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NS Thoroughbreds Strive to Make a Difference

NS Thoroughbreds work on deck at zoo.

Once the biggest employer in town when its operations were headquartered here, Norfolk Southern still casts a long shadow over the Roanoke Valley. Often a sponsor of special events, the freight railroad giant also makes its impact felt via the “Thoroughbred Volunteers,” when groups of employees pitch in with community projects.

Last Saturday some of the NS Thoroughbreds gathered for a fourth time at Mill Mountain Zoo, to paint, mulch, pull weeds and to work on replacing — and expanding — a wooden observation deck. Norfolk Southern donated more than 400 man-hours to the project; Lowes chipped in with corporate funding, building supplies and additional manpower.

Norfolk Southern employee John Turbyfill watched as fellow NS employees gathered early on the morning before Mother’s Day, hoping to finish the enlarged deck before moms got in free the next day. “We tore down the old deck, which took a while,” said Turbyfill. Rotting wooden footers had to be replaced as well.

Pipes and power lines “we didn’t know about,” slowed them down even further. They “couldn’t rely on calling the ‘Miss Utility’ service for guidance,” said Turbyfill, since it doesn’t keep data on private property.

Turbyfill said “family friendly” projects like the mulching and weeding meant some brought their children along. Other recent Thoroughbred initiatives included a Clean Valley Day trash pickup at Highland park, the Back to School Blast (school supply drive for underprivileged children) sponsored by the Roanoke Rescue Mission and room painting at the YWCA downtown.  “We try to do some environmental things every year,” said Turbyfill, “[and] at least four good projects every year.”

There is a Thoroughbred Volunteer group at Norfolk Southern headquarters in Virginia Beach and another in Atlanta. “We get a lot of support in the corporate area,” notes Turbyfill.

Last summer the local NS group helped rebuild ponds and an outdoor amphitheater at Fishburn Elementary School, which now focuses on environmental learning tracks.  Turbyfill figures at least 100 Roanoke based Norfolk Southern employees pitch in on at least one project annually as a member of the Thoroughbreds. For venues like cash-strapped Mill Mountain Zoo and the YWCA (a women’s shelter and training center) no doubt that help is very much appreciated.

By Gene Marrano
[email protected]

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