For Kristen Hopper, Gas South Operations Analyst I, cheerleading is more than just a sport. It’s a way to connect with young women in her community, and help to build their confidence and develop important life skills through performances and friendships.
In high school, Kristen developed a passion for working with kids with special needs after volunteering with the Special Olympics. She was coaching cheerleading when she decided to put her talents to work to make a difference – and that’s how the Fabulous Flames Cheerleaders were born. The cheerleaders range in age from as young as five years old, to women in their 20s. They also have a wide range of abilities – there’s no disability that can preclude someone from joining. All that’s needed is a desire to cheer and a will to learn!
The Fabulous Flames perform at local cheerleading competitions through Impact Cheerleading, a competitive league that brings together faith and a love for cheerleading.
When Kristen established the team in 2011, there were only seven girls on the team. Today, it has now grown to almost 30 members.
“I’ve been so blessed to see the original seven as well as the rest of the team grow up together over time – becoming more mature, kind and ever-loving each year,” said Kristen. “Our biweekly practices are simultaneously the most high energy and most relaxing hours of my week. There is just something about our team that leaves you both recharged and serene after being with us.”
Kristen is pursuing her own desire to Be a Fuel for Good. She’s elevating her community and positively influencing the lives of the girls she mentors every week. She’s also inspiring others to get outside of their comfort zone.
Kristen – Thank you for your dedication to warming the lives of friends and neighbors!
Nearly a century ago, Veteran’s Day was established to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served our country. As Veteran’s Day celebrations take place across metro Atlanta, we took the opportunity to speak with two employees – Ida Susan Graham and Judge Montgomery – about their service and what Gas South is doing for veterans.
How is Gas South committed to honoring our veterans?
Judge Montgomery: We offer special deals and discounts for those who served and still serve our country. As a special “thank you” to the men and women in our armed forces, Gas South provides a 2-cent per therm discount on both variable and fixed rate plans for veterans and active military personnel. And we won’t charge you a deposit to setup your service.
Ida Susan Graham: We encourage vets and active duty personnel to take advantage of the discount, particularly with colder weather around the corner. Especially since it has been predicted that there will be an increase in natural gas bills due to colder weather headed our way this winter.
Other than the everyday deals and discounts, how else does Gas South pay it forward to veterans?
Judge: Gas South is committed to making a difference in the community year-round. This year Gas South gifted a Marine and his wife an energy efficient makeover in partnership with Cobb EMC and the Cobb Heating and Air Association. The total value was an impressive $20 thousand, and they received two years of free natural gas from Gas South!
Ida Susan: Wes and Shannon Pilgrim of Marietta, Georgia, were nominated by their neighbors. Wes is known in his neighborhood as the type who would do anything to help – and it was great to be able to help him in return.
As a Gas South employee, what is the company doing to salute veterans?
Ida Susan: I feel blessed to work for a company that truly takes care of their employees. This year Gas South veteran employees have been given Veterans Day off, so we can spend time with our families. It’s a great way for Gas South to take that extra step to show they care.
Judge: Kevin Greiner, president and CEO, also personally thanked each one of us and presented us with a gift to show his appreciation of our service.
As veterans, how was the transition to Gas South?
Judge: The military gave me a higher sense of discipline and accountability. After serving nine years in the military, I’ve learned to adapt to my surroundings – and I’ve learned to apply the same discipline and accountability to my position at Gas South.
Ida Susan: I served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army and USAR. My military time has been my life, and without it, my life would have not blossomed into my three flowers – my children. I served in many places and learned so much. It’s truly helped me to be the leader I am today.
Yesterday, I was recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of the 2016 Women Who Mean Business. Each year, this distinction honors women leading, inspiring and shaping Atlanta.
When I found out I was among the 20 honorees, I was shocked, honored but mostly just humbled. I’m grateful to have my efforts in the office, the natural gas industry and our local community at large acknowledged in such a heartening way. I try to base everything I do on helping whoever I can, whenever I can, in whatever way I can and to the very best of my ability. This is what drives me forward every day.
“Always speak to people with kindness and respect because it may be the only positive interaction they have that day.” Those words of advice, spoken to me by a close friend, have remained with me throughout my career as one of the best lessons I’ve learned. I believe every person with whom I come in contact can say that’s true of me.
Decades later, my advice to others, particularly women climbing the corporate ladder, is to always reach back and reach out. I believe we ascend the ladder of success, rung by rung, with the support of others. I try to uplift others by spreading positivity and enthusiasm, offering career advice and volunteering my skills. We should all be helping and supporting others at every moment possible.
