Rural Missouri - February 2013 - (Page 28)

O 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 and disabilities. 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. Co-ops Care 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. Equipment the school needs does not come cheap, Debbie adds. Emery Arnold shows off a hard hat given to him by employees of Central Power. photo courtesy of the Special Learning Center 28 “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 it.” 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 Jefferson vehicles. They also offered from those who need help City 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 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

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
Whittling wildlife
Out of the Way Eats
Our history with Missouri’s future leaders
Hearth and Home
The cowboy way of life
Co-ops care
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - February 2013