Giving Back to the Communities We Serve
NC’s electric co-ops are as local and community centered as they comeBy Morris McClelion
North Carolina's electric cooperatives are as local and community centered as they come. Founded as a way to bring electricity to unserved communities, our state’s electric co-ops have been a cornerstone of community development since their creation. Being a member of an electric cooperative is more than just knowing there are people out there to bring you safe, reliable and affordable electric service. Living on co-op lines is an investment in your community and its members.
Since we are not-for-profit and owned by the members we serve, electric cooperatives have a strong commitment to our local communities. It is even one of our seven guiding principles. We take that commitment very seriously, seeking ways to invest resources directly back into our communities.
One resource electric co-ops across the state utilize is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant (REDLG) program, which provides rural utilities with grants and zero-interest loans to directly fund local projects that create and retain employment in the communities they serve. North Carolina’s electric cooperatives lead the nation in investments through the REDLG program. In the past five years alone, electric co-ops have tapped the funding source to channel more than $50 million to projects across the state, supporting the creation of more than 2,500 jobs.
At Central Electric, we have provided REDLG funding for two primary economic development vehicles: water improvements for the town of Pittsboro and expansion at the Raleigh Executive Jetport in Lee County. We also are currently in the process of obtaining funds for a third REDLG loan to help a local fire station purchase a new engine.
Electric co-ops also use a variety of volunteer programs to channel resources to those members in need. Through Central Electric’s Operation Round Up® program, for example, our members have generously invested more than $400,000 back into the community by simply “rounding up” their electric bill to the next dollar each month. Organizations including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, The Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity have received funding to help provide opportunities for individuals and projects throughout our community that otherwise may have not been possible.
We also heavily invest in the development of our youth through scholarships and initiatives such as the Bright Ideas grant program, which is powered by each of North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives to support teachers and students across our great state. Since the program’s inception in 1994, electric co-ops have collectively awarded more than $10.9 million in grants to fund innovative classroom projects. This year, Central Electric awarded $15,000 in Bright Ideas grants to local teachers. The funds will positively impact more than 3,800 students in our community.
These types of programs are what truly define the essence of electric cooperatives.
So the next time you think about your co-op membership, remember, you are investing in your community. You are helping to create jobs through economic development opportunities, provide scholarships to well‑deserving students, and empower teachers to provide educational opportunities for youth.
Take pride in the importance of your co-op membership.
About the AuthorMorris McClelion is chief executive officer and general manager at Central Electric Membership Corporation in Sanford.
Cooperatives give back to communities