Company spearheads creation of community center
Just over three years ago, investigators found the body of 5-year-old Noah Thomas in a septic tank on the property where he had lived with his parents and his baby sister.
His parents were convicted of abuse and neglect, in part because they left the children alone while their mother drove their father to work at Phoenix Packaging Operations in Dublin.
Phoenix Packaging CEO Carlos Tapias decided to do something to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. The result is the Pulaski Community Youth Center, which welcomed the first students to its after-school programs in March.
Tapias declined to be interviewed about the youth center. “He’s a very passionate individual, but he does not like to take a lot of credit for this, although he’s the one that drove it and began it,” says Kenneth Richardson, Phoenix’s U.S. director of human resources.
Tapias’ original plan for a community center for very young children has evolved into a place for middle school and high school students.
“Our goal was to find those gaps and fill in those gaps for the ages that didn’t have a place to be after school,” says Tina Martin, the center’s executive director. “The gaps that are in our community are for that middle school and early high school age.”
Phoenix pays Martin, a program director and two part-time employees. Other companies (Martin says they want to remain anonymous) also have contributed funds. Community volunteers helped renovate the former school that houses the program.
In addition to after-school services, the center plans to be open during the summer and has partnered with other organizations to begin and administer programs. So far, the center offers gym time, robotics and tutoring by Radford University students training to become teachers.
“I think the biggest benefit will be they’re not going home … to an empty house,” says Radford professor Betty Dore. “They will be with their peers. They will be with adults who care about them.”
Phoenix Packaging is a subsidiary of Grupo Phoenix, a Colombian company with sales in more than 30 countries. Its Dublin plant has expanded three times since its opening in 2010. When the latest expansion is completed next year, the plant will provide nearly 600 jobs.