are one aspect of Robinson’s beautification project that aims to promote wildlife habitat at industry sites. The Wildlife and Industry Together (WAIT) program is designed to encourage corporate landowners to integrate wildlife habitat needs into corporate land management decisions. The program assists corporations, employees, facility neighbors and other groups that desire to develop environmental projects in partnership with each other.

While the bird houses fill a vital role at the plant, it was the handy work of the local Scouts that made the project truly memorable.

“We are thrilled that Troop 119 was able to help us with this project. They provided the artistic touch that we needed to really make this project special,” Duke Energy Spokesperson Charles Ellison said.

It was about more than painting, though. While working with the Scouts, volunteers from Robinson answered questions about their careers.

“The folks here today have diverse backgrounds, from program coordinators to engineers. This is a great way to go ahead and get the children thinking about what they may be interested in doing down the road. We never know what the seeds we plant will blossom into,” Ellison said.

Robinson Nuclear donated $1,000 to the troop to assist them in buying sashes, books and other supplies.