Cooperatives and Veterans: A Winning Combination - Carolina Country

Cooperatives and Veterans: A Winning Combination

The values of co-ops align closely with those who serve in the military

By Chris Spears

Chris SpearsIn November, our country recognizes the contributions of America’s veteran population for their honorable service to the preservation of peace and the defense of our freedom. However, the electric cooperatives do not just set aside a single day to honor these heroes — instead we salute military active duty and veterans daily.

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have called North Carolina home while stationed at Fort Bragg, Pope Army Airfield, Camp Mackall, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Camp Gilbert H. Johnson, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point or Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. These military families are involved in all aspects of our communities. The veteran population has a long history of positively influencing our communities.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are 22 million veterans nationwide and more than 736,000 of them call North Carolina home. Almost 10 percent of North Carolina’s population are veterans, according to the UNC Carolina Population Center.

Roughly 200,000 veterans transition out of the military every year. These citizens possess exceptional skills, which they have obtained through their military service. Respect for procedures, concern for community and strong organizational skills are values of both the military and electric cooperatives.

In order to leverage the attributes veterans bring to the workforce and the need to recruit strong leaders, the nation’s electric cooperatives launched the Serve Our Co-ops, Serve Our Country program. Electric cooperatives across 47 states are providing meaningful job opportunities to veterans and their spouses in a coordinated effort. This coalition helps cooperatives exchange best practices for recruiting veterans. South River EMC had representation by one of our own veterans on the Serve Our Co-ops, Serve Our Country program development committee. Full information about this program is available at servevets.coop.

Locally, South River EMC has developed a program called Boots to Buckets, designed to help veterans prepare for a career as an electric lineman. The program offers a scholarship to one military veteran to attend the Electric Lineman’s Academy at Nash Community College. The recipient gains the experience and training necessary to begin a career as a lineman.

Electric cooperatives are facing a shortage of linemen as baby boomers continue to retire from the workforce. The values of cooperatives align closely with those who serve in the military. Boots to Buckets is one way South River EMC demonstrates appreciation for sacrifices made by those who served in the U.S. armed forces and the families who support them.

As we approach Thanksgiving, please remember to give thanks for our active duty personnel and those who have served in the military. Let us also work together to help our veterans find employment opportunities to continue to serve the communities where they live — we owe them a debt of gratitude.

About the Author

Chris Spears is executive vice president and CEO at South River EMC in Dunn.

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