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Rays of Light: NIPCO Members Spark Hope and #PowerOn

  • Posted: 04.28.2020
Graphic illustration of the Touchstone Energy #PowerOn logo button

We all have the power to make a difference. In the face of unsettling and unprecedented times, glimmers of hope and the spark of the human spirit emerge to bring light to the shadows of uncertainty. Stories of giving and going above and beyond are lighting up throughout the NIPCO service territory and we felt it was important to share some of these "bright spots" with our readers.

"Concern for community" is one of the seven cooperative principles that guides cooperatives focus on member needs and to work for the sustainable development of their communities. NIPCO member cooperatives, now more than ever, are standing with their member-owners and finding ways to support the communities they serve. In turn, those member-owners and communities are finding ways to spread that support even further.

Graphic illustration of the Anthon Community Development Corporation

In Anthon, Iowa, a community-wide effort to help support its local business places and aid residents was led by the Anthon Community Development Corporation (ACDC). A random drawing was conducted from a pool of all municipal utility customers. One-hundred names were drawn from those who have a local utility bill. Winners received $10 in "Anthon Bucks" that could be used at any Anthon business.

Collage of photos of care packages that were given to health care workers in Onawa.

Amy Merritt is the wife of WIPCO (Western Iowa Power Cooperative) Journeyman Lineman Chris Merrit. Amy and her family led an initiative to support local Onawa healthcare workers during the pandemic.

"Teaching our kids to give back and show kindness is super important to our family!" Amy goes on to explain her family's program: "We decided to run a fundraiser, in hopes to give back to local healthcare workers and others on the front line of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. To say we were blessed is an understatement! With the support of our community members, we were able to fill and donate 124 care packets to local healthcare workers."

Packets cost $10 to donate a filled packet and the donor could designate a person that they would like the packet to go to or opt to allow Amy and her volunteer crew to designate the packet wherever they chose. Care packets included: snacks, a water bottle, lip balm, tissues, facial cleansing towelettes, and a hand-written note.

Amy is grateful for the outpouring of support from the Onawa community. "We are so grateful that so many community members willingly partnered with us to put smiles on faces of many individuals who are working tirelessly! What an amazing community we live in!"

Photo collage of healthcare workers posed with their care packages and an image of the note that says: Alone we can do so little; Together we can do so much.
Images of the healthcare workers in Onawa who received care packages and an image of the note that was included. (Photos, courtesy of Amy Merritt)

Using the hashtag #spreadjoynotgerms, Manning Municipal Utilities hosted a "Chalk the Walk" event on April 1 and encouraged young residents to get out and enjoy the sunshine while chalking artwork and encouraging messages on their driveways and sidewalks. Employees from Manning Municipal Utilities drove around town on the picture perfect day, handing out certificates to program participants for each to receive a free Casey's cookie. The community of Manning now boasts a cheery and inspiring foundation for all to enjoy. See all the photos on the Manning Municipal Utilities Facebook Page!

From upper left, counter-clockwise: Briar shows off his chalk art, Monroe enjoys her Casey's cookie, Briar and Brogan pose with their sunshine art, high school seniors Emily and Miranda wish fellow Class of 2020 graduates well, and young Brogan enjoys a added bonus for program participants.

In the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Grato Holdings (Woodbine, Iowa) who manufactures bulk organic and inorganic medicinal chemicals put their business on hold to produce a large amount of hand sanitizer. The sanitizer was donated to various Harrison County first responders, law enforcement, nursing homes, and medical facilities.

Grato Holdings also contributed sanitizer to Harrison County Rural Electric Cooperative who used the product for their linemen to disinfect their hands while working throughout the system.

From upper left, counter-clockwise: Grato Holdings employees fill jugs with hand sanitizer, a local law enforcement official poses with product donated to his department, Woodbine store owners safely receive and thank a Grato Holdings representative, and additional photos of Grato Holdings employees proud to play a role in keeping their communities safe.

At its April Board of Directors Meeting, NIPCO Directors approved the retirement of $1,209,509 of the remaining 2005 and a portion of the 2006 deferred patronage dividends to its member cooperatives on a first-in, first out basis.

NIPCO will receive a patronage retirement from its primary power provider, Basin Electric Power Cooperative in May. NIPCO felt that passing this retirement on to its member cooperatives would provide them necessary cash flow to allow them to be better financially positioned to react to financial challenges they may experience resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Two of NIPCO's member distribution cooperatives approved early patronage retirements and returned those dividends to their members to help offset any financial hardships their members may be incurring, due to the impacts of the pandemic.

North West Rural Electric Cooperative approved an early patronage retirement that will be returned to its members in the form of a bill credit. The total amount of the distribution was $1.638 million. In a recent statement to their membership, North West REC noted, "We typically make patronage retirements in December. However, with the COVID-19 situation, the Board felt it would be very beneficial to our members if we moved up the retirement to May of this year." North West REC serves over 10,000 members in Sioux, O'Brien, Plymouth, and Ida counties in northwest Iowa.

Proudly displaying the check representing the co-op's patronage retirement are North West REC CEO Lyle Korver along with staff members Lorraine Egdorf, Renee Wynia, and Curt Ahrenholz

Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative payed out $1.77 million in capital credits to its membership. "During these unsettling times that our entire nation is experiencing due to COVID-19 pandemic, tis is great news for our member-owners," explained Board Chair Jerry Beck. "We know families are experiencing financial hardships because of the coronavirus as many members are already facing reduced employment or unemployment. Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative is trying to do its part to help stimulate our local economy and support our member-owners during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative serves over 12,000 member-owners in nine west-central Iowa counties.

Pictured with a check representing Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative's patronage retirement are President/CEO Rick Olesen and Board Chair Jerry Beck.

The Iowa Lakes Electric Member Charitable Foundation also allocated donations to area hospitals to support local efforts.

The charitable Foundation is funded by the member-owners of Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative through the Operation Round Up program. Members participate by “rounding up” their monthly electric bills as a contribution. The Foundation board meets quarterly to review applications and distribute the funds to non-profit organizations within the Cooperative’s eight-county service area.

In April, the Foundation awarded a total of $12,000 to eight local hospitals within Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative’s service territory. The Foundation awarded each hospital $1,500 as a thank you to them and their staff for being there for our communities during these unsettling times.

“It is the Foundation’s wish that the hospitals use the grant funds to show their appreciation to their staff with gift cards to local businesses, the purchase for necessary PPE and supplies for ER, or for other needs as they see fit at this troubling time,” said Foundation Chairperson Janet Deim. “We would like them to use $500 towards gift cards for their staff and the balance as they wish.”

In addition to early patronage retirements, NIPCO member distribution cooperatives are currently working with their members who are experiencing financial hardships to discuss payment options. Iowa’s electric cooperatives and other utilities, including NIPCO's seven member cooperatives and municipal utilities, have temporarily suspended disconnections for nonpayment to help those in financial need. All of NIPCO members encourage their membership to work with co-op staff to discuss options.

If you are compelled to help your neighbors in need, please consider a tax-deductible donation to customer contribution funds like the RECare Program or Operation Round Up if your co-op participates in them. You can pledge a one-time contribution or a recurring monthly amount to these types of funds and your support will help those in need in your local community. Contact a member service representative at your local electric co-op or visit your co-op’s website to learn more.