Just about a year ago I showed up at my kid’s school dressed as a leprechaun. It was St. Patrick’s Day and a few of the dads decided this would be a fun surprise. It didn’t hurt that a leprechaun outfit was a little more comfortable than the suit I wear most days.
As you can imagine, quite of few of my kid’s friends asked Max what the heck his dad did for a job. “My dad keeps lights on and he loves his job,” was what he said.
While Max may not quite understand what I do, he did get the part right about me loving my job. That got me thinking how lucky I am to work for Missouri’s electric cooperatives. A lot of folks don’t understand when I say I have a family at home and a family at work.
Here’s what I mean: My family at home supports me when I have to be away from them for meetings. My co-op family is every board member, employee, lineman and member-owner on our electric lines.
I’ve seen what being part of the co-op family truly means, like member-owners rounding up their bills with the extra change earmarked for community projects. Then there’s those linemen, who pack up their gear and leave their own families in the middle of a snowstorm. They do this because they can’t bear the thought of their neighbors being without power when the temperature is in the single digits.
Recently I was visiting with Tom Howard, manager of Callaway Electric Co-op. I asked him what the hardest part of his job is. He told me that for him and all of his employees it is having to disconnect a member for a delinquent bill. It truly breaks their hearts — because our member-owners are part of our co-op family.
I have learned that around the state there are “Co-op Angel Funds” that can be tapped when someone is facing difficulties and needs a little help from their co-op family. Some co-ops have auctions where employees donate prizes — often handmade items — then bid against each other to buy them back. The money goes to help one of our co-op families that are down on their luck.
During the school year co-op employees give safety demonstrations at local schools. Those same people who teach electrical safety are there because they care — and also because it’s likely they have kids or grandkids in the class, all part of their family and co-op family.
A business designed to deliver electricity doesn’t necessarily need to build goodwill. We do it because we are all part of something much greater, a co-op family.
If you see me dressed in green and handing out gold coins this month, it’s not because I’m Irish. Sometimes I have to give back to my family at home in odd ways. I also like to think that I have a little luck o’ the co-op inside me.
Caleb is the executive vice president and CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Boone Electric Cooperative.