Maintaining and operating a highway is not an easy task. Behind all the hard work that the team at I-77 Express does, there are many insightful and fulfilling stories that show how they support the local community. Below are a six stories about some of the social initiatives that the team has carried recently.
Roadway Incident Response
May was a busy month for Chris Harris, member of the I-77 Express Operations & Maintenance (O&M). In early May, Harris responded to a six-car incident on the interstate. As a part of his duties when responding to the incident, Harris was responsible for checking on the welfare of motorists, providing traffic control to prevent further danger and making any necessary initial communications with first responders.
Trinishia King was at the site of the incident because her sister was involved in it and had called her to come pick her up. In King’s words, “He went above and beyond the call of duty. He not only made sure everyone involved was safe, but also family members who arrived to care for the victims. He was attentive to everyone and even comforted them. I know there are at least four other people who felt the same way because they were my family members who were also at the scene.”
The aftermath of roadway incidents is often a dangerous environment. Harris and the entire O&M team risk their own safety on a daily basis during incident response interactions to ensure motorists are as safe as possible, and each is to be commended for their service.
O&M Team Members Graduate Safety Courses
Incident response and management is a skill set that requires continual training. I-77 Express’ Operations & Maintenance staff recognizes that fact and recently participated in Emergency Vehicle Driving and Traffic Incident Management courses through Gaston College.
In early June, four staff members completed the courses. The three-day training included techniques and rules for working with first responders, traffic control within in an incident and safety techniques to ensure responder safety. It concluded with a demonstration of skills learned through written and hands-on driving proficiency tests.
The Greenville Community Rock
What started as a roadway construction-based connection has evolved into a wonderful long-term partnership between the Greenville Community near uptown Charlotte and I-77 Express. In the spirit of that partnership, I-77 Express surprised the community with a figurative and literal cornerstone for the development of the Greenville Community Legacy Project, POP’s Place (Place of Peace).
The large rock (or rather, boulder) is the first element of a planned tranquility garden within the community, and it will act similar to the spirit rocks seen at many area schools. The name of the garden also honors community leader Thomas “Pop” Sadler, who is the director of Greenville Community Combined Youth Organization, Inc. Sadler also donated the land designated for the garden.
So how does one come across a boulder for use in a tranquility garden? Through partnerships, of course! An I-77 Express staff member met with Sadler and his wife for a routine community check-in, and they mentioned the garden plans and the desire for a large rock to establish it. Because of that conversation, the I-77 Express team member remembered a connection with Bowman Development Group in Huntersville. With a few phone calls and cooperative staff on both sides, a boulder from one of Bowman Development Group’s construction sites was retrieved and delivered to the Greenville Community garden site.
Sadler and other community already have formal design plans for the garden, and with what they are calling “the rock” anchoring its existence, there are hopes for its completion in the near future.
Helping Eliminate the Digital Divide with E2D
In early May, I-77 Express donated surplus computers to E2D – a local nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure all students have affordable access to essential at-home technology.
With locations in Davidson and Charlotte, E2D is not only refurbishing computers for students, but they are doing it with the help of students. The majority of their staff are students with interests in information technology, and working at E2D is, indeed, a job. The staff are trained and paid, and the program is not considered an afterschool extra-curricular activity. In fact, the majority of the students who work for E2D have gone on to pursue degrees and careers related to information technology, which further shows E2D’s positive effect is not confined to the students it serves with technology but rather, extends also to the students it employs to create the technology.
The recent donation is not the first interaction between I-77 Express and E2D. In 2018, E2D was a participant in the inaugural I-77 Drive for Community, and more collaborations with E2D are expected in the future to assist their goal of eliminating the digital divide for students in our area.
Providing Masks for Schools
COVID-19 prevention remains significant for the community, and local schools are taking precautions to ensure the safety of students and staff. To assist their efforts, I-77 Express reached out to one of our partner institutions, Walter G. Byers School, and gave them 3,000 KN95 protective masks.
Staff members say that even during summer school, they give out an average of 60 masks per day to students who either do not have access to them or need a replacement during the day. At that rate, they go through a significant amount in a short period of time and were appreciative of the donation.
For those who missed it, I-77 Express’ partnership with Walter G. Byers School began in 2020 as part of our commitment to STEM education. I-77 Express provided technology to assist teachers with instruction of students who were offsite and learning from home.
On July 26, I-77 Mobility Partners CEO Jose Espinosa and Health & Safety Manager Greg Freeman donated 1,800 KN95 masks for children at Blythe Elementary School in Huntersville, North Carolina. Masks are mandatory in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for all students, visitors and guests. During summer camp, Blythe Elementary School had 500 students in attendance. When the school year begins this fall, more than 900 students will attend the school. Many children arriving at schools forget their masks or do not have the means to supply their own masks. This donation will help the school provide masks to those in need to help keep everyone in the school safe. This donation is part of I-77 Express’ continued commitment to support education along the corridor. Dean of Students, Crissy Payne, accepted the masks on behalf of the school.
As part of I-77 Express’ continued commitment to support education along the corridor, CEO Jose Espinosa, and Health and Safety Manager, Greg Freeman, donated 1,800 KN95 masks for student at Blythe Elementary School in Huntersville, North Carolina. Dean of Students, Crissy Payne, accepted the masks on behalf of the school.