News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 15, 2013

Giving back to the community: Day of Energy

Power company employees spend day volunteering at fairgrounds

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Flowers and fresh paint. A new platform for handicapped seating. Spotlight replacement. And even a new utility pole and electrical service.

About 10 different projects made positive improvements at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds on Thursday through a volunteer work day called “Duke Energy in Action.”

About 40 Duke Energy personnel put in hours of sweat equity to make a difference in the fairgrounds property, which hosts more than 100,0000 visitors each year through a variety of events.

Whether it’s from crowds at the Terre Haute Action Track, 4-H members and their families at the annual Vigo County Fair, or any number of other shows, programs, festivals and special events, the wear and tear on the fairgrounds facilities can be more than what the budget of the fairgrounds association can afford.

“It’s just amazing that these volunteers come out and in just a day, they can make such a difference,” said Jennifer Cook, president of the Wabash Valley Fair Association.

The project included re-aligning lights around the action track, painting the remodeled concession stand and other structures, trimming trees and planting flowers.

Duke Energy district manager Rick Burger used a paint roller to repaint a checkerboard pattern on the pavement near the entrance to the action track.

“It’s a good partnership that we’ve had for four years,” Burger said just prior to the lunch break. “Duke Energy donates a lot of money in checks, but I call this our sweat equity where our men and women give their time. When we leave here today, we can see what we did. That’s community pride, and other people can see it too.”

Formerly called a Global Service Event, the company supports action days in several communities served by the huge utility company. Tuesday’s project at the fairgrounds was probably one of the biggest “Duke Energy in Action” efforts on the western side of Indiana, Burger said.

At the grandstands, a large surface area served by a handicap accessible ramp was stripped down to have the decking replaced. The wheelchair area had become worn in many places, Cook said, but removing and replacing the decking was more work than her small staff could manage on their own.

“We don’t receive any government funding,” she said, “so our budget is funded through rentals of this property.”

The recent addition of heating and cooling to the exhibit/expo hall will now allow that building to be used year-round. The fairgrounds already has a community center, a meeting room and an annex that can be rented for meetings and events.

“I don’t think people realize all the activities that go on out here,” Cook said.

She herself donates her time as fairgrounds president. She is employed by Indiana State University, which takes a pro-community service approach to volunteerism by its staff.

If every large company, and even some smaller ones, could devote one day as a service project to the fairgrounds, it would make a big difference for the facility, Cook said.

“Even if it’s just planting the flowers,” she said. “I know it sounds silly, but when people come out here, they want to see flowers and see the place looking nice.”

The fairgrounds are located on U.S. 41 just south of the city.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.