How much do co-ops care? Let’s do the numbers.

By Michael E.C. Gery

Michael-Gery-2012As a local business owned by its members, your electric cooperative has an interest in the progress of your community and its economy. At the moment, electric cooperatives across the state are engaged in making economic development loans, and proposing others, that amount to more than $370 million. These are for community projects that include expanding local industries, extending sewer lines, installing energy-efficient systems at schools, assisting medical and fire department facilities, and converting landfill gas into electricity. (Follow Renee Gannon's "Co-ops & Community Jobs" series, this month on page 9.)

During the past 20 years, the co-op's Bright Ideas program has issued more than $9 million to local teachers to bring innovative classroom projects to more than 1.6 million students. Co-ops also award scholarships to students of all ages determined to improve their education.

And there are other examples of how North Carolina's co-ops touch their communities. Here is a set of numbers illustrating what they did, just during the last few months of 2013.

$1,000,000 A co-op's Operation RoundUp program exceeded $1 million in donations to community organizations. Operation RoundUp allows consumer-members to round up their monthly electric bill to the next dollar, with the extra pennies going to a non-profit fund administered by a board of local people. In December, this co-op's fund gave $39,176 in grants to organizations such as the Salvation Army, a volunteer fire department, and Open Door Ministries.

42 A co-op's Toys for Tots program gave 42 bicycles to children in three counties.

$10,000 A co-op's employee donations to the local United Way.

627 Employees collected 627 pounds of food and beverages for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's BackPack Buddies program.

150 The number of local children who benefitted from boxes of food and wrapped gifts handed out in a Christmas Care program.

800 The size of the crowd attending the tree lighting at town hall, where the co-op placed not only the tree but also its lights.

19 The number of families and organizations who benefited from a co-op's Operation RoundUp donations in the final quarter of 2013.

$3,000 A co-op's donation to the Ministers Council for Education to help students considered "unaccompanied" or "homeless."

3 A co-op delivered three truckloads of donated toys to a local church for sorting and distributing to local families.

$19,000 An Operation RoundUp distribution that benefited Friend to Friend, a Boys & Girls Club, and a park association.

43 The number of shoeboxes employees filled with necessities for children in its Operation Christmas Child program.

5 The number of large boxes a co-op's office had filled as a drop-off location for the annual Toys for Tots drive. Add to that $200 in cash donations.

110 The number of fleece blankets a co-op purchased after its annual charity drive among members and employees. Add to that 115 toys and 1,500 pounds of food.

17 The average number of families one co-op helps per month through its Operation RoundUp program. They include elderly members who depend on home medical equipment, flood victims, cancer patients, veterans and the working poor.

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