Doing the right thing is sometimes a simple act, yet the results can be powerful. I want to give the sincerest thanks to the Atlanta Business Chronicle for this award and to my friends, family, mentors and colleagues for their continuous love and support.
We spoke to Brenda Turner, residential channel coordinator, to learn more about Hands on Atlanta Day and what it means to her to volunteer in the communities where we live, work and play.
By: Brenda Turner
One of my favorite things about being a Gas South employee is the company’s dedication to giving back to the community. We participate in many local service programs year-round, and most recently, I had the opportunity to lead Hands On Day Atlanta Day 2016 – the largest and most prestigious corporate volunteer day of service in Atlanta.
Approximately 50 Gas South employees volunteered a total of 200 hours at Camp Timber Ridge in partnership with the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta. We helped spruce up the campground – chopping wood, clearing roadways, putting up new tents and painting pavilions.
Though it may be what they’re best known for, the Girl Scouts do a lot more than sell delicious cookies – just like Gas South does more than market natural gas! But don’t take my word for it. Check out this short video about our experience volunteering with the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta for Hands on Atlanta Day.
Alternative fueled vehicles have attracted a lot of attention in the last few years, but the media buzz has mostly centered around electrics due to improved battery efficiency and Tesla’s loud arrival on the scene. However, petroleum has another competitor looming on the horizon: compressed natural gas (CNG). Yes, the same fuel used to heat your home also powers many of the commercial and transportation vehicles you see on the road every day. Last year, for example, MARTA announced plans to buy 270 new CNG buses, adding to the 420 already in its fleet.
With an abundance of domestic reserves to draw from and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a 90- to 97- percent reduction of carbon monoxide emissions versus petroleum, CNG is primed for continued growth. We’ve also seen significant enhancements to CNG’s commercial infrastructure and an increase of refueling stations. In Georgia, Gas South has helped lead the way by supplying stations, transit systems and waste management fleets with natural gas.
How long will it be until you’re fueling up on CNG? Probably not for a few years, but don’t rule it out in the future. CNG vehicles are already being introduced into the consumer marketplace, albeit without media fanfare, and by most measures they’re showing early promise. In fact, one of our mid-market sales account managers, Craig Hallerman, recently acquired one, a 2016 Chevrolet Impala hybrid. So, we thought it’d be a great idea to share his thoughts on his new ride, which has been attracting a lot of attention among travelers and car enthusiasts on Atlanta’s highways.
Q: Why did you take the plunge and get a CNG vehicle? A: “I wasn’t in the market for an alternative fueled vehicle but because I work in the natural gas industry, I looked into it. Gas South took care of wrapping the car in company branding because I do a lot of driving, so it gets lots of visibility – and compliments. I average about 500 miles a week, and as a clean-burning fuel, CNG is considered better for the life of an engine, so that’s something that caught my interest.”
Q: How does the car perform in general – notice any major differences? A: “It’s super nice and really comfy. Honestly, it feels like I’m driving a regular Chevy.”
Q: But it’s a hybrid, meaning it runs on gas and CNG. Sounds complicated. Is it? A: “Not really. There are two separate tanks – a traditional gas tank and the natural gas tank is behind the back seat. There are also two fuel gauges – the car defaults to natural gas until it runs out, and then it switches to the regular gas tank.”
Q: Tell us how you go about fueling the vehicle. A: “I don’t have a home-fueling device so I go to a commercial station to fill up on natural gas. There are 15 stations in the city, including one that’s on my way home.”
Q: Fuel efficiency is a major reason why people look at alternative fuel options. Are you noticing any differences between the two? A: “On the highway, natural gas certainly gets better mileage but regular gas seems to do better in the city. Right now, I’m averaging in the high 20s on the highway and about 18-20 in the city.”
Q: Have you found any other perks of driving an alternative fueled vehicle?A: “Yes, one big one: less traffic because Georgia gives alternative fueled vehicles HOV-lane access. That makes it easier driving around Atlanta, especially during rush hour…and my job requires a lot of driving.”
Q: Is obtaining a CNG vehicle the same as you would expect for a regular car? A: “It’s different. It started with a conversation with GM reps and then I went to a dealership to build the car. It was a six month process. The Impala was built in Canada and then sent to Detroit for outfitting.”
Q: How long can you drive on the tanks before refueling? A: “I can go up to 500 miles before running out of gas, which means that I can use the vehicle for all of my needs.”
Have a story to share about a CNG vehicle or a question for Craig about his car? Just let us know in the comments.
