VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – March 10, 2023 – Ellen Simmons, a Leak Survey manager with Virginia Natural Gas (VNG), has been volunteering her time with nonprofit organizations across Hampton Roads for as long as she can remember. It is a passion of hers to give back to her community, sometimes putting in long hours after work and on the weekends.
In recognition for her commitment of giving back to the communities served by Virginia Natural Gas, Ellen was among this year’s group of Luminary Award winners from Southern Company Gas, the parent company of VNG, for making volunteering a daily part of their life and the sacrifice of their spare time in the service of others.
The inaugural Luminary awards by Southern Company Gas recognizes the spirit of volunteerism by its team members and the company’s long history of giving back to the communities.
According to Ellen, the reason is simple for all the hours she spends away from home giving to others.
“It’s just what we do,” she said.
When Ellen is not working, she divides her time between the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, the Salvation Army, Winter Shelter, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Union Mission Ministries.
Ellen started with the energy company in 2014 and brought her passion of volunteerism and service to others with her. Growing up in a military family, her mother always taught her to give back whenever she could and help those who were in need.
“My mother was the initial driving force behind me volunteering while growing up, going through school and college, at church and the scouts,” said Ellen. “It wasn’t until my own family was struggling that my understanding of ‘needs’ truly surfaced.”
Ellen, who suddenly found herself as a single parent, struggled to make ends meet. Family and friends of family, some of who she had never met, began to provide support even without Ellen asking for assistance. Years later when she was laid off from work and during a lengthy job hunt, the “why me” started to set in. Recognizing that some had more challenges than her and she decided to stop feeling sorry for herself and help others.
“At that point I decided to volunteer at the foodbank,” said Ellen. “I chose the organization because people need to eat. My first event was driving to an area to distribute food to those who did not have access to a grocery store. Some of these people did not have vehicles and some arrived in wheelchairs. It really opened my eyes. Since then, I have made it my primary organization to support.”
Volunteering for more than 40 years at some level, Ellen has served the community through her church, VNG and other organizations. While she supports more than one organization, her passion is serving with organizations with a focus on those who provide food for those in need, such as the Foodbank of Southeast Virginia and the Eastern Shore.
“Start with food and help people grow,” said Ellen. “That is what I hope I am doing when I volunteer, donate funds, and purchase food items. Food is a basic need for everyone, and no one should have to choose between eating or paying a bill. I believe this so much that in October of 2022 I participated in a half-day poverty simulation that allows participants to see the barriers of poverty, such as navigating social service programs, transportation and even facing evictions.”
Ellen began volunteering to make a positive change in the lives of those she served. Being recognized and nominated as a Luminary at VNG has given her a renewed purpose, looking ahead to a new year of serving and sharing her spirit of volunteering with others.
“I have learned how important it is to help and serve those in need,” said Ellen. “I want to share that with others, and encourage them to get involved, no matter how small. We need to foster a culture of inclusiveness and service while sharing our time with people who need us and our help.”
Ellen, along with others from around Southern Company Gas, were recognized in Atlanta and received a monetary award to donate to the nonprofit organization of their choice.
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