Macon Electric helps their members, community in more ways than one
It’s a chilly Monday morning in Clarence. Lineworkers from Macon Electric Cooperative stay warm in their heavy Carhartt gear as they exit their digger-derrick truck. These employees aren’t hanging electric lines or working on transformers however, they’re lifting up their community in the way only a cooperative can do.
The employees are teaming up with their counterparts at Chariton Valley — a telecommunications co-op — in one of the most unique cooperative partnerships in the state. The two co-ops partnered in 2017 to launch the Co-ops In Action program, which improves the shared communities in which they serve. The program offers manpower to complete projects which otherwise might not be possible and is a complement to Macon Electric’s youth, safety and economic development programs.
The Co-ops In Action program sends employees from both cooperatives into the public quarterly to complete projects. Macon Electric Manager of Marketing and Communications Rebeccca Miller helps oversee the program.
“Co-ops In Action was born out of both co-ops wanting to do more in the community and acknowledging between the two of us we have the manpower, knowledge and resources to complete these projects that maybe other groups or individual members might not,” she says.
The projects the cooperatives take on vary. They’ve painted and cleaned streetlights and buildings in Ethel, stained a deck at a nursing home, built a backstop for a local ballfield, planted flowers throughout downtowns and more. Today, they’re building a chain-link fence outside of the former elementary school in Clarence.
“A member saw a need in Clarence for a daycare, so they’re renting part of the old school to start that,” says Rebecca. “Even though there’s a park right here, they need to have a fenced outdoor area for the kids to play.”
Co-ops In Action takes applications for projects. Then a small selection committee reviews and determines which ones fit the bill. “We have to be sure to pick projects that can be completed in a day or two and don’t cause any safety concerns for our workers,” Rebecca says. “Once we select a project, we pick a date and gather volunteers.”
All the materials for the projects are provided by the requesting group. Co-ops In Action just provides the know-how and manpower to complete the project.
“The whole reason for cooperatives was to take care of a need that no one was going to do,” says Macon Electric CEO/General Manager Tim Korman. “When we started it was because other utilities wouldn’t stretch their lines out in the rural areas because it wasn’t going to pay off. From the conception, it was to help those who needed it.”
Rebecca says the project goes beyond a kind deed. “From an economic development standpoint, it’s awesome because we’re bettering the lives of our members and improving our community,” she says. “Hopefully more people will in turn want to move here and have businesses here.”
While Co-ops In Action shows off the seventh cooperative principle — Concern for Community — the fifth principle — Education, Training and Information — can be found in Macon Electric’s school program.
The co-op offers the program — intended for grades 3 to 5 — to all the schools in their service area. The one-hour presentation teaches the students more about electricity and how to stay safe around it.
“The thing I love most about the program is Safety Manager Dan Ulhorn starts the program by asking the students: ‘What’s your most important safety tool around electricity?’ ” Rebecca says. “They all yell out something tangible that might help them and he tells them it’s their brain. It opens their eyes to how important it is.”
The interactive program includes a tabletop demonstration with miniature power lines and other safety topics. A lineworker joins the demonstration as well and explains all the different equipment they use and a volunteer is selected to try it on. They go over what to do if a power line falls on their bus or a car they’re in with their family.
Whether it’s painting the side of a building in their service area, teaching students to be safe, rounding up dollars to be given away to those in need or sending students to Washington, D.C. for the Missouri Youth Tour, Macon Electric makes it a point to be front and center.
“It’s so important that we show people we’re here for the members,” Tim says. “We’re going to be here a long time and we’re not just supplying electricity. We’re here for the community and we’re always going to be here in terms of support.”
For more information on Co-ops In Action visit www.maconelectric.com/coops-in-action or call the co-op at 660-385-3157.