Electric cooperatives ensure foster children have memorable holiday season
The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy for children everywhere. But not every child is on equal footing. Thanks to electric cooperative employees and board members in northeast Missouri, that gap between the haves and have-nots is narrowing.
Palmyra-based Missouri Rural Electric Cooperative joins neighboring Ralls County Electric Cooperative every year in raising funds for Best Interest of the Children (B.I.C.). The program ensures that foster children from Ralls, Marion and Monroe counties have a bit more holiday cheer every December with a holiday party, gift and ornament.
The funds are raised from employee donations and matched by the Missouri Rural Board of Directors. Missouri Rural CEO/General Manager Matt Hudson first learned of B.I.C. while he was an employee at Ralls County Electric.
“I just knew from our involvement in the program that it was a good thing for our area,” he says. “When I came to Missouri Rural I understood that it was a great pathway for our employees and the cooperative to make a difference in our communities and brighten up Christmas for kids who need it.”
B.I.C. was originally founded more broadly with the idea of giving gifts to children in the area, but narrowed its focus to directly impact children who might need it the most, according to Mary Beth Strode, who is a volunteer with B.I.C. Mary Beth connected B.I.C. and the electric cooperatives when her late husband, Dan, was the CEO at Ralls County Electric Cooperative. Dan championed the program at the cooperative and paved the way for others to contribute.
“We saw a need in the community and wanted to help out,” Mary Beth says. “The co-ops started to get involved as well as numerous other donations came in throughout the area.”
The program benefits more than 200 children in the tri-county area. Matt says that impact in the counties is something the cooperative prides itself on.
“We are involved in our community,” Matt says. “We’re invested in the betterment of our community through reliable electricity and other means such as this. This is just another way our employees and board can give back.”
Once the gifts are purchased, the foster children gather for a holiday party in December. Mary Beth says the party is one the attendees won’t soon forget, with hundreds of children gearing up to open their gift.
“It’s a madhouse,” Mary Beth says with a laugh. “When I went they had a Santa for the kids to meet along with their gift and ornament. It was really nice and memorable.”
Along with their support of B.I.C., Missouri Rural’s employees support the local United Way through donations withdrawn from their paychecks. “That money helps fund a whole bunch of different things in our area,” Matt says. “We realize that there are people who might not have it as good as us, and this is just a small way to help out.”
Helping local nonprofits in need is nothing new for Missouri’s electric cooperatives. These co-ops and their boards know it is time, money and effort that will help make their communities better.
Mary Beth points out who it helps might be the most important reason to give.
“It’s money well spent,” Mary Beth says. “I remind people and the co-ops that this is an important cause. These kids didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t ask to be taken from their parents or have this kind of hardship in their childhood. They need a little extra special attention and care. That’s what this is meant for. To make sure they aren’t falling through the cracks.”