Blue Ridge Electric Supports Community Development Projects - Carolina Country

Blue Ridge Electric Supports Community Development Projects

Blue Ridge Electric Supports Community Development Projects

Blue Ridge Electric director of Innovative Energy Solutions Alan Merck (L) with Lambeth 

In the northwest corner of the state, construction crews are hard at work on two projects 30 miles and a county line apart from each other. One, at Ashe Memorial Hospital in Jefferson, will renovate and expand emergency room facilities. The other, at Alleghany County public library in Sparta, will create space for job and computer skills training, and employment search services. As different as these two projects are, they are alike in one important way: Both are supported by funding from Blue Ridge Electric.

“Improving the quality of life and economic development in our local communities is one way cooperatives like Blue Ridge Electric benefit our members,” Blue Ridge Electric CEO Doug Johnson said.

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Merck (L) at the public library site with Blue Ridge Business Development Center manager Dale Caveny

The Lenoir-based electric cooperative made loans in support of the projects — $360,000 to the hospital and $306,525 to the library — through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program. Blue Ridge Electric was recently approved to receive a total of $850,000 through the grant program, the remainder of which will be used to help the Gamewell Fire Department purchase a pumper truck in Lenoir.

Ashe Memorial Hospital has a long history serving the area, having operated as a non-profit community hospital since 1941. The update to its emergency department is the first since 1991. 

“We value the community partnership we share with Blue Ridge Electric and are very appreciative of their continued support,” said Ashe Memorial Hospital CEO Laura Lambeth. “Blue Ridge Electric’s generous loan will go toward the renovation of our Emergency Department. Through the reconfiguration of existing space, we will create seven treatment rooms and five fast track rooms as well as a larger nurses’ station. We are committed to providing the highest quality medical care, and the renovation will enhance the overall patient experience.”

Up the road in Sparta, the public library has been in operation in some form since 1935, serving the community from its current Main Street location since 1980. But residents’ needs have outgrown the relatively small red-brick building, sparking an effort to relocate the library to the nearby Blue Ridge Business Development Center.

The Board of County Commissioners declared 2016 as the “Year of the Library” to generate awareness of and support for the new facility.

The relocation makes sense for a number of reasons. Having additional space will allow the library to provide increased access to technology resources and enhanced employment search services. And the new location puts the library adjacent to a community college satellite campus and the Alleghany County Workforce Center, creating opportunities for the three organizations to collaborate.

“We believe the use of public-private partnerships with the financial support of the USDA really helps our local economies,” Johnson said. “Blue Ridge Electric is proud to be a part of this effort to make life better by helping create additional jobs and improve access to quality of life services such as health care and education.”

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