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Volunteers from Solutia build heavy duty shelving at Terrell Industries in Hartselle as their United Way Day of Caring project on Tuesday.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Volunteers from Solutia build heavy duty shelving at Terrell Industries in Hartselle as their United Way Day of Caring project on Tuesday.

United Way
Day of Caring

Solutia crew up to Terrell's challenge

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

Linda Pitts didn't know if anyone could help her.

The director of Terrell Industries had heavy steel shelving that needed assembly, but it was so heavy and so labor intensive, she figured it was beyond any volunteer's capability.

"I thought it was a wild, over-the-top request," Pitts said, "but it's been something we needed for a long time, so I turned it in as a Day of Caring project."

Meanwhile, back at Solutia, Darlene Haddock was making her debut organizing the company's Day of Caring projects.

Day of Caring is an annual event that partners hundreds of volunteers with United Way agencies. The agencies get valuable service, while the volunteers get a valuable lesson on United Way's impact on their neighbors.

Haddock already knew Terrell Industries' impact. So when she saw its need, she didn't think about the difficulty but how Terrell helped her daughter, Deana, and other adults with disabilities merge into the workplace.

Haddock wanted to give back, and her fellow Solutia volunteers were eager to support Terrell. Even after discovering the job was not merely assembling steel shelving for boxes but rather much heavier pallet shelves, Solutia stayed the course. It even found more pallet shelves via a donation from Toray.

On Tuesday, Solutia showed up with 26 employees, 24 of them men either wielding mallets or circular saws or flexing their muscles by lifting the heavy steel beams.

"In the eight years I've been here, that's the absolute most I've seen from volunteers, except for parents," Pitts said.

The pallet shelves will allow Terrell to vertically stack pallets filled with assembly parts, thus removing the pallets from the warehouse floor.

It makes pallet retrieval safer and more efficient, Pitts said, but more importantly, it opens more space that can let her hire more disabled people and do more work for its regular partners, such as Tek Enterprises, Summit Specialties, Copeland and General Electric.

The job was hard, said Kelly Townson, Solutia mechanical planner/scheduler for the boiler house, tank farm and utilities division, but the work was fun because everybody worked.

The effort mixed supervisors with hourly employees and even plant manager Al Faulkner. Those who weren't mechanically inclined carried boards and steel beams while those with skill handled the power tools.

"It's hard to put into words," Townson said of how Day of Caring boosts morale and develops camaraderie. "Everybody works together. Nobody is a supervisor."

Solutia also gave the 62 Terrell employees a pizza party and sent company volunteers to three other projects. Overall, volunteers adopted more than 60 Day of Caring project this year for 18 of United Way's 32 agencies in Morgan County. Efforts ranged from installing ceiling fans at Hope Place to collecting games for the Boys and Girls Club.

Haddock said her daughter used her experience at Terrell to get a job at Taco Bell, where she has worked for more than two years. Working makes Deana feel more independent and self-sufficient, and Haddock said it thrills her when her daughter shares her excitement of getting paid.

"We are giving back," she said. "But this is just a tiny thing we're giving back to Terrell. They give so much back to these kids."

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