TVA Retirees Continue the Mission

“Some of us didn’t realize it until we left, but TVA’s mission gets in your blood,” says DeWitt Burleson, new Valley-wide president of the TVA Retirees Association.

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TVA retiree Ted Nelson shares the TVA story at Norris Dam's 80th birthday celebration last July.

MAY 8, 2017—Talk to any of the hundreds of TVA retirees who staff TVA visitor centers or work on community projects sponsored by the TVA Retirees Association (TVARA) or Bicentennial Volunteers, Inc. (BVI), and you may learn something surprising. Former employees are loathe to put the past behind them.

“It happens when you’re an employee, and it doesn’t go away when you become a retiree,” explains Burleson. “A lot of us spent our entire careers at TVA working to make life better for the people in the Valley, and we still want to be a part of that in retirement.”

BVI president Jim Russell agrees. “Working for TVA is more than a job,” he said. “When you work at TVA, you’re part of something bigger. You make a difference in people’s lives. That’s addictive. You don’t want to give it up when you retire.”

Being There

TrailerRebuild (1).jpgIf the proof is in the numbers, they’re right. Retiree volunteers contributed more than 20,000 hours of service in support of TVA programs in 2016.

“The volunteers who staff TVA visitor centers at Raccoon Mountain and at Fontana, Norris and Kentucky Dams put in most of those hours,” Russell says. “They’re a dedicated group. They love talking with visitors because it gives them a chance to tell TVA’s story. It’s a story they helped write with their careers, and they don’t want it to get lost.”

Retirees step up to meet other TVA needs as well—for example, helping with nuclear safety response drills, leading wildflower walks and providing water-safety training to school children. In 2016, retiree volunteers also turned out to help with Norris Dam’s 80th birthday celebration.

Members of TVARA chapters put in thousands of additional hours volunteering for projects in their communities—from helping with elementary and high school robotics events across the Valley to providing seeds, fertilizer and gardening know-how to low-income families in Muscle Shoals and building ball fields and wheelchair ramps in Cleveland, Chattanooga and Johnsonville.

Ambassadors and Advocates

TVARA’s Burleson calls it “retiring in style.”

“It isn’t that TVA retiree volunteers are trying to fill empty hours. They’re busy people. They’re enjoying retirement. They’re doing the things they’ve always wanted to do—spending more time with family, traveling, working out at the gym. Some are even pursuing second and third careers. But helping others and supporting TVA is rewarding to them, and they find the time to do it.”

TVA, in turn, is grateful to the retirees who continue to be involved in TVA’s mission of service, says Janet Brewer, senior vice president of Communications & Marketing: “If you find yourself in the same position when you retire, if you discover that TVA is still running through your veins, we hope you’ll join us. We will need you.

“TVA retirees are the best ambassadors and advocates an organization could ask for,” she says. “Their ongoing involvement is a tribute to their commitment to TVA. TVA has a unique mission—to make life better for the people of the Valley. Our retirees know that mission well from their work at TVA. We appreciate the work they did in their TVA careers, and we appreciate what they do today.”

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Lile Bickley staffs the visitor center at Fontana Dam.