Extreme Makeover

Operation Round Up donation improves Ashford High gym.

From left: WEC ORU board member Delain Faulk, WEC Manager of Communications and Public Relations Jennifer Ward, ORU board member Susan Bailey, WEC Chief Operating Officer Brad Kimbro, Ashford High School Athletic Director Danielle Helms, Ashford High School Assistant Principal Jarod Andrews, Ashford High School Principal James “Bubba” Odom, Houston County Schools board member Chris Lasseter, Houston County Schools Superintendent David Sewell, Houston County Schools board member and ORU board member Rickey Moore and ORU board member Myra Bell.

Ashford High School Athletic Director Danielle Helms still remembers what the high school’s gym looked like when she was a student and player at Ashford. It’s easy to remember, because up until recently, the gym looked exactly the same as it did when she was in school.

Thanks to a $12,000 donation from Wiregrass Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round Up Charitable Foundation, though, the gym got a necessary makeover.

The Houston County Board of Education recently approved funding for new bleachers for the gym, but that wasn’t the only needed upgrade. The ORU donation helped with additional improvements, including seat backs for the front row of the bleachers that serve as the home and away benches, a crow’s nest for the school to film practices and games, updates to the scoreboards, and new TV screens for announcements during school and games.

All of these improvements are going to help Ashford as it moves forward. The students are proud of the gym’s new look and school officials are expecting an increase in attendance for events, which will give the community a new sense of pride.

Helms, who is a teacher and the head volleyball and girls basketball coach, said the improvements were overdue. “We are so grateful to Operation Round Up,” she says. “I stressed about this, and I was so glad when we finally heard we received the grant. I was so relieved that there are people in the community that wanted to support our needs. Every public school has needs, and we are so grateful that WEC Operation Round Up stepped up and helped us.”

Operation Round Up is an innovative program that allows WEC members to have their monthly electric bill rounded up to the nearest whole dollar amount. That money is then used for charitable efforts in the Wiregrass region.

“This is what this foundation was meant to do,” says WEC Operation Round Up Vice President Susan Bailey. “We want to help our community be the best it can be, and this donation is going to give these students what they deserve. All of this is possible because of our members and their gracious donations each month.”

Houston County Schools Superintendent David Sewell says this donation will be a big help, not just to Ashford High but to all Houston County schools.

“I am very grateful because every dollar that is given to us from a foundation like Operation Round Up is another dollar that can be used for something else from our funds,” Sewell says. “We have worked with Wiregrass Electric for many years, and if we ever needed them to help us with anything they would step up to the plate and help us.”

The improvements were complete in September, ready for use by the volleyball team, and the basketball teams will use them when their season starts. Ashford’s Chase Lewis, head coach for the boys’ basketball team, says the improvements to the gym have given his players added excitement for the new season.

“It’s going to give us different morale,” Lewis says. “Our basketball players are excited. They ask me about it every day. The improvements are going to give us a new look and a new feel. We appreciate Wiregrass Electric and their members for this donation.”