Rural Missouri - July 2021 - 9

Lighting up their community
Consolidated Electric delivers more than electricity
by Paul Newton | pnewton@ruralmissouri.coop
M
issouri's electric cooperatives are intertwined
with the communities they serve. From the early
days of banding members together to form a
co-op and turning the lights on for the fi rst time
to sending the best and brightest youth to Washington
D.C. today, cooperative leaders and employees knew their
organization was about more than just electricity.
That's certainly the case at Mexico-based Consolidated
Electric Cooperative where the co-op's board and
employees have a rich history of giving back to their eightcounty
service territory through donations of their time,
talent and treasure.
" We all live within the communities our co-op serves, "
says Melanie Oetting, manager of administrative services.
" Whether it's through our job, our children's activities, our
churches and other organizations, we know it's important
for us to be a constant and visible part of the community. "
That support comes in all shapes and sizes. However
one annual tradition might be the most visible. It had
become a tradition in Mexico for there to be a 50-foot
pole placed outside the A.P. Green Firebrick complex and
strung with lights during the holiday season. When the
facility shuttered, some were worried that this yearly ritual
would end as well.
Highlighting the cooperative principle Cooperation
Among Cooperatives, Consolidated responded when
United Credit Union asked to help carry on
the tradition. Crews from Consolidated and its
transmission co-op, Jefferson City-based Central
Power, were able to use their equipment to remove
the pole and move it to the credit union.
" Every year, our guys will take equipment over
and spend a morning helping string the lights for the
community to enjoy, " Melanie says. " They go back in
early January to take it down. "
The cooperative's volunteer work doesn't end
when the holidays are over. They've donated materials
to install lights at ballfi elds in Mexico, Farber, Laddonia
and Middletown. Lineworkers often gather on their days
off to set poles and the lights. " A lot of small towns or
organizations struggle, " says Lynn Thompson, general
manager of Consolidated Electric. " This is an easy way for
us to help defray some of those costs for them. "
Other projects along those lines include employees
replacing holiday lights and hanging fl ags in downtown
Mexico prior to community festivals or events.
Consolidated has a long history of helping nonprofi ts
with fi nancial donations. They were able to increase and
formalize those donations with the recent addition of
Mexico
Consolidated Cares Trust. When Lynn joined the co-op
three years ago, he came with previous experience with
a cooperative-backed trust. " We were looking at ways we
could increase both our involvement in the community
and how much we could donate, " he says.
The trust is funded by Consolidated with additional
matching funds made possible from the Sharing Success
charitable giving program through CoBank, a Denverbased
cooperative bank serving rural industries across
the country. A board of trustees reviews applications
and distributes funds to organizations such as veteran's
organizations, 4-H foundations and various community
and school-related events. This year, Consolidated Cares
awarded its fi rst round of $1,000 scholarships to eight
local graduating seniors. In early 2020, they helped a
Paris nursing home upgrade their televisions with new,
larger screens to accommodate the residents' needs as the
COVID-19 pandemic started to take hold.
With events returning, Consolidated employees will
continue their history of participating in local festivals and
parades. They'll have a new showpiece as well. Following
the passing of former General Manager Nelson Willingham,
his family donated money for the cooperative to start a
project in his name. The money was used to restore a
1937 Chevy pickup to the condition it would have been
when the co-op was formed. The truck was fi nished just as
events started to be cancelled this past year, so it will be a
new attraction to show off.
Education, Training and Information is another
cooperative principle Consolidated uses to invest
in the community. With the help of Central Power,
they give presentations to students in the area
about electrical safety, energy effi ciency, power
supply and more. " Schools often ask us
for help with safety and energy effi ciency
programs. Our employees enjoy taking a
bucket truck and equipment for the kids to
see as they talk to them about how to stay
safe around electricity, " says Melanie.
Consolidated's initiatives all combine to ensure they're a
vibrant part of the area in which they serve, providing much
more than just wires and poles to their 8,100 meters.
" Providing electricity is a basic need, but serving
members in other ways is so important to us, " says Lynn.
" Part of that is getting out in the community and providing
services that might not be readily available or come at
great expense. It's something we can directly do to benefi t
our communities. We're proud of that. "
For more information on Consolidated Cares Trust and
their other programs, visit www.consolidatedelectric.com.
JULY 2021 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP 9
http://www.consolidatedelectric.com http://www.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Rural Missouri - July 2021

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