Dominion Energy

From left to right, Kevin Worley, director of outdoor recreation for Abingdon; Cindy Patterson, Abingdon’s vice mayor; Carol Doss with Upper Tennessee River Roundtable; Jason De La Cruz of Dominion Energy; Laura Social of Dominion Energy; and Dustin Keith, Roundtable’s treasurer, attend a ceremony where Southwest Virginia conservation projects received grant awards from Dominion Energy.

ABINGDON, Va. — Two nonprofit organizations in Abingdon are making plans to expand their work after receiving monetary donations from a Richmond-based power and energy company.

Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation has awarded the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable and The Nature Conservancy in Virginia $25,000 each to support critical conservation projects benefiting communities and the environment in Southwest Virginia.

The announcement was made during a presentation last Tuesday at the Community Center of Abingdon, where representatives of the Town of Abingdon and students from the adjoining Wolf Hills Community School took part in the awards ceremony.

Upper Tennessee River Roundtable

According to Carol Doss, executive director of the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable, the money they received will be used to create an outdoor classroom and rain garden at the Community Center of Abingdon.

Doss explained that the rain garden, a stormwater management practice, is designed to capture rain and hold it for no more than 72 hours before it is released into the ground.

“We’re building the rain garden to capture the runoff from a new pickleball court that the Town of Abingdon is going to build.”

Kevin Worley, director of parks and outdoor recreation in Abingdon, said the town will fund a $3,000 pickleball court for public use at the community center.

“In partnership with the Community Center of Abingdon, we plan to build a 40-by-50-foot concrete pad for the primary use of playing pickleball. The court will be located to the left of the building and will serve the community as well as students who attend Wolf Hills Community School,” said Worley.

“It will be a good use of the space for community use. When we build this concrete pad, the rain garden will help dissipate the rainwater before it goes into the storm drain.”

He projected the construction of the court will begin in April 2020.

The rain garden will serve as one of the learning stations for the outdoor classroom. Other stations will focus on topics such as trees and habitats with small signage, labeling each unique learning space.

The outdoor classroom will use as much natural material as possible, such as tree stumps for small seats and small child-size tables.

The Nature Conservancy in Virginia

The Nature Conservancy in Virginia is using its funds to support its ongoing mussel restoration work in the Clinch River.

“We are very grateful to be awarded this funding, which will support our mussel restoration efforts in a region [where] we have lived and worked for three decades,” said Brad Kreps, Clinch Valley program director of The Nature Conservancy in Virginia.

“Freshwater mussels are disappearing from the planet because, like people, they depend on clean water to survive, and as filter feeders, they are vulnerable to pollution. Restoration of these critical members of the river community is vital to the ecological health of the Clinch River.”

Over the past 15 years, The Nature Conservancy and academic and agency partners who comprise the Mussel Recovery Group, have gained a national reputation for success in producing and deploying native mussels — a complex, multistep process that includes having specific fish host species available at just the right time for each specific mussel so that their fertilized embryos can parasitically attach to them and transform into mussels.

“This gift will help double the number of mussels released annually into a key 15-mile stretch of the Clinch River, adding three important species to the mix,” Kreps said. The Nature Conservancy will work with Virginia Tech’s culturing facility to produce and release 50,000 juvenile mussels.

Charitable donations

Both projects proposed by the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable and The Nature Conservancy in Virginia include a community education and engagement component.

“Environmental stewardship is a key part of outdoor learning, as students are taught how to care for their natural environment,” said Doss. “This generous gift will enable us to create a new outdoor classroom for the benefit of students, schools and the general public. We are very excited to get started.”

Dominion Energy has awarded $1.6 million to 135 organizations this year through its philanthropic arm.

The annual program considers grant requests from eligible nonprofits and schools that focus on specific, short-term projects that promise measurable results to improve the environment.

“Environmental stewardship is very important to Dominion Energy. Partnering with the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable and The Nature Conservancy in Virginia has made, and will continue to make, a difference in protecting the natural resources in the communities we call home,” said Mark Kuhn, director of the Virginia Center Hybrid Energy Center in St. Paul, Virginia.

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Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at

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