We’ve reached that time of year where Christmas lights decorate the streets of our neighborhoods and people all over hustle to grab last minute gifts for friends and family.
The holidays are upon us, and for many, that means it is a time to gather with loved ones and reminisce as the year comes to an end.
Tis’ the season of faith and goodwill as we try to be a little more generous with our time, and help give back to the community that surrounds us. Yes, we all do our best during the year to be kind and generous with our friends and neighbors, but the stress and bustle of everyday life sometimes keeps us from sharing the full measure of concern for community that lives in our hearts.
For Illinois electric cooperatives, commitment to community is one of the seven core principles that guides their actions all year long.
The most powerful way electric co-ops show concern for the community is through the essential services they deliver every day. The employees and leaders of your cooperative are also members of your community and therefore have a vested interest in doing what’s best for it.
In addition to their day-to-day efforts to keep the lights on, electric co-ops support the community through routine actions, like promoting energy efficiency, helping members understand their energy use and educating the public about electrical safety.
The not-for-profit business model also helps co-ops show concern for community by keeping more money in the local economy. Rather than being returned to Wall Street investors, any margin (profit) the co-op makes is reinvested in the cooperative, used to pay down debts, saved for emergencies
or returned to members over time through capital credits.
These basic differences in the cooperative way of doing business are important, but they’re just the beginning of the story. Here are a few of the many ways electric co-ops show concern for the community and set themselves apart from investor-owned utilities.
One of the first examples of their commitment would be the Emergency Work Plan. Essentially, when a co-op has more outages than it can handle, it can request the aid of fellow cooperatives. Cooperatives throughout the state, and the nation, send men and equipment to each other in time of need. This allows power to be restored to the community as quickly as possible for optimal satisfaction. The benefits of this system are not limited to the state alone. After the damage Hurricane Sandy dealt to the states of Connecticut and New Hampshire, Illinois electric cooperatives sent crews and equipment to aid battered communities and restore power to homes and businesses as quickly and safely as possible.
In addition, it is the belief that strong communities need strong citizens to prosper and sustain themselves. Nowhere is this truer than in tightly knit rural communities. As community-based organizations, the Illinois electric cooperatives do their part to groom the next generation of leaders through the Youth Tour and Youth Day programs.
Illinois was one of the first states to start the annual Youth Tour in 1959. This week-long event takes students on a tour through Washington D.C. that teaches the values of citizenship, democracy, leadership and cooperation. About 60-75 students attend each year. Since the beginning of the program, Illinois electric cooperatives have taken over 3,000 students to Washington D.C.
Youth Day is a day-long event with the same intent in mind. Every year about 250-275 students come from all over rural Illinois to visit the state capital. Here they meet with state legislators and constitutional officers. This provides the students with a chance to speak with their local representatives and senators to gain a more in-depth perspective of government and the various positions in it.
These programs are essential to the youth of the communities they serve in instilling the importance of government’s functionality both locally and nationally.
The promotion of education is valued highly and Illinois electric cooperatives do their best to encourage it with scholarships for students seeking college degrees. There are two different types of scholarships offered by the cooperatives. The first is the Thomas H. Moore IEC Memorial Scholarship. Each year, nearly 250-275 students apply, and of those applicants, nine $2,000 scholarships are awarded.
The LaVerne and Nola McEntire Lineworkers scholarship is awarded annually. This $2,000 scholarship is awarded to one individual seeking a line worker’s education.
Annually, $20,000 in scholarships are dedicated to easing the financial tension of those sons and daughters of cooperative members wishing to advance their education. These scholarships are funded by an endowment and are continued by the proceeds gained from silent auctions and memorial donations.
Illinois electric cooperatives have been devoted to their communities since their incorporation more than 75 years ago. Their commitment began with the dedication to installing electricity in the homes of rural Illinois and has expanded exponentially since then. Their concern for the community is ever present and always demanding improvement. Whether it’s through scholarships, educational tours or preparation for potential disasters, the Illinois electric cooperatives are always developing better ways to give back to the communities they serve.