Stop and listen.

Do some harmless eavesdropping as you’re walking the aisles of your local grocery store, sitting in Truist Park watching a Braves game or standing in line to pay your Walton Gas bill. What you hear says a lot about this state we call home.

Georgia is incredibly diverse. State history tells us immigrants were calling this region home long before the United States became a country, and many continue arriving today. As a result, even though English is the state’s official language, Georgians speak many languages.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports 14% of Georgia residents age 5 and older speak a language other than English at home. Since the state has a population of around 10.9 million, that calculates out to around 1.5 million people.

Georgians speak nearly 150 different languages.

Georgians speak nearly 150 different languages. Thousands speak Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, French, German and Hindi. Georgia residents also communicate in lesser-known dialects such as West African Yoruba, Twi and Igo, as well as Gujarati, which originates in India.

Not surprisingly, Spanish is the most common language other than English spoken in Georgia homes. About 8% of the state’s population is fluent in Spanish.

Among them is Patricia Greenway, a commercial service account representative at Walton Gas. She’s one of several bi-lingual employees at our company who can assist commercial and residential customers with their natural gas needs.

September is National Hispanic Heritage Month

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re spotlighting Patricia — Trish to her friends — and her family’s story.

Meet Trish

As the daughter of Salvadoran refugees, Trish Greenway grew up understanding both the opportunities and struggles for those who immigrate to the U.S. to find their futures. It’s a background that has served her well in 16 years of work with Walton Gas and parent company Walton EMC.

“Georgia is a thriving state with so much diversity; people are moving here from all over the world to live and work,” she said. “At Walton Gas, we welcome all — no matter where you’re from.”

“At Walton Gas, we welcome all — no matter where you’re from.”

Trish speaks fluent English and Spanish. It’s an in-demand skill at the company’s Snellville office where she worked in customer service prior to moving to a sales position.

“There were many days when I had a long line of people who would purposely wait to transact business with a Spanish-speaking teller,” she said. Gwinnett County, where her office is located, has one of the state’s highest Hispanic populations. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that one in 10 Georgians is Hispanic.

Trish’s bi-lingual skills are derived from growing up in a Spanish-speaking home while learning English in school. Her parents, Jose and Eva Acosta, came to the U.S. as refugees before she was born.

“My mom and dad were granted asylum to escape the war in El Salvador in the 1980s,” she said. “They came here with nothing, but my father was entrepreneurial and started his own janitorial and landscaping businesses. My mother cleaned houses.”

The Acostas’ work ethic was passed on to their four children. Trish recalls using her English skills to help Jose prepare professional business proposals and marketing materials that helped the family company grow and prosper. The family still operates a commercial and residential landscaping company in Houston, Texas.

More than words

Speaking customers’ language is about more than dialect and sound at Walton Gas, Trish reminds. It’s also about understanding the specific needs of consumers and helping them find a natural gas plan that is best suited to their energy goals.

Shortly after graduating from high school in Texas, Trish relocated to Georgia where one of her brothers was already living and working. She quickly found work as a translator, bridging the gap between English-speaking business owners and Spanish-speaking employees.

That experience later landed her a position at Walton EMC, a consumer-owned electric utility that puts people before profits. Known as the “Walton Way,” this customer service approach is also the priority at Walton Gas, a subsidiary of the electric cooperative.

“If you do business with us at Walton Gas, you are family.”

“If you do business with us at Walton Gas, you are family. It’s how we treat everyone,” she said. “We’re going to always go the extra mile to help you succeed.”

Her own family’s story is inspiring Trish to help others achieve their dreams. She recently joined the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where she plans to become an active member.

“I think my knowledge and willingness to be a hands-on consultant can help Hispanic entrepreneurs and business owners — people just like my dad — as they establish companies that provide new jobs for more Georgians.”