Several weeks ago, four Baldwin EMC employees traveled just up the road from the co-op’s Summerdale headquarters to provide volunteer assistance at Catholic Social Services of Baldwin/Escambia County. The agency is housed in an unassuming building on Hwy. 59 in Robertsdale, but the individuals inside helped a grand total of 1,500 local families in 2017 alone.
“We rely a lot on volunteers,” said Phyllis Beam, who started volunteering with the emergency aid agency 14 years ago and now serves as director. “We serve as a food pantry, we provide transportation to and from doctor’s appointments and job interviews, and we assist with rent and utility payments for people in our community who have come across hard times. We couldn’t do it all without volunteer help.”
The agency also coordinates two major programs: REACH (Reaching Educational Achievement for Children), which provides school supplies, backpacks and uniforms for school-aged children, and the Christmas Sharing program, in which the Baldwin EMC volunteers invested their time last December.
“I think around Christmas-time, we have that mindset of helping those less fortunate,” said Baldwin EMC Vice President of Engineering Steve Irvin, who volunteered for the event. “The truth is, it’s every day of the year people in our own community need a little help. We have nearly 200 employees. So, for the co-op to offer a community leave policy is not just giving our employees an opportunity to provide a day of service, but it’s making a pretty big impact.”
The Christmas Sharing program provides a box of food with a turkey to each family, along with three gifts per child in each family. “We are so fortunate that we can do so much for the kids,” Beam said, “but those boxes and crates of food can get pretty heavy. That’s why we were happy to call on Baldwin EMC for some manpower!”
“My children went to Catholic school, so I’ve seen first-hand what Catholic Charities do to help people who really need it,” said Baldwin EMC Service Technician Travis Scott. “They teach and expect that spirit of volunteerism in the kids, and so when I found out this agency needed some help over the holidays, I immediately signed up. I feel so fortunate that we work for a company so invested in the community, I feel like it’s our duty to participate in service opportunities like this.”
“It is a humbling experience to see the people that come in and have hit rock bottom,” Beam said. “To be able to reach out to them and give them a hand up, to help them get back to that place where they can help themselves – that’s the reward.”
Catholic Social Services of Baldwin/Escambia County is located at 23010 Hwy. 59 in Robertsdale. If you are interested in volunteer opportunities, contact Volunteer Coordinator Peggy Peterson, 251-947-3877.