As an HR professional in the natural gas industry, drawing the connection between a career pipeline and a gas pipeline was an ‘aha’ moment – and a teachable lesson that really resonated with me. Here’s an excerpt from my recent presentation at the Women’s Energy Network, Greater Atlanta Chapter meeting on four professional development lessons from a natural gas pipeline.
Maintenance: Over time, gas pipelines require regular maintenance and upkeep to ensure they continue to safely and properly deliver natural gas to homes and businesses. Most industries are ever-changing, which requires you to continually fine-tune your skills and hone your craft to stay on top of your game. Every day is an opportunity to continue learning and finding ways to add more value.
Growth: Maintenance alone isn’t enough – gas pipelines need to be primed for long-term sustainability so they continue to serve the growing needs. Similarly, your career needs to be targeted for growth opportunities. As you move up the corporate ladder from refining skills to refining behaviors, you’ll polish more nuanced competencies such as interpersonal skills, organization habits and critical thinking.
Supply and Demand: As supply and demand have leveled out recently, so has the pricing of natural gas. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for today’s job market – especially in the metro Atlanta area where the supply of job candidates far outweighs the demand for available positions. If you find yourself hitting a road block in your career path, take a risk and find a new area where the demand is high but the supply is low. I’ve done this with my career, and it’s taken me in new, exciting directions from lobbying to PR.
High Quality Service: Natural gas is a commodity, which makes it a very competitive environment for the 13 natural gas marketers in Georgia. At Gas South, we differentiate ourselves by providing an exceptional customer experience and always going above and beyond for our customers. Consistently producing a top quality work product and lightening the load for others around you will help you standout in your career and get a leg up on the competition.
It’s mid-summer and everyone is working hard to get in shape and make healthy decisions to look and feel their best! Gas South’s Wellness Committee works year-round to provide employees with educational tools and resources so they are able to become the best version of themselves. For this month’s Employee Spotlight, we spoke with Harli Gawronski, human resources coordinator, to learn more about the committee, their initiatives and why it’s important to provide employees with tools to succeed. Harli leads the Wellness Committee which is a team of six employees from different departments at Gas South.
When did the Wellness Committee start?
The committee started about three years ago in order to provide Gas South employees with more awareness about healthy lifestyle choices.
Why was the Wellness Committee created?
It was originally created to help employees get up and move, considering the majority of our employee sit at a desk all day. Since the start three years ago, we now have more concrete goals, leadership buy-in, employee engagement, participation and focus. We are currently working through a three-year implementation plan that aims to encourage employees to take more responsibility in managing their health and wellness. In 2015, we raised awareness about being healthy and the costs when employees make poor lifestyle choices. In 2016, we are requiring employees to take responsibility for themselves – employees will pay less for coverage by knowing their health numbers, and engaging in activities to get their numbers in the healthy range. In 2017, employees will receive financial rewards towards their medical coverage premiums tied to the results of the biometric screening, rather than just participating in the screening.
What are the focus areas and goals of the committee this year?
Since we want employees to take the initiative to be responsible for their healthy or unhealthy lifestyle decisions, we are focusing on nutrition in order to address, and then impact, the risk categories from our biometric screens – which take into consideration BMI and waist circumference.
What are the specific initiatives that will be implemented to reach those goals?
Every other month, we bring a local vegetable farmer into the office to encourage employees to investigate healthy eating options. We also provide employees with a voucher so they do not need to spend any of their own money to make a purchase, unless they choose to purchase additional produce. We also continue to have fruit delivered every other month to create a culture of healthy eating.
Another initiative, the Wellness in Action Run/Walk Program, promotes movement and physical activity. We’re encouraging Gas South employees to walk or run in local road races throughout the year. Gas South sponsors a walk/run each month for up to ten Gas South employees and we have already had a few successful walks/runs to date!
Gas South also recently gave all employees portion plates to correspond with our initiative to improve and educate employees about nutrition’s role in a healthy lifestyle. The plate stresses healthy portion sizes and is split up into three sections – fruits and vegetables, grains, and proteins.
Do you have any employee challenges planned?
We are implementing a nutrition challenge in July and a weight loss challenge at the beginning of the year.
Why does wellness play such an important role at corporations?
Wellness can impact so many different areas of a corporation from retention to engagement to work/life balance. Wellness is also a major driver or healthcare costs.
Why is it important to you, personally, to be involved with the Wellness Committee?
To me, wellness is a lifestyle and I feel very passionate about it. Wellness is not only physical, but also mental and spiritual. It’s a holistic experience that bleeds into every part of one’s life. Secondly, being part of the Wellness Committee enables me to impact other people’s lives and for that, I’m very grateful.
