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AT&T community service group celebrates 100 years of volunteering

POSTED: December 13, 2011 1:30 a.m.
/For The Times

Pat Gulley, a member of the Northeast Georgia Mountaineers Council and former AT&T employee, reads to children as part of the Pioneers service project. The Pioneers celebrated 100 years of community service this year.

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You may have never heard of the Northeast Georgia Mountaineers Council, but its presence is definitely felt around the community.

"We meet once a month and decide as a group what projects we’d like to work on," said Pat Gulley, president of the Mountaineers council.

The council is the local chapter of the Pioneers, a nationwide volunteer organization made up of AT&T employees and retirees.

The national organization celebrated its 100-year anniversary last month. The local chapter has actively participated in educational, community service and environmental projects that benefit Northeast Georgia for the last several decades.

They regularly volunteer at Challenged Child and Friends in Gainesville, repair the talking books for the visually impaired at the Hall County Library and make neck pillows for military personnel who are being deployed.

They also do a lot to help the homeless.

Just this year alone, the Mountaineers donated more than 1,000 pounds of food to the Good News at Noon homeless shelter and presented My Sister’s Place — a shelter for women and their children — with a $1,000 check.

"I enjoy the fellowship that I get from being with my fellow pioneers, but most of all I enjoy the inner-satisfaction I get from being able to help someone who might be less fortunate than I am," said Gulley, who has been a Pioneer since 1969.

Evelyn Brown, Mountaineers vice president, says it’s hard to play favorites among the group’s many service projects.

"Everything we do is very rewarding, so it’s hard to say which is my favorite," said Brown, who has been a Pioneer since the 1970s.

"Visiting the nursing homes is probably one of our most gratifying projects. We find a lot of the people we’ve known in the working world there."

Both Brown and Gulley say that working with younger generations through the Junior Achievement mentor program and volunteering at local schools is just as fulfilling.

"When we go into the schools and read to the children, they say, ‘Thank you’ so many times," Gulley said.

"A lot of them want to give you a hug and ask you when you’re coming back.

"There’s no satisfaction in the world better than knowing that you made a child smile."

If she had to narrow down her list of favorite projects, Gulley says she would have to include their bluebird house project at Lanier Point Park in Gainesville. Since its inception in 1999, the Mountaineers have placed around 80 bluebird houses throughout the park. Each spring, they clean them up and make needed repairs.

The initiative was started by her husband, Pete Gulley, in 1999.

"He was considered a Pioneer partner. He worked very closely with me from the beginning. In the later years, I think he got to enjoy it even more than I did," Gulley said with a laugh.

"Sometimes I think he thought he was the Pioneer and I was the partner."

Although many of their projects are centered around Hall County, the group also reaches out to other areas, including Habersham, Lumpkin and Stephens counties.

"We’re called the Northeast council because we really do represent this entire area of the state," Brown said.

They may have done a lot already — both the Hall County Board of Commissioners and the Gainesville City Council have passed proclamations acknowledging the group’s contributions — but the group has no intentions of resting on their laurels.

"If folks need us, all they have to do is let us know," Gulley said.

"If we can, we’ll be glad to help."


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