The best way to celebrate democracy is by encouraging full participation in public life. That’s why Tennessee’s electric co-ops are supporting National Voter Registration Day on September 22, 2020.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than 70% of eligible American citizens of voting age – 18 and over – were registered to vote in 2018. That means that up to 30% have not filed the required applications with their counties, parishes or states of local voter registrar’s offices, which are essential for making our voices as meaningful in American life as they might be.

We’re among thousands of organizations committed to making September 22 the most successful National Voter Registration Day in history, because we believe its goals are more important than ever before. Here’s why:

Unusual Year-Unexpected Changes

While 2020 began as a very active political year, disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic concerns altered the campaign plans of many candidates. They also dramatically reduced overall access to voter registration forms through department of motor vehicle offices, public libraries and schools.

Suspension of on-site classes at many high schools prevented guidance counselors and government teachers from passing out registration applications to students who reached voting age this spring and summer.

Voter education efforts by churches or by state and local officials who normally would have booked space at community events to encourage community outreach found many of those events scaled back or canceled throughout spring and summer.

Lingering concerns about a resurgence of COVID-19 cases this autumn continue to fuel uncertainties on exactly how polling locations will operate or just how states and other jurisdictions will handle absentee and mail-in balloting.

The Challenge Ahead

“According to the PEW Charitable Trust’s state-by-state comparison of voter turnout for the 2014 midterm elections, Tennessee was dead last at just 28.5 percent,” said Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Increasing overall participation in the election process begins with registering as many eligible voters as possible.”

That’s the goal of National Voter Registration Day. Recognized as a civic holiday since 2012, the annual event has served as a rallying point for voter registration initiatives supported by a network of nonpartisan organizations committed to increasing overall participation in the electoral process.

“Voting is central to American democracy,” said Laura Vogel, a senior political affairs advisor at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “That’s why many electric cooperatives and their statewide associations are committed to making this year’s National Voter Registration Day the most successful event ever.”

Vogel, who represents electric co-ops on the National Voter Registration Day steering committee has worked with co-ops in [State] and throughout the nation to help develop new and effective ways to encourage co-op members to participate in local, state and national politics.

“Since 2012, National Voter Registration Day awareness efforts have helped to register more than 3 million voters,” said Vogel. “This year, we’re putting even more emphasis on digital engagement, because 41 states and the District of Columbia allow voters to register online.”

Many electric co-ops are using their social media pages to promote voter registration, and encouraging political engagement with articles in their newsletters, on their websites and with bill attachments or point of contact brochures and leaflets.

“More than 20,000 volunteers are committed to promotion of National Voter Registration Day,