Duke Energy, Urban League Partner

Watson Haynes will mark his second year as CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League in May and has been actively involved with the PCUL since it was founded 37 years ago.

Going back to Andy Hines, president of Duke Energy’s predecessor Florida Power, the company and its leadership have been strong supporters of our programs and long-time goals, Watson told The Weekly Challenger.

“Duke Energy’s Gail Simpson is currently on our Board, and Florida President Alex Glenn has taken a lead role in our partnership,” said Haynes.

“Now as head of Florida operations, he has watched me over the years in the community, and wants to do even more constructive things with the Urban League and help share the solving of the many problems in our community.” As an example, he talks about his three boys and how he and his wife could have afforded private schools but he wanted to give them an education in our public schools. They chose Perkins Elementary in the heart of Midtown, and then Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Childs Park, two of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city.

“With Duke Energy as a sponsor of our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Breakfast, Alex made some positive comments about the company’s continuing support in the community. Alex told me he was very impressed with the book ‘The State of Black America.’ He said that’s the kind of things we need to be in front of – a commitment of the heart and not just the head.”

Haynes went on to say, “Our PCUL was the only non-profit to partner with TB Bank, Ceridian and Duke Energy to develop a program with Lakewood Elementary School to improve student achievement in one of the area’s lowest rated schools. The program focused on STREAM — Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Attitude and Math. In other elementary and middle schools it is STEM, so this is STREAM into STEM. One project was making rockets with science, with the kids developing a budget, buying the supplies with fake dollars, and building them. Duke was very supportive and Alex took a personal interest, taking several hours out of a busy schedule to attend the Lakewood presentation at the Science Center.”

Duke Energy’s newest commitment is to the 2020 Plan. A few years ago, a local group of activists analyzed the challenges of south St. Petersburg, one of the five most impoverished areas in the community. The 2020 Plan’s key goal is to reduce poverty by 30 percent with a five-year, $170 million investment program. Fundraising has begun and county and city officials are very supportive.

“Alex read the plan and told me that as Duke was so involved in the community, he wanted to invest in the 2020 Plan with the Urban League going forward,” he said.

Haynes looks forward to his continuing partnership with Duke Energy and its support not only from its leadership, but also from its many employee volunteers.

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