October is quite the month. It brings cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and football season is in full force. October also happens to be National Co-op Month – a month where we celebrate the cooperative business model and the thousands of cooperatives around the world.
There are more than 40,000 cooperative businesses in the United States. These cooperatives, like Central, serve more than 350 million members, including you! Cooperatives represent a strong business model and greatly contribute to both the local and national economies.
But what makes cooperatives different? Unlike many other businesses, co-ops don’t answer to outside shareholders. Our sole focus is meeting our members’ needs. We are committed to our mission of “Empowering Our Members and Communities,” and together Central and our membership share many of the same values.
One value we see demonstrated repeatedly in cooperatives is that of selflessness – the act of putting others’ needs in front of their own. I have the honor of being on a committee that’s building an endowment fund for a non-profit called Oklahoma Energy Trails Foundation. Since 2016, Oklahoma electric cooperatives have been raising money and sending linemen to developing countries to bring electricity to rural villages. The endowment fund is growing a financial base to make it easier to fund future projects.
Just this past August, a twenty-man Energy Trails team made up of linemen from Oklahoma and Colorado traveled to the village of Sillab in north-central Guatemala. For three weeks, they worked to set more than 60 poles and stretch six and a half miles of line. When they finished 60 homes, one elementary school and four churches had power for the first time.
Two of the last four years, Central linemen Andrew Pool and Michael Musil volunteered and were selected to participate in the project. This year, Central’s Clint Robinson was selected as an alternate for the trip. That means he is in line to be on next year’s 2020 team. Their willingness to participate in this project speaks to the quality of employees we have at Central. I could not be more proud of them.
The Energy Trails project illustrates selflessness. The project takes countless hours of coordination, thousands of dollars in donations, and volunteers who use their skills to be a part of something bigger than themselves. The project is successful because of the passion of Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives, and it is a great demonstration of the cooperative difference.
If the Energy Trails project interests you, I encourage you to follow the project on social media and consider making a tax deductible donation. You can find more information at https://www.oaec.coop/energy_trails/. You can contribute directly to the endowment fund online at https://donate.occf.org and designate Oklahoma Energy Trails Foundation as your chosen gift recipient.