ELIZABETHTOWN — Duke Energy is used to bringing the power of electricity to homes throughout the region, but on Thursday it’s Fleet Maintenance Services employees brought the power of Christmas to 20 children in Bladen County.
In the back of their work truck, the Fleet employees carried 20 bicycles — 10 pink and 10 black — and sent them home with the students.
“We just want to help the kids have a good Christmas,” said Debbie Hogg, a representative of Fleet Maintenance Services. “It’s such a joy to see their faces when they get their bicycles.”
Hogg said Bladen County was selected for a specific reason.
“We looked for a county without as many resources as the larger counties,” she said.
In all, Fleet Maintenance Services are donating 33 bicycles throughout the state — all made possible from donations among its employees.
According to Valerie Newton, public relations director for Bladen County Schools, the students were chosen by Marian Coe, the district’s lead social worker.
“Well, we got valuable input from the teachers, who know the children much better than we do,” Coe said. “We tried to get two students from each primary school and one at the middle and junior high schools.”
Prior to selecting the students, Coe said the fact that Bladen County was chosen at all was a big shock.
“This has never happened before, so we were all pretty elated,” she said. “And Duke Energy has been doing this for a long time.”
As the students waited in the Central Administration Office’s main lobby, the bicycles were unleaded in the back warehouse and lined up with the pink bicycles on one side and black on the other. There were also 20 helmets — from spider-man to a colorful unicorn to a minion, ninja turtles and more — lined up for the students to choose from.
“We also thought putting the student’s name on a bicycle would make it special for them,” Hogg said. “They can come out and look for their own bicycle.”
Coe said the children were itching to see their bicycles.
“The parents and children are so excited,” she said. “Bicycles are a big thing and for some it’ll be their very first one.”
Once they were brought back to the warehouse, the 20 students made a beeline for their bicycles. One of those was Taeonna Wilson, 9, a student at Bladenboro Primary School, who was brought to get her bicycle by her grandmother, Larice Lane.
“Nobody has ever given her anything like this,” Lane said. “This is really a wonderful thing for all these children.”
Once they had their bicycle and helmet, nearly every one of the children took the opportunity to ride out to the front of the building before the bicycles were loaded into the vehicle for the trip home.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.