Thoroughbred Volunteers Make a Difference

Norfolk Southern’s formal volunteer program, the Thoroughbred Volunteers, offers employees a way to give back to their communities while serving as railroad ambassadors. The program in 2014 had an active presence at four of our largest employment centers, while new chapters formed on the Piedmont Division and at Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, Pa.

During the year, the Thoroughbred chapters recorded more than 2,200 volunteer hours. This total does not include hours of service contributed by individual employees volunteering on their own.

2014 Thoroughbred Volunteers Highlights


  • More than 900 volunteer hours
  • Packed 256 boxes (1,976 pounds) of medical supplies for countries in need (MedShare)
  • Sorted more than 10,000 pounds of food for distribution through the Atlanta Food Bank
  • Collected more than 100 school supplies for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  • Participated in Hands on Atlanta Day to restore Panola Mountain State Park
  • Donated children’s toys, clothing, and shoes for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree holiday program


  • 584 volunteer hours
  • Participated in Clean the Bay Day, Paint Your Heart Out, Special Olympics, and multiple food drives and sorting events
  • Volunteered with the Dwelling Place, ForKids, and REACH organizations that support homeless families


  • 356 volunteer hours during seven events
  • Collected 136 pounds of peanut butter to support the Peanut Butter from Heaven program
  • Sorted 25,000 pounds of food at the Feeding America Southwest Virginia warehouse
  • Restored neighbors’ homes and yards as part of the National Rebuilding Together event
  • Collected more than 1,000 pounds of school supplies for students in Roanoke Valley

Piedmont Division:

  • More than 250 volunteer hours
  • Distributed school supplies to students in Greenville County through United Way
  • Served Thanksgiving meals at Salvation Army soup kitchens

Altoona’s Juniata Locomotive Shop:

  • During NS Family Day, the shop offered family tours in exchange for a canned good or monetary donation, then gave the food and more than $2,000 in donations to a local food bank
  • Collected children’s toys for Toys for Tots
  • Donated food to a local women’s shelter


  • Assembled gift bags for homeless veterans for the Totes of Hope program
  • Collected food for a regional Pennsylvania food bank

Deb Butler, one of the railroad’s senior executives, sets the bar high when it comes to giving back to community. In the Virginia community that Norfolk Southern calls home, Butler was recognized by the Girl Scouts and the YWCA in 2014 for her civic and professional contributions and achievements.


Whether sorting donations at the local food bank, talking to Girl Scouts about railroad jobs, or mentoring business students, Deb Butler makes volunteerism a fundamental part of her professional and personal lives.

Butler, executive vice president planning and chief information officer, has supported a multitude of charitable organizations during her 37 years with Norfolk Southern.

“The culture of giving is very much part of our SPIRIT values and part of sustainability in all its definitions,” Butler said. “We sustain the education and well-being of the people of our communities every time we volunteer at a food bank or donate to the United Way.”

In 2014, the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast and the YWCA of South Hampton Roads recognized Butler’s accomplishments. The YWCA honored her in the science and technology category in its 27th Annual Women of Distinction awards, while the Girl Scouts named her a “Famous Former Girl Scout.” Butler said her enthusiasm for scouting was renewed when Norfolk Southern designed a Girl Scout railroading merit badge in 2010.

“Scouting taught me about service to the community, and that has stayed with me my whole life,” she said.

Much of Butler’s volunteerism involves encouraging girls and women to set and achieve personal and professional goals. She frequently acts as a sounding board for other female Norfolk Southern employees and managers, and she mentors female students in Old Dominion University’s Strome College of Business, where she chairs the Executive Advisory Council. She also serves on the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of South Hampton Roads, which comprises nearly 900 Hampton Roads women working to improve the quality of life for women and their families.

Community involvement was expected in Butler’s family. “My father had a saying: ‘Life is not fair, but it’s your responsibility to try to make it better,’ she recalled. “My mother lived by Luke 12:48: ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.’”

Before moving to Norfolk from Atlanta eight years ago, Butler often took her two daughters to help serve Saturday morning breakfast at a local homeless shelter. In Norfolk, her son often accompanied her to sort food at a local food bank. “That was such an eye opener to them,” Butler said, adding that her children continue to volunteer as adults.

A conversation with then-CEO Wick Moorman shortly after moving to Norfolk set the stage for her involvement in Hampton Roads. Citing Norfolk Southern’s responsibility to serve the community it calls home, Moorman asked her to join the boards of directors of at least two nonprofit organizations.

“That was welcome news to me that Norfolk Southern supported and encouraged and even demanded volunteerism in the community,” she said. “We gain so much by being part of our communities, and Hampton Roads has been so welcoming to me personally that I can’t imagine doing anything else but continuing to contribute time and talent and treasure.”