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December 11, 2018

AEP Lights Up Crisis Shelter

Huckleberry House provides support to youth and families in Central Ohio who are dealing with abuse, poverty, homelessness and other life challenges. The organization got a little support of its own when American Electric Power lit up the house with Christmas lights for the first time in more than 40 years.

AEP employees provided “A Very Merry Huckleberry Holiday” by stringing 9,000 white Christmas lights across the 100-plus-year-old mansion near the Short North area of Columbus, Ohio. The idea was born from two line servicers from the Grandview Service Center who wanted to volunteer their time.

The plan grew to include various groups at AEP including AEP Ohio, Generation, Transmission and Employee Resource Groups that donated their time – and about $1,500 from AEP Ohio’s Energy Efficiency team for the lights alone – to illuminate the building for the first time since the crisis shelter opened in the 1970s.

Becky Naugle is co-chair of the AEP ADAPT (Abled and Disabled Allies Partnering Together) Employee Resource Group and helped take the reins planning the project, rounding up volunteers and taking the necessary measurements at the house.

“It was a lot of fun and really cool,” Naugle said. “When I first heard about it I was so excited because I love ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ and I pictured us lighting up the house just like in the movie.”

Coyla Black has also worked to get employees connected to Huckleberry House. "AEP has been a supporter of Huckleberry House for some time," Black said. "A year or so ago, I had the opportunity to meet some of the youth helped by Huckleberry House, and since then I've been introducing the AEP ERGs and other groups to find ways to get involved with this wonderful organization."

Ten AEP employees (six from the Columbus line department and a four-man Transmission crew) spent four hours on Thursday, Nov. 29 using bucket trucks to hang the lights, despite several of them working long hours the day before during an ice storm. Safety issues remained a priority, and Naugle and Safety Consultant Katrina Miaudi placed attention on the details. Due to the building’s age, it has no outdoor electrical outlets, so cords had to be run into the third floor through attic windows. The use of bucket trucks eliminated the need for tall ladders that would have created a significant hazard.

The many hours of hard work paid off. On Sunday, Dec. 2, a public ceremony was held, complete with carolers and hot chocolate, which illuminated the house and brought smiles to the children’s faces. The lights will remain on from dusk to midnight through the end of December.

“This effort was very important to us. We were so proud to be able to have our employees help and spread some holiday cheer in the community,” said Dave Tabata of AEP Ohio.

“The staff and residents of Huckleberry House are all wonderful. They really have warmed our hearts – so much so that we hope to be back next year to provide more lights and an even brighter holiday.”

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