Georgia Magazine - August 2020 - 15

SHORTTakes

W

KATHRYN GREEN

hen schools statewide closed and shifted to distance learning online,
students in rural areas faced the hurdle of lack of connectivity or
unaffordable internet access.
"I saw an article where Jackson [Electric Membership Corp. in Jefferson] funded
grants for some of their school systems for SmartBus Wi-Fi systems that would act as
mobile hot spots to help students in underserved areas," said Erin Cook, director of
marketing and member services at Southern Rivers Energy in Barnesville. "The way
it was explained to me is that once the equipment is installed in a bus, it works with
multiple carriers serving an area to provide Wi-Fi, and if you're parked within so many
feet of the bus, you can access it.
"As a parent working from home and home-schooling two children with poor
internet service, I felt like this could be a huge benefit for our communities if we could
make it work."
Meriwether County is likely
the most underserved area in
Southern Rivers' territory for internet
and cellphone service. Meriwether
County School Superintendent Al
Griffin was the first to submit an
application for a grant through the
co-op's Operation Round Up program,
in which members opt to round their
monthly bills to the nearest dollar and
the difference is put into a fund to
support community causes.
"Meriwether County students
reside in a very poor, rural county.
Internet connectivity is an issue with
From left, Erin Cook of Southern Rivers
Energy presents an oversized check to Andrea
the majority of students due to either
Scandrett, director of curriculum, instruction
poor service or lack of service due
and professional learning at Lamar County
to socioeconomics. The COVID-19
Schools. The donation was used to provide
pandemic has negatively impacted the
mobile Wi-Fi to students in underserved areas.
students, exponentially," Griffin said.
"Meriwether County School System
needs to equip as many buses as feasible with Wi-Fi to provide the essential internet
needs for students to enhance learning."
The Southern Rivers Energy [SRE] Trust awarded a $5,000 Operation Round Up
grant to Meriwether County schools to equip five buses with SmartBus Wi-Fi systems.
The school system created a schedule and communicated with parents when and
where they can access the SmartBuses.
Several other school systems applied soon after, including Lamar, Monroe and
Crawford counties.
"Lamar County Schools is in desperate need of internet access to implement
digital learning and provide equity for all of our students," said Andrea Scandrett,
director of curriculum, instruction and professional learning at Lamar County Schools.
"Thanks to a $4,000 grant from the SRE Trust, we can provide four Wi-Fi buses to
ensure that all students have access to digital learning opportunities and online
resources."
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Southern Rivers Energy Trust has
awarded grants totaling $15,690 to equip 16 buses with SmartBus Wi-Fi systems.

Promoting agriculture: Bill Verner,
executive vice president at Tucker-based
Georgia Electric
Membership Corp.
(EMC), was elected
to a three-year term
on the Georgia
Foundation for Agriculture (GFA) board
of directors. Verner,
who was raised on
a family farm near
Rutledge, will help the GFA in its mission
to prepare the next generation of
Georgia farmers and agricultural
leaders for success.

RICHARD LUBRANT

Southern Rivers Energy brings
mobile Wi-Fi to students

Gas money: Coweta-Fayette EMC in
Palmetto donated Operation Round Up
funds to Coweta CASA (Court-Appointed
Special Advocates) to help with gas costs
for the organization's volunteers. CASA
volunteers assist children in the foster
care system. In Operation Round Up,
members round their monthly bills to the
nearest dollar, with the remainder going
into a fund for charitable causes in the
community.
Promoting health: The Canoochee EMC
Foundation in Reidsville distributed
$5,000 in donations to community health
care efforts. The Bryan County Emergency
Management Agency received $2,500
to assist in its COVID-19 response, and
the Liberty Regional Medical Center in
Hinesville received $2,500 toward muchneeded thermometers.
Food bank deposits: GreyStone Power
Corp. in Douglasville donated $100,000 to
be spread among several food banks in its
service area.
Emergency relief: The Jefferson-based
Jackson EMC Foundation board of directors awarded $37,650 in emergency
grants to nonprofits responding to
COVID-19 during its May meeting. These
funds supported efforts such as emergency child care for frontline employees,
hunger relief for children and senior
citizens, and supplies to make approved
face shields and masks for first responders
and health care workers.

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Georgia Magazine - August 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - August 2020

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Georgia Magazine - August 2020 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - August 2020 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - August 2020 - Contents
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