For the past 10 years, Inter-County Energy Cooperative has used its Christmas Blessings silent auction to make the holidays brighter for some families in its area. Businesses and individuals throughout the co-op’s six districts donate items for the auction, and the proceeds are used to purchase gifts and food for the children of a family in each of those districts.
Co-op employees work with local schools’ family resource centers to find families in need and then purchase, wrap and deliver the gifts and food. Since 2008, Inter-County Energy has sponsored 175 children and raised more than $23,600.
“This year, we have raised around $3,800 from the auction and another $1,400 from Candleberry candle sales and employee contributions. Total is around $5,200,” said Dan Hitchcock, Inter-County’s Vice President of Member Services. “We will deliver to 12 families and buy for 26 children.”
“This is what I think sets us apart from other utilities,” says Jim Jacobus, president and CEO of Inter-County Energy. “I am proud that we have employees who go beyond the scope of the day-to-day work schedule and volunteer their time and talents to help our members. Our local ownership, decision making and reinvestment in our community have a lot to do with that.”
The acronym APES stands for American Private Enterprise System, and Patsy Whitehead, communications manager for Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation, has been a part of this program for 30 years. She has chaired its local two-day business and economics education seminar for the past 20 years.
Through APES, Whitehead brings high school juniors to the cooperative to help them learn about the private enterprise system and understand the types of businesses, including electric cooperatives. APES helps build self-confidence and leadership skills. One popular exercise is board case studies where teens examine real-life issues that may arise in a business. Students must present board resolutions to their peers and face opposing boards as they explain and support their decisions during a debate session.
“After completing the local seminar, many of our students go on to the state level,” Whitehead says. “Some, like Kenny Rambo of Heartland Communications Consultants, even go on to the national level. He is now an entrepreneur who speaks at our local seminar to a new generation of students. Through this program, I feel like I have made a difference in someone’s life and career. I am a part of who they have become.”
Kentucky’s electric cooperatives help sponsor APES programs in about 35 counties.