Wellness committee members include:
Tonya Long (Millennium Benefits)
On November 11, 1919 President Wilson proclaimed the first commemoration of Armistice Day, also known as Veterans Day, to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces. According to History.com, there are approximately 23.2 million military veterans in the United States, 7.8 million of those veterans served during the Vietnam War era (1964-1975), including Gas South’s own Sandra Hamilton, which represents 33% of all living veterans.
To honor the veterans that work at Gas South, we spoke with four employees about their service and what Veterans Day means to them. Don’t miss the opportunity to thank a veteran in your life for the sacrifices they have made for our safety.
Juawana Glass, Navy
Location of service: Mayport, Fla.; Diego Garcis, Chagos Island; Agana, Guam; Atlanta, Ga.
Length of service: 8 years
Wars: Global War on Terrorism
Job/Assignment: Religious Program Specialist (RP), also known as a Chaplain’s assistant
Medals/Citations: Junior Sailor of the Quarter, runner up for Junior Sailor of the Year, President of the Junior Sailor Association, Navy Good Conduct Service Medal (2), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal (for serving during a war time), Overseas Deployment Service Medal (for serving overseas), Humanitarian Service Medal (for continued volunteer work), 9MM Pistol and Sharpshooter Ribbon, 14MM Rifle Sharpshooter, Letter of Commendations (5)
What does it mean to you to be a veteran? It means sacrifice! Sacrifice of your family for the dedication to your Country. I am proud to have served the time that I did – I often contemplate returning to duty. The comradery that you get in the military is irreplaceable!
LaTitia “Tish” Winbush, Army
Rank: Specialist, E-4
Location of service: Charlotte, N.C.
Length of service: 6 years
Job/Assignment: Unit Supply Specialist
What does it mean to you to be a veteran? A veteran to me means that you have separated yourself from the rest of your peers and have done something the normal person wouldn’t do for their country. It means that you are willing to give up your life for someone else’s and be proud of who you have and will become.
Sandra Hamilton, Air Force
Rank: Airman 1st Class
Location of service: San Antonio, Texas (Kelly and Lackland Air Force Bases); Fort Collins, Colo.
What does it mean to you to be a veteran? Pride and honor to be able to serve our country and protect our freedom.
Stephon White, Army
Rank: Specialist (SPC)
Location of service: Fort Polk, La.
Length of service: 4 years
Wars: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Job/Assignment: Administrative Specialist
Medals/Citations: National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal
What does it mean to you to be a veteran? Simply put, it means I had the opportunity to serve and protect the greatest country on earth.
Tiara Allen, Army Rhonda Garrett, Army Sandra Clark, Army
Gas South offers a 2-cent per therm discount on Variable and Fixed Rate plans to military veterans and active military personnel. No deposit is required to establish service. Visit http://www.gas-south.com/residential/rate-plans.aspx and click on Military Rates for more information.
Thank you to veterans across the U.S. for their sacrifice and service!
Did you know the first Father’s Day was celebrated in 1914 but it wasn’t until 1972, 58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day an official holiday, that the day became a nationwide holiday in the United States.
To honor fathers that work at Gas South, we spoke with a few to find out more about how they celebrate the holiday and what it means to be a dad.
Kamden Robb, Senior Account Manager, BAGM – Christian (4)
Greg Dunavant, Director of Customer Care – James and Woods (1.5)
Gary Jensen, Director of IT & PMO – Smith (6) and Collier (4)
Derek Outlaw, Customer Care Coach – Diquinne (20), Alexis (19), Dorian (15) and Danika (10)
Dion Jones, Customer Service Representative – Azaleya Yvette (8 months)
How has your own dad helped shape how you raise your child/children?
“My dad had a blue collar job and worked long hours for many years to support our family. Because he never got a college degree, he instilled in us the need to push beyond social and financial boundaries to achieve our goals. We may not have had everything when we were growing up but I always felt loved.” – Kamden Robb
“My dad has always been supportive and is an excellent role model for my family.” – Greg Dunavant
“My dad always made an effort to be at all my sporting events and school activities which is something I’ll really try to do with my kids. It’s not always easy so it makes me appreciate his engagement in my life.” – Gary Jensen
“My father was in the Air Force so I received a lot of structure and, as a child, I was also taught responsibility very young. When my father was deployed, it was my job to maintain the lawn and make sure it passed inspection. On military housing if you fail three inspections in one year, the entire family has to move out. From this experience, I’ve placed similar responsibilities on my children. None of those would result in the family having to move if not completed but giving a child responsibilities that involve the well-being of the entire family teaches them that they need to look out for their family. It allows them to feel that they have influence or a position in the family. That’s important.” – Derek Outlaw
“My father deserves credit for everything. From the small handyman jobs around the house to changing the brakes on a car, my dad instilled in me all of the morals and values I live by today. He showed me the importance of quality time and how important a father’s presence is in children’s lives and I will do the same for my daughter.” – Dion Jones
What is one of your favorite things about being a dad?
