This month I want to talk about the positive impacts rural electric systems have in communities across Nebraska. When it comes to NREA’s member-systems and the towns they operate in, there are numerous beneficial impacts to those communities. There are certainly obvious benefits in the form of jobs and payroll as well as taxes and services paid to that local community, but what about all the other things rural electric systems do for their communities that might not be so obvious?
Take a look around Nebraska’s rural towns and you will see plenty of ways rural electric systems are active, engaged, and improving their communities. For example, some of our member-systems participate in Operation Round-up, a program that allows rural electric system customers to voluntarily round-up their bill to the next dollar. Those funds are then used to support grants and a host of other charitable activities that improve rural Nebraska communities. Some rural electric systems and their staff volunteer to assemble meals for the poor and disadvantaged, or volunteer to clean up the local park or ball field. Speaking of ball fields, many of the employees who work by day to keep the power on, are volunteering their off-work hours to coach little league, or serve on the PTA, or be an invaluable member of the local volunteer fire department. From the church choir to the local food bank or pet shelter, rural electric systems are living in and contributing to the communities where they work.
Rural electric systems are also investing in the next generation of people in the rural communities that they serve. NREA’s member-systems support and send high school aged students to Youth Energy Leadership Camp in Halsey every summer, where kids have fun while learning about electricity and the importance of public power to our state. Students also have the opportunity to further develop their electric knowledge and leadership skills by attending Youth Tour in Washington, D.C. These young people will ultimately grow up and be future leaders in our communities. While they may never serve on a rural electric system board of directors, they will most certainly be a positive contributor to their local community– and that benefits everyone!
We have a great story to tell when it comes to the contribution our members and their employees make to rural Nebraska. Next time you see an REA employee being active in your small town, be sure to tell them thank you and remember what a great benefit public power has been to our state.