DTE Energy employees receive high honors for serving customers and communities

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In 1921, when Sarah Sheridan was setting DTE Energy’s standards for customer service, the former vice president of Sales could not have known that her legacy would still be celebrated nearly a century later.

Her influence on our company and industry live on through the annual Sarah Sheridan Awards which honor DTE Energy employees changing the lives of customers and communities.

One example involves a team of skilled trades employees that heard the tragic story of a Detroit widow and her six children. Estelle Barnes-Summers and her husband Elijah had purchased a home for the family that needed renovations before they could move in.  Sadly, Elijah was shot and killed before he could renovate the home.

The team of employees from our Gas Operations group, joined by DTE Energy’s Public Affairs team, couldn’t repair the family’s broken hearts.  But there was something that they could do to help the family get back on its feet. The team renovated and decorated the house.

Skilled Trades Volunteerism is one of seven employee teams recently honored with the prestigious Sarah Sheridan Awards.

The employees worked evenings and weekends – cleaning out the home, painting the inside and installing floors, walls, windows, appliances, a new high efficiency furnace and much more.

The team, with support of the Humble Design nonprofit organization, furnished and decorated every room of the house.

Members of the team include: Fred Baker, Jimmy Day, Jesse Giambrone, Jr.; James Harper, Henry Lamberti, George Meade, Tomara Nolen, David Riggs, Bryan Valrance and Robert Vanderbush

Other award winning teams were:

Historic Storm Restoration Team

On March 8, sustained tropical force winds battered southeastern Michigan, resulting in extensive tree damage, leading to the largest weather event in DTE Energy’s history. More than 800,000 customers lost power.

Our employees, led by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 17, and Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 223, rallied to restore power at an unprecedented pace while keeping customers safe. In less than four days, we restored power to 755,000 customers – more than 90 percent of customers impacted by the wind storm.

Dean Bradley, business manager of IBEW Local 17 and Michael Smith, president of Local 223 received the Sarah Sheridan Award on behalf of their membership.

Monroe Area Task Force

The team has diligently served Monroe and downriver communities for more than 25 years and is DTE Energy’s top performing volunteer task force.

From clean-up projects and walk/run events, to blood drives and non-profit board service, the task force is a shining example of employees being a force for growth in the communities where they live and serve.

With the energy of hundreds of volunteers in 2016, the task force worked side-by-side with 120 organizations in more than 100 volunteer projects, putting in more than 1,000 volunteer hours.

The Michigan Week Committee and Monroe County Government Leaders honored DTE and the task force with the “Heart of Gold” award for the company being a long-time partner and employer in the county – and for the task force’s volunteer work.

Members of the task force include: Peter Burkit, Madonna Burkit, Jeff Hensley, William Jasman, April Kassuba, John Kauffman, Laura Loveland, Molly Luempert-Coy, Bonnie Masserant, Wendy Spicer and Jacqueline Wellman

Coats for Kids

Driving to and from work on cold winter days, three employees from DTE Energy’s Distribution Operations group often witnessed children walking to school without coats or proper gear.

Fortunately for hundreds of children in Detroit and Highland Park, the employees – William Morris, Carlton Leonard and Sara Griffin – have a passion for giving back to the community. They decided that raising money and buying new coats for the kids would allow them to focus on learning and reduce absenteeism.

The employees started an annual Coats for Kids campaign which raised more than $10,000 for three consecutive winters. The fundraising activities supplied 500 coats each year for kids from Loving Elementary and Blackwell Academy in Detroit, and Highland Park Academy.

In previous years, the employees conducted coat drives at Thurgood Marshall, Davison and Cornerstone elementary schools in Detroit and George Washington Carver in Highland Park.

Accelerating Low-income Assistance

Leon Dunton, a senior customer service analyst, developed databases to make it easier for customers to apply for our Low-Income Self Sufficiency Program, or LSP payment plan.

Dunton created databases that allow DTE customer representatives to review applications in process with our partnering agencies. He centralized required documents submitted by applicants. He also added a nightly responsibility of uploading comments provided by agencies into DTE’s database so that our representatives can relay the information to customers.

Now, when applicants contact us for status reports, updates from partnering agencies or with questions about documentation, information is readily available.

On his own time, Dunton partnered with agencies to help roll out the new database.

Deaf Outreach Team

The group launched a first-of-its-kind program using Video Remote Interpretation technology to engage deaf customers participating in our Home Energy Consultation Program.

The technology provides energy specialists visiting the homes of deaf customers with devices such as web cameras or videophones to provide sign language or spoken language interpreting services.

The technology has increased the number of deaf customers who receive home energy consultations. The program has serviced more than 200 exclusively deaf households and is on target to help more than 1,000 disabled veteran households. The program also plans to visit a few hundred schools this year.

Gov. Rick Snyder recently honored this project for breaking down barriers to reach the deaf community, and helping to move the technology into more utilities and sectors.

Members of the team include: Sereen Dababneh, David DeLind, Shunta Hall, Jason Kupser, Luis Salas and Brian Smith

Ford Energy Project Team

A cross-functional team developed a plan to power Ford Motor Company’s Research and Engineering Center (REC) with advanced technologies.

The team designed an “ultra-low” emission energy infrastructure of the future that will soon power the REC on Ford’s Dearborn campus.

DTE will construct, own and operate a highly efficient, gas-fired combined heat and power plant, chilled and hot water systems, distribution systems, thermal energy storage and a geothermal system designed to increase the efficiency of the chilled and hot water facilities.

Members of the team include: Jeff Adzigian, Viral Amin, Mike Fedele, Scott Geordt, Richard Humphries, Mike Kelly, Mike Larson, Dean Marble, Scot McCall, Mary McVeigh, Craig Sielaff, Dennis Thoune and Andrea Vonk