At Georgia Power, our Ambassadors are the heartbeat of our community across the state. While many members have been retired from the utility for several years, they still represent the company in their towns and continue to be “a citizen wherever they serve.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, however, many of the elderly members of the Ambassadors chapters have found themselves confined to their homes.
For June and Ernest Ham of Rome, keeping the Ambassadors spirit alive during the pandemic starts with their friendships they developed from his days at the company.
I have known them since Aug. 29, 1991 – the day I came into the world. To me, June and Ern are “Mimi and Granddaddy.” My granddaddy spent nearly 40 years, from 1949 to 1989, as a boiler turbine operator – first at Plant Arkwright near Macon and then at Plant Hammond in Rome.
At 88 and 91, their days of active community service are dwindling and since the pandemic, they spend very little time going out. These days are hard, to say the least. However, their support from the Georgia Power family has remained consistent and strong.
It is common to be visiting my grandparents and hear a knock on the back door by a friend from their Georgia Power days. People like Greg Selman and Marvin Holder, who were mentored by my granddaddy and now help my grandparents with handy work around their home.
“If you only knew what that man did for me,” said Selman – who retired from Georgia Power in 2011 after 35 years. “I was just a young guy when I came to Plant Hammond and Ern took me under his wing and was patient with me. They are family to us.”
The kindness brings tears to my grandparents’ eyes when they share the love they have received as they have gotten older.
“You always know you’ve got someone you can fall back on. You’ve got somebody waiting in the wings to help you,” said June. “With their help, we’ve been able to stay in our home of more than 60 years and have not had to go to assisted living.”
For my mimi, who has been married to my granddaddy for 70 years, her voice is proud as she shares how her husband was a mentor to so many employees.
“Some of these younger boys were like his own children to him. They never take money for the work they do around our house,” she said. “There’s no way we could possibly ever repay them.”
For granddaddy, though, this is just paying it forward.
“I still think about all the older men that mentored me when I started at Plant Arkwright in 1949. I was happy to mentor the younger boys as they came through,” he said.
“Everyone who worked together at Georgia Power just has a respect for one another and it was like a family,” said Marvin Holder, who retired from Plant Hammond in 2009.
It’s more than just handy work though. Sheila and Larry Stephens, Larry and Recee Bledsoe, and James and Karen Blanton – all part of the Georgia Power family as well – frequently bring fresh vegetables from their gardens. It’s common for Joe and Penny Hayes, also retirees, to stop by in the evening with fish plates for my grandparents, so they don’t have to cook. John Ross, who also worked with granddaddy, helps Mimi any time she has an issue with her computer.
“It’s a labor of love and it has truly been a mutual thing for us in the Georgia Power family. Your grandparents are like a big brother and big sister to us,” said Larry and Recee Bledsoe. Larry retired from the company as an engineer in Rome after 43 years of service.
It’s these kinds of stories and friendships that transcend time — more than 30 years since granddaddy’s retirement — that warm my heart and make me proud to be part of the Georgia Power family as well. This company and its people have always been a part of my life. My mom and aunt were raised on the Plant Hammond property, going to picnics and cookouts with other families. Mom worked in the office during the summers when she was a student at Berry College.
“She was everyone’s little sister and we called her ‘Squirt,’” said Selman.
I know that 20 years ago my grandparents were the ones helping the older Ambassadors. Even when Plant Hammond officially closed its doors, the family stuck together. It’s just who Georgia Power is and I hope that I can be a fraction of the person that my grandparents and the fellow Ambassadors are every day.
While the company changes and we evolve it can be hard to understand what it was once like. One thing I know though is that the people of this company – the ones who have a servant heart for others and their co-workers are what make Georgia Power a wonderful place to call “home.”
I believe that the Georgia Power legacy of being a “citizen wherever we serve” whether it be in our work, our communities or with the people on our teams will live on for generations to come. Because that’s what family is all about.