Rural Missouri - February 2013 - (Page 28)
by Jim McCarty
n most days, the work of
delivering power to electric
cooperatives in central Missouri is routine for employees of Central Electric Power Cooperative. It isn’t easy work, however.
The power cooperative’s linemen
work as high as 120 feet above the
ground, just inches away from transmission lines that carry as much as
345,000 volts. Engineers must constantly monitor the ﬂow of current
to member systems. Computer programmers crunch data to keep track
of where the power is going. Others
work to ensure everyone stays safe.
But on a few days, the cooperative’s
ofﬁce in Jefferson City echoes with
the sound of little voices as students
from the Special Learning Center
stop by. Their visit comes through an
unusual partnership between employees of the power cooperative and the
students and teachers at the school for
children with developmental delays
During the past 10 years, Central
Power’s employees have raised more
than $42,000 to help the school
expand the abilities of its students.
The effort began in a small way,
says Don Shaw, the cooperative’s manager. “It really was a grassroots thing.
There are a lot of people here who are
aware of the good work the Special
Learning Center does and were certainly willing to put time and money
into supporting them.”
The relationship began when Tami
Kirchner, one of the teachers at the
school, asked her cousin, Connie Harrison, an engineering aid at the co-op,
about the possibility of bringing her
students on a ﬁeld trip to the co-op.
“She wanted to bring her class out
to see the big trucks,” Connie recalls.
“That’s what got it started, because
the guys just fell in love with the
kids. They suggested we raise money
for them. So we did that, and it’s just
grown from there.”
Soon the cooperative began hosting an auction timed just before
Christmas. Employees donated items
for the auction, then bought them
back during a festive evening.
“One year, we were going to skip it
because the economy was bad and we
hated to hit people up for donations,”
Connie says. “Then we decided at the
last minute to go ahead. And we had
more items that year than we have
ever had. It’s amazing.”
Auctions have included the
meat from a whole hog, canned
produce, jars of jam, homemade wine and handcrafted artwork. For
several years, some
of the men chipped
in to buy a gun that
was auctioned. Later,
the co-op’s suppliers
found out about
Central Electric Power Cooperative employee Mark Newbold visits with Special Learning Center students Kyle McCarty and Alaina
Adams during a visit to the cooperative. Central employees enjoy the visits as much as the school’s special-needs kids.
Central Power employees support some special kids
the fundraiser and began donating
big-ticket items. Member co-ops and
power supplier Associated Electric
Cooperative also got into the effort.
A typical year sees the power cooperative donate $4,000 to $5,000 to the
school. In 2012, the auction raised
$4,628. A grant from CoBank, which
loans money to the cooperative, added an additional $1,000.
“We use the money here to help
us with the special equipment and
teaching materials and things that we
need,” says Debbie Hamil, executive
director of the Special Learning Center. “We don’t have a lot in our budget. When there is something special
we need, we look for something like
this. This has been wonderful.”
She says early donations from Central Power were used to complete
the school’s playground,
which is designed to be
used by kids with disabilities.
shows off a
hard hat given to him by
photo courtesy of the Special Learning Center
“We get a little angry when we look
out cards they had made. Linemen
in these specialized catalogs for the
pulled out their cell phones to record
things we need for our kids,” she says.
videos of the kids. Other employees
“Whenever it’s made for kids with distreated them to snacks, and Santa was
abilities, it seems a higher price goes
on hand to give out yellow hard hats
with the Central Power logo.
The school works
On other visits, employees took
with kids with a wide
them for rides on their all-terrain
variety of needs, ranging
vehicles. They also offered
from those who need help
bucket truck rides.
with speech to those with
“It’s a pretty special deal,”
more severe problems such
Randy says of the visits. “I
as Down syndrome, cerebral
think it’s a good cause.
palsy or autism. Kids can
There’s a lot of people
come to the center until they
from Central that are
reach age 7.
behind it. It’s something
The school has a staff of therapists
we would like to see go on. I’ll tell
who work to increase the children’s
you what, they mean a lot to us.”
abilities. It also hosts a preschool and
The Special Learning Center’s
child care program called Crayon Kids
director says she is amazed at the supthat is especially designed to meet the
port from the co-op. “From day one,
needs of area children.
it’s just become this union with us.
“They just kind of capture a place
We love them and they love our kids.
in your heart,” Central’s Connie says
It’s just been wonderful. I have always
of the Special Learning Center kids.
said, I want someone in my family to
“It seems like every time they visit, we
work there. They are the nicest people
just get more excited to try to help in
I’ve ever met.”
any way we can.”
The generosity of his employees is
Lead lineman Randy Prenger
no surprise to Don Shaw, who points
agrees. “You get to look at the kids’
out that “Commitment to Commufaces and see how much they are
nity” is one of the basic tenets under
enjoying it. If you think you are havwhich co-ops operate. “I’ve told a lot
ing a bad day and you don’t think life
of people for a lot of years, the people
is going good for you, all of a sudden
who work for co-ops are really good
these kids show up and you take a
folks. They are just solid, hard-workgood look at them. These kids have
ing, Christian, family people. You get
got it pretty rough. You think, life
this sort of thing from those kinds of
isn’t so bad for me after all.”
people. That’s just how they are.”
In December 2012, kids from the
Special Learning Center came to the
You can learn more about the Special
cooperative to return the favor by
Learning Center at 573-634-3070 or
singing Christmas carols and handing
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2013
Rural Missouri - February 2013
Table of Contents
A lasting tribute
Preparing for the worst
Out of the Way Eats
Our history with Missouri’s future leaders
Hearth and Home
The cowboy way of life
Rural Missouri - February 2013
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