GOOD NEWS!: Church campers get first-hand look at TCI

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Brian Hemlock, president of TCI, explains what transformers do as summer campers from Riverview Missionary Baptist Church take a tour of the facility. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is the first in the Ravena News-Herald’s ongoing “Good News” initiative — a concerted effort to shine a light on the good things that are happening in our region and in the communities we cover. There are all kinds of programs, companies and individuals that are working hard to make their corner of the world a better place, and we tip our hats to them! Let’s all share in the “Good News!

By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

COEYMANS — Summer campers at Riverview Missionary Baptist Church got an inside look at the inner workings of a local plant when they took their annual tour of TCI at the Coeymans Industrial Park.

TCI has been inviting youngsters in the church’s summer camp to take a tour of the plant since 2015, the year after the company moved to Coeymans in September 2014.

For one of the first campers who visited the plant years ago, the story would come full circle. Jacy Polyak, a graduate of the RCS Class of 2022, just started working at TCI.

“The summer camp comes up once a year — they tour the facilities, which is always a very special day for us,” said TCI Operations Manager John Barr. “These kids, once they get inside our plant, it’s like one of those ‘aah’ moments — that’s what Jacy told me.”

Polyak, who started working at the plant within days of his graduation, recalled his tour of TCI about six years ago.

“I was 12 when I came on the tour,” Polyak said. “At first, I wasn’t sure what to think — there were all these big machines and older people working. I was a little nervous, but then I got to see everything. My favorite was the big oil tanks — I was so excited about that.”

TCI has long been involved with Riverview Missionary Baptist Church, including funding the pony rides at the church’s fall festival each year.

“It’s always a fun day,” Barr said.

The tour each summer gives the plant’s workers the opportunity to share what they do with local children.

“We do it because we love to see the smiles on these kids’ faces,” Barr said. “They get to see the transformers and the trucks and all the cool equipment, and they always have so many questions. I always like to stop in the middle of the tour and ask, ‘Who is going to work with me when they grow up?’ Every hand goes up.”

A camper gets in the driver’s seat of a forklift at the plant. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Plant Manager Sam Kostue said the kids’ smiles are the best part of the tour.

“It’s the smiles on their faces,” Kostue said. “They come in and we show them what we do on a daily basis. A lot of people don’t understand what we do.”

TCI recycles old transformers, which are placed on power lines to generate power. When possible, the company sends the transformers out to be refurbished, and then they go back up on a power line.

“The company takes transformers from the power industry and salvages, refurbishes or recycles all the materials that used to go into landfills,” said Communications Director Mark Westcott. “So in addition to helping the power industry, it performs a great environmental benefit as well.”

The kids got to see every step of the process, and even had the chance to operate a crane’s remote control to move a 430-pound transformer. They walked across a catwalk perched high above the plant’s large oil tanks, sat inside a forklift, and at the end — before they were treated to ice cream at the Mr. Ding-a-Ling ice cream truck — they all hopped on a giant scale to see how much the group collectively weighs.

“They all get a kick out of that,” Kostue said.

RCS alumnus Brett Margiasso shows campers how the transformers, which weigh hundreds of pounds, are moved around by a crane. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Brett Margiasso, another RCS graduate from a couple of years ago, explained there is a great need in the power industry for transformers that can be refurbished, which is a big part of what TCI does — it identifies transformers that can be fixed and reused, and then sends them to a company that does that.

“Recently there has been a huge transformer shortage so companies have been asking for everything they can get their hands on. I have been sending out two or three truckloads of transformers ready to go out and get refurbished and be put back up on the poles,” Margiasso said. “It’s awesome.”

Church volunteer Lillie Tibbs said visiting the plant and learning about what TCI does was a great opportunity for the campers.

“This is a beautiful experience for the kids — it is really interesting,” Tibbs said. “I especially liked learning about how they recycle the transformers and how the crane lifts the transformers — I was the first one to work the crane.”

Camp Director Rosa Rivera said the kids learn about recycling and what kinds of opportunities are right here in their own community. And it’s fun, too, she said.

“They especially like getting their picture taken on the trucks,” Rivera said.

For church volunteer Barbara Croskery, the tour is a unique learning experience for the children.

“This experience just expands their minds — it shows them what is possible,” Croskery said. “Our church is just across the way, so we always see trucks passing by and this gives the kids an idea of some of what is going on here. It expands their minds and teaches them about recycling, too.”

TCI President Brian Hemlock explained to the children what transformers do and how they help to power the kids’ homes. Hemlock was once just where the recent RCS grads are right now and worked his way up to become company president.

“I started out working in the field, tearing apart large transformers at power stations on the East Coast and the Midwest, and I worked my way up,” Hemlock said. “Moving here to Coeymans was the best thing for our company — we started out with 10 employees and we are now past 45, and we are continuously growing. I started working here just like these RCS grads and worked my way up to be president. It really shows what hard work and dedication can do for you here.”

Volunteers from Riverview Missionary Baptist Church make their way across a catwalk during the tour. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media
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