OEC PARTNERS WITH NONPROFIT AGENCIES FOR DAY OF CARING
Thirty-six OEC employees teamed up with The Salvation Army and Cleveland County Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) during United Way of Norman's (UWN) Day of Caring (DOC). The annual service event brought together over 600 volunteers from businesses in Cleveland County. Over 40 nonprofit agencies in Norman, Moore, Little Axe and Noble benefitted from DOC, which kicked off UWN's annual fundraising campaign.
"Out of all the volunteer projects I've been involved with before, this is the most involved," Member Service Associate Maegan Bohon told the Norman Transcript. "It's not just little tasks. Here, you feel like you're really making a difference."
OEC's two volunteer groups spent time moving large furniture and equipment, changing light fixtures, painting, repairing a handicap accessible ramp and more. It was a busy day filled with rewarding work for deserving organizations.
"It gives these people a sense of safety," said OEC Journeyman Power Lineman Chris Slaughter of his task of adding outdoor lighting at the Salvation Army facility. "As a whole, the Day of Caring really shows that people have pride in this community."
OEC EMPLOYEES AT DAY OF CARING
OEC LINEMAN DEREC JANAWAY HELPS BRING ELECTRICITY TO RURAL VILLAGES IN BOLIVIA
OEC is pleased to announce the completion of a volunteer electrification project that took place in August 2016 in the Amazonian area of Bolivia. The project, named “Energy Trails,” is a joint partnership between the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives and the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. One of OEC’s linemen, Derec Janaway, served as one of the project volunteers. Bringing electric service for the first time to two remote villages, the electrification project was possible through the coordination of NRECA International Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
On August 1, 2016, eight co-op volunteers left Oklahoma City and headed to Riberalta, Bolivia –their final destination. Volunteers worked for the next 15 days alongside Missouri co-op linemen and local linemen from Cooperativa Electrica Riberalta. The project was comprised of 280 poles in an area spanning 10 miles and brought electric service to the villages of Dos de Junio and El Torito in the outskirts of the city of Riberalta. As a result, 361 families now enjoy electricity for the first time.
“OEC is proud to be a part of this life-changing project. Rural electric cooperatives are known for bringing power to areas that would not otherwise enjoy electricity,” said Patrick Grace, OEC CEO. “It’s rewarding to know we made a difference in the lives of families who are striving for a better quality of life.”
Other volunteers serving on the project were: Jeremy Baker (Cookson Hills Electric Cooperative, Stigler-Okla.), Stacy Bourne (East Central Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Okmulgee-Okla.), Jason Brown (Rural Electric Cooperative, Lindsay-Okla.), Larry Cisneros (Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Vinita-Okla.), Damon Lester (Indian Electric Cooperative, Cleveland-Okla.), Heath Martin (Northfork Electric Cooperative, Sayre-Okla.) and team leader Wade Hurst (Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, Oklahoma City-Okla.).
“The Energy Trails project was a rewarding opportunity to bring power to those in need of electricity, just like linemen did back when cooperatives were first started." — Derec Janaway
The OAEC International Committee, comprised of trustees from the statewide association board, received an overwhelming response from volunteer linemen interested in this project. The Committee is considering future international electrification projects.
Photos from Bolivia
OEC celebrates National Co-op Month
Being part of a cooperative means being part of something special. OEC is celebrating National Cooperative Month in October, along with 40,000 other cooperative businesses serving more than 120 million people nationwide.
“Cooperatives Build” is the theme of this year’s National Cooperative Month. “This year’s theme is excellent, because there are so many ways that cooperatives help to build a stronger rural America,” said CEO Patrick Grace.
Consider these ways that co-ops build:
Cooperatives Build Trust
All co-ops strive to adhere to seven key cooperative principles, which combine to help build trust between the co-op, its members and the community. For example, the second principle, Democratic Member Control, gives members a voice in the cooperative’s policies and decisions. Through the fifth principle, Education, Training and Information, we enable members to contribute to the development of our cooperative.
Cooperatives Build Community
The seventh cooperative principle is Concern for Community. Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through employee involvement in local organizations, through charitable contributions to community efforts and through support for schools. OEC’s recent revitalization of its youth outreach program — OEC L.E.A.R.N.: Leading, Educating, Advancing and Rewarding the Next generation — proves we are committed to serving our communities to the best of our abilities.
Cooperatives Build Jobs
Cooperatives generate jobs in their communities, keep profits local and pay local taxes to help support community services. Cooperatives often take part in community improvement programs, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to benefit from the cooperative experience.
Cooperatives Build a Better World
Through all of the above ways, cooperatives build a better world.
The value of the RUS
By Dan Riedinger
As a member of OEC, you know how essential reliable and affordable electric service is to our everyday lives. It makes almost everything we do easier, even though we may take it for granted much of the time. But it might surprise you to know that the program that first set rural America on the path toward electrification is still working with co-ops to power communities all across the country today. The Electric Loan Program is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), which has been helping electric co-ops light up rural America for the past eight decades.
In its early days, the Electric Loan Program was the source of financial support to install utility poles and string power lines. Like co-ops themselves, it has changed with the times and now helps co-ops innovate by supporting smart grid and other technologies to ensure co-op members receive the best possible service.
In commemorating the 80th anniversary of the RUS, formerly known as the Rural Electrification Administration, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack earlier this year announced that he would commit more than $200 million from the RUS Electric Loan Program to build and upgrade rural electricity infrastructure in several states. “Today’s investments continue a part of USDA’s mission that has brought reliable, safe and affordable electric power to America’s farms, ranches and rural communities, improved the quality of life for rural residents, increased farm productivity and made America the breadbasket to the world,” Vilsack said.
The benefits of the loan program flow both ways: In fiscal year 2017 alone, loan repayments will help reduce the federal deficit by more than $300 million. So, it’s a win-win program—good for you and your co-op, and for U.S. taxpayers.
Also important to electric co-ops is the RUS Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program, which helps co-ops invest in local community and economic development activities. Last year, REDLG loaned cooperatives $32.5 million for projects that created 288 jobs and retained another 436, and awarded $7.1 million in grants. This program funds all kinds of efforts that allow co-ops to invest in the communities they serve. One REDLG loan this year was used to help a small town’s fire department replace an aging and unreliable fire engine with a new, dependable truck. And similar to the Electric Loan Program, the REDLG benefits flow well beyond individual co-ops; they help boost economic growth and create jobs at no cost to the federal government.
Co-ops’ relationship with the RUS can best be described as a mutually beneficial, public-private partnership that continues to withstand the test of time. It’s so important, in fact, that the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), our national service organization, makes government funding of the RUS a top priority every year. At NRECA’s urging, 217 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 37 members of the Senate have expressed written support for funding the RUS Electric Loan Program at $5.5 billion in fiscal year 2017. They understand that what’s good for their co-ops is good for their communities and country. As Secretary Vilsack said, “Continuing to invest in rural electric infrastructure will help keep our economy strong.”
Dan Riedinger writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.