As an electric cooperative, our top priority is always to provide reliable, affordable energy to you, the members we serve. Because we are a cooperative, our mission is also to enrich the lives of our members and serve the long-term interests of our local community.
This mission has never been more critical than in recent months. One of the seven principles that guide all cooperatives is concern for community. This principle is part of the essential DNA of East-Central Iowa REC, and it sets us apart from other electric utilities.
October is National Co-op Month, and electric cooperatives across the country are highlighting the many ways we Power On. Keeping this theme in mind, ECI REC recognizes the essential role cooperatives play in serving a special community like ours.
Who would have fathomed in March that the COVID-19 virus would become a test of our community and our nation? The changes driven by the pandemic have created both challenges and opportunities. Over the past several months, we’ve all been challenged to operate differently, and ECI REC has stepped up to help our members and strengthen the safety net for our more vulnerable neighbors.
As an essential service, and to ensure the reliability of your power supply, we modified our operations to safeguard business continuity. Our line crews and other employees began working on staggered schedules and following social distancing guidelines. Some staff worked remotely. In the office, we limited and modified meetings and gatherings to allow for safe separation. We also adjusted our walk-in office availability and in-person service protocols to protect our employees and our valued members. For the health and safety of everyone, we think these measures were the prudent course of action for the times.
For our members impacted by COVID-19 who needed help with their electric bills, we waived late fees and worked with those hardest hit to make special payment arrangements. Our RECare program provides funds to local community action agencies that distribute assistance to low-income members. Your donations to this program will help pay winter heating bills and assist in the weatherization of homes.
And while we certainly missed visiting with our members in person, we still found ways to stay connected. We hosted our Annual Meeting virtually and awarded $1,000 scholarships to 10 graduating seniors who plan to further their education in a diverse range of programs. The Board of Directors also moved to use some of ECI REC’s Community Reinvestment Funds to donate $500 each to three food pantries located in Benton, Buchanan, and Fayette Counties.
We’ve seen other local businesses rise to meet similar challenges during this time, because that’s what communities do. While the challenges caused by COVID-19 have been daunting, we’re heartened to see how everyone is pulling together. East-Central Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative is built by our community to serve our community—and we’ll continue to Power On.