(by: Karen Campbell, Weakley County Schools Communications Director)
When employees of Imerys in Gleason (formerly Kentucky Tennessee Clay Company) met for their annual safety refresh workshop in February, they included an unveiling of a new safety mascot and simultaneously honored a recent retiree.
They also gifted a young artist with a $500 scholarship in recognition of the colorful creation, fashioned to underscore safety issues at the plant.
Arnie, the new safety mascot, was introduced to the gathering of employees at a luncheon held at the Simply Southern event space in Gleason. Arnie is a racoon decked out in safety headgear and vest as conceived by Gleason freshman Maryorie Pastrana.
Pastrana attended the luncheon along with teacher Jason Stephens and runner up Katie Freeman, a Gleason senior who also received prize money for her efforts. There she met the local safety committee.
The committee decided last fall they wanted a safety mascot unique to their campus and reached out to Weakley County Schools to enlist the help of a school-aged artist who would benefit from the scholarship funds.
The new mascot is named for Kerry Arnold who worked at the Gleason facility for almost 42 years, the last 15 as a safety coordinator.
“Kerry was a long-term employee for the Imerys/KT Clay family who took great pride in his work and was genuinely concerned about the safety of the employees,” said Michael Puckett, the site and production manager in Gleason. “He took great satisfaction in the fact that he was contributing each and every day to helping his coworkers return home safely to their families.”
Imerys has operations in 50 countries and has more than 18,000 employees. The Gleason plant mines clay out of the ground, processes the clay using mills which chop the material into fine particles and then process those particles into a product based on consumer needs. Arnold worked in the mills for 20 years then moved to customer service and finally to environmental health and safety.
“It caught me off guard. I couldn’t believe it,” said Arnold of the naming of Arnie. “I’m happy to be remembered in this way.”
Stephens, who sponsors the Fine Arts Club at Gleason School, was pleased for the opportunity provided by the safety committee and Puckett, who served as the liaison with the schools.
“When communities and schools come together to support our students, everyone is made better for it. This recognition of student initiative will further encourage others to step out and take part in future opportunities. I am grateful to Michael Puckett and all involved at Imerys,” noted Stephens.
(photo: Michael Puckett, the site and production manager for Imerys in Gleason presented a $500 scholarship to Maryorie Pastrana for her work on Arnie, the plant’s new safety mascot.)