The Fabric of Communities

Chris Meyers
General Manager
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

It’s that time of year: school has officially started in most communities throughout Oklahoma. Parents—and teachers—anxiously look forward to welcoming the start of each new school year, always with the promise of new learning opportunities for children of all ages. It’s a special time of year, filled with new beginnings for students, teachers, parents, even grandparents.

Your local electric cooperatives have an important role in assisting schools and furthering educational opportunities across the state. Because the people who work for electric co-ops care about and have concerns for the communities within their service areas, they often become actively engaged in supporting local schools. Some co-ops do this through grants from their Operation Round-Up programs, where co-op members “round-up” their electric bills to the nearest dollar, enabling the collection of funds that are then dispersed to community organizations—including schools.

Rural—and some urban—school systems throughout Oklahoma are also the recipients of Gross Receipts Tax dollars collected by electric cooperatives and remitted to the state tax commission, which then returns those dollars to school systems based on the number of miles of line the local co-op has in each school district. Over $40 million is returned to school systems each year by electric cooperatives, with a small percentage (5%) being retained by the state of Oklahoma for administration purposes.

Schools—and electric cooperatives—are often the fabric that tie communities together. They both serve vital functions that promote education, consumer awareness, and enhance the quality of life. Together, they are indeed powering the needs of new generations. OKL Article End

 

Co-ops Support a Mission of Light

Tim Smith
President
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

The cooperative business model is strong in this blessed nation we call home, but its positive impact also transcends international borders. From its inception in the 1930s, the rural electric cooperative program has proven itself valuable. The rural electrification movement originated from the desire to improve the quality of life for farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Today, we benefit from modern-day conveniences such as running water, air conditioning, heating, gadgets, appliances and more. Rural communities have flourished with economic opportunity, access to health care, transportation infrastructure, quality education and technological advancements. Nonetheless, it was not always like that. 

Eighty-five years ago, rural Oklahoma was in the dark. Through the hard work and cooperation of pioneers, electric cooperatives were formed, empowering rural America. As co-op members, we now enjoy the fruits of their labor. There are others, however, who have not been as fortunate. 

Last year, for the first time, the number of people in the world without access to electricity dropped to below 1 billion. Still, nearly 952 million people today do not have access to electric power; life in the dark is a stark reality for many. 

In the spirit of cooperation, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives have partnered with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) philanthropic arm, NRECA International, to bring light to those who don’t have it. As you are reading this edition of Oklahoma Living, 10 Oklahoma co-op linemen are in Guatemala—alongside 10 linemen from Colorado’s electric cooperatives—building powerlines in the mountainous village of Sillab. 

This mission provides an opportunity for Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives to give back. We are grateful to the pioneers of this industry who invested in a better future and established a strong foundation for our generation; it is our honor to pay it forward, both at home and abroad. 

Our goal is for access to electricity to aid in their economic prosperity, enhanced education, better access to health care and to enable the families in Guatemala to achieve a higher quality of life. Electric cooperatives are strongly committed to make a positive difference; we commend the volunteer linemen who have embarked on this noble mission of light. OKL Article End