Harrison puts helping others on wish list
By BY LYDIA GRIMES – Feature Reporter
Melanie Harrison is one of those people who go about helping others with very little fanfare. She is employed with Southern Pine Electric Coop. and as part of her job she coordinates the many programs that are part of Southern Pine. This is no small task as Southern Pine is involved in so many things.
One of the more recent programs that Harrison has been a part of is the "Children's Christmas Shoe Box Ministry" which was started in 1993 by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham. Local churches and organizations filled special Christmas boxes to hold toys, health items and anything else that a kid might like. When the boxes were all collected at the different places, Melanie and her group were responsible for seeing that they were picked up. Over 2,000 shoe boxes were collected in our area and transported to Daphne, the drop off station. Evergreen Transportation in Evergreen furnished a truck and driver to take them to Daphne where they joined others to be sent to the needy children of the world. Over 13,000 shoe boxes were filled and distributed to 112 different countries and the United States as part of Graham's "Samaritan's Purse."
Harrison makes light of her part in this and other programs that are sponsored or associated with Southern Pine. She said that it is a part of her job that she loves.
Harrison was raised in Florala where her dad was the Chevrolet dealer and her father-in-law was the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealer. She grew up around a large cattle farm and loved the horses. She was big into horse back riding and as she said, she became a "Rodeo Queen" riding in horse shows.
She attended Florala High School and graduated in 1976. She went on to Troy State University to study business administration. She and her husband, Craig Harrison, thought they would always live in Florala. That was before he went to work with Liberty National Insurance. They soon were on the move, first to Dothan and then to Daphne. In the meantime they became parents of a son and after he started to school, Harrison decided to further her education. She attended the University of South Alabama and studied social science thinking that it would help her deal with her own son's diagnosis of ADHD.
That job led to her working with the Office of Hearings and Appeals for Social Security Administration.
The Harrison family came to Brewton in 1992 and about four years ago they decided to make it permanent and stay here. She also decided to get off the road and find a local job around Brewton. The first job she took was with the American Red Cross and although she liked the work, she was on call all the time and as she said, " I needed something that paid a little better."
There is no doubt that she has really gotten involved with a lot of different things. She is responsible for the Southern Pine's help in the publication "Alabama Living." This is a magazine put together by the co-ops in the area. She coordinates a trip each year to both Montgomery and Washington, D.C. Each school in the area sends a representative and one is chosen from the state to go to Washington. Twelve are selected to attend the annual meeting in Montgomery, one boy and one girl from the junior class.
Those youngsters who are selected to go to Washington come from across the nation to enjoy both meetings and sight seeing in the nation's capitol.
Harrison also coordinates Southern Pine's involvement as title sponsor for Relay-for Life each year. She does public relation working on this project each year working hosting meetings and seeing that the company has a team of workers who participate.
Last year, she along with her co-worker, Darlene Chavers, put together a cookbook to benefit Relay-for-Life called "Southern Traditions" which to this date has sold over $16,000 worth of books. It is on the National Touchstone Energy website.
Her office has started a program with the sheriff's department to fingerprint children to be used on the internet to trace children. This was done with the support of the U.S. Congress, the American Coaches Football Association and is the only program supported by the FBI.
They have a patriotic program where they furnish copies of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in order to foster patriotism in the younger population.
There is a program called "Get Charged" to teach children about electricity in schools. Harrison goes to schools, churches, scout troops, 4H clubs, civic groups, etc. to do live safety demonstrations. The coop has a miniature city that is fully energized with 10,000 volts of electricity. Wearing special gloves she demonstrates the principles of electricity and the dangers involved. One of her main jobs is to get the message across about why there are cooperatives and they are very interactive with the internet.
They have a program to show children the need to be considerate of the environment by showing animals caught within the co-op's "rights of way."
She works with the holiday food drive to give items to the food banks to help supply the needy and with scholarships for children of Southern Pine employees.
Harrison says that she is very proud of all the programs she has been able to be a part of. For their part in Relay-for-Life, Southern Pine won an award from the American Cancer Society for the amount they raised and for all the media coverage. The Touchstone Energy Group raised over $3,000,000 in over 60 relays.
Even though she credits Southern Pine with most of the things she does, don't believe it for a minute. Harrison loves the fact that she is able to help with all the things she is involved with. But that is because, at heart, she is that kind of person and has found the perfect way to get good things done.
She not only enjoys her job. She loves to read, do crafts and decorate. She is a writer who has started on a novel. In addition to all that she collects carousel horses and angels.