One NFS Day of Volunteering group packed food boxes for Good Samaritan Ministries. The group includes, pictured from left, back row, Candi Blair, Brian Faidley, Heath Shook, Jeff Morgan, Christopher Pendleton and Sarah Whicker; front row, Olivia Jones, Mary Pendleton, Natalie Coley, Kelly Grieger, Bel Grieger and Katie Jones. (Contributed)

By Richard Rourk

Nuclear Fuel Service (NFS) continued its history of working with the community in Unicoi County and throughout the region as the company held its Second Annual Day of Volunteering on Saturday, June 22.

More than 200 employees and 27 teams from NFS served in local communities on Saturday. The teams volunteered at schools and charitable organizations, and completed projects such as building a new trail at Rocky Fork State Park, staining the wooden bridges on the Erwin Linear Trail, packing food boxes at Good Samaritan Ministries and building shelves at CHIPS thrift store.

NFS President John Stewart said he is proud of the work that his staff did for the Second Annual Day of Volunteering.

“Day of Volunteering helps NFS and our employees give back to the communities that have supported our site for more than 60 years,” Stewart said. “Day of Volunteering also provides an opportunity for our employees to engage with each other.”

Stewart saw the commeradiere as bonus to the Day of Volunteering.

“Several of the teams met for breakfast, and they talked about the project, but they also talked about their families and their lives away from NFS,” Stewart said.

The fellowship did not end there.

“Then they worked side-by-side on a project that will help others,” Stewart said. “This type of interaction builds a stronger team atmosphere when they are at NFS.”

NFS allowed the employees to select the projects with the understanding that some type of work would be done.

“Donating goods to an organization is great, but giving your time to do the hands-on work is often more valuable,” Stewart said. “NFS purchased the supplies needed for the projects, but knowing that we are helping others and strengthening our team is priceless. I wish we could do more of this.”

Six teams worked at the Erwin Linear Trail. NFS also had a team at the CHIPS thrift store building shelves and sorting donations, and teams at Love Chapel Elementary building a sensory garden and landscaping. NFS had one group at the Erwin Health Care Center that collected books and games. This group also spent time on Saturday visiting with the residents, playing games and just talking. NFS even had a team replacing windows at historic Walnut Mountain Church, which is about 45 minutes from Elizabethton.

NFS had one team that has worked for two months to crochet and knit baby blankets, hats and booties for Niswonger Children’s Hospital. They had more than 45 blankets that were delivered.

Several of NFS’ teams started working earlier last week because Saturday’s forecast called for rain. A team at East Tennessee Christian Home did their prep work Thursday night and finished up Sunday night. The team working at Love Chapel Elementary School also worked Sunday night.

Unicoi County Animal Shelter Director Kevin King was very thankful for the work that NFS employees put in at the shelter.

“I would like to thank NFS for thinking of the animals,” King said. “It’s so wonderful they chose to help us.”

According to King, the volunteers were able to clean the facility, but the volunteering did not stop there.

“We were able to get new benches outside,” King said. “They cleaned the inside and helped do some landscaping outside. They walked every dog in the shelter. We appreciate everything they did and it meant a lot to us.”

Town of Erwin Communications Director Jamie Rice was so thankful for NFS employees for volunteering their time to area projects.

“They are absolutely amazing,” Rice said. “We are so thankful to have such caring community partners.” Rice said.

Town of Erwin Public Works Director Tim Bailey was impressed with the work that the volunteers accomplished.

“The engineers, especially the young engineers, really took charge on the Linear Trail,” Bailey said. “They did an amazing job.”

NFS worked on projects at CHIPS (Change is Possible) in Erwin, Children’s Advocacy Center of Sullivan County in Blountville, Erwin Linear Trail in Erwin, Good Samaritan Ministries in Johnson City, Happy Valley High School in Elizabethton, Love Chapel Elementary School in Erwin, Nurturing Neighbors in Erwin, Rocky Fork State Park in Flag Pond, Ronald McDonald House in Johnson City, Second Harvest Food Bank in Kingsport, Unicoi County Animal Shelter in Erwin and Washington County Boys and Girls Club in Johnson City.

According to NFS Communications Manager Laura Bailey, the annual event will take place again next summer and NFS is always looking to grow the number of teams and projects.