“I love watching the pure joy in my son’s eyes when he gets to experience something new for the first time. I love having a ‘mini-me’ to do things with and pass on life lessons to.” – Kamden Robb
“I love how excited my kids are to see me when I get home from work.” – Gary Jensen
“Being a dad has made me focus on something other than myself. It’s a lot of responsibility but it also comes with great reward. To see one of my children be successful in a task or to see one of them make a long term goal and follow through with it is a moment of pride that can’t be replaced. Being a dad encourages me to be a better person because I know my kids are looking up to me as an example.” – Derek Outlaw
“My favorite part is the unconditional love your child shows you, and knowing that their life and well-being is determined by your success or failure. It keeps me focused and fuels my fire to become the greatest man I can be.” – Dion Jones
Does your family do anything special for you or for your dad on Father’s Day?
“Typically we spend Father’s Day doing something outside as a family. We like to ride our bikes on the Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail. I have a tandem bike that allows my son to sit behind me while I do all the work!” – Kamden Robb
“My family usually gives me the day off. I get to sleep late and they’ll give me a few presents. Since we have a new grill, my oldest daughter will flex her grilling skills! I spend a lot of time on the grill in the spring and summer, and the kids are used to me grilling so it’s great to watch them take what they’ve seen and put it into practice.” – Derek Outlaw
“We take the day to enjoy our time together, talk about funny stories from the past, barbeque and maybe watch Rambo! I always have to watch a manly movie that day!” – Dion Jones
Kimberly Rollins, Customer Care Coach – daughter Jessica (17), and sons Justus (14) and Jacobi (10)
Does your family do anything special for you or for your mom on Mother’s Day?
“Every mother in my family gets together and we cook all the favorite dishes of all the moms in the family.” – Tiara Allen
“Normally I plan Mother’s Day for my mother and mother-in-law and the whole family goes along with what I plan. Since this will be my first Mother’s Day, I have no clue how it will be spent – I have been told it’s all a surprise!” – LaNise Jones
“We have a tradition of having family dinner and spending the day together. My mother lives with me, so my kids and I make sure she is treated special by showering her with gifts and taking her to brunch or dinner. Mother’s Day is a special day for my family because I’m a single mother and my mother has been my backbone! She runs the house and I make sure the needs of the family are met. She is truly a jewel and I’m thankful for all she is in my family’s life.” – Kimberly Rollins
What is one of your favorite things about being a mom?
“The warm hugs, sloppy kisses and bright smiles.” – LaNise Jones
“Watching my daughters’ personalities grow and change on a daily basis. It’s especially fun to witness mine and my husband’s characteristics and quirks emerge in their personalities – both girls love shoes as much as I do!” – Stephanie Perrone
“I love the laughter of my children. They bring me joy daily. Just to see them engaged, healthy and productive means the world to me. They’re truly my gifts and they make me proud in their studies, behaviors and character.” – Kimberly Rollins
How has your own mom helped shape how you raise your child/children?
“My mom has always been very supportive of everything I’ve been involved in. She tells me often how proud she is of the woman and mother I have become.” – Sheirra Granville
What does it mean to be a mom?
“Being a mother is my greatest accomplishment. I never knew how one small person could give me so much motivation and the unnerving desire to be the best that I can be. I appreciate life and family so much more! I respect my mom and dad for all of the sacrifices that they made for me and it reassures me that I can do the same for my child. Being a mom is awesome and I wouldn’t change it for the world.” – Tiara Allen
“Being a mom is the best feeling in the world. I strive to be the best mom I can be for my son every day. I enjoy the time we spend together and I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be a mom. I don’t take the time we spend together for granted and I’ve learned over the years to cherish every moment. Everything I do is to help ensure a better lifestyle for my son and I. He’s my pride and joy and I love him with everything inside of me. It gives me so much joy to hear my son say. ‘My mom is my role model.’ It reassures me that I’m doing something right.” – Sheirra Granville
“Mother’s Day is very special to mothers and my hope is that every mother is appreciated every day, but especially on Mother’s Day. I’m thankful for having an employer that embraces mothers and all the activities we have to do in our roles. It’s truly a blessing to be called ‘mother.’” – Kimberly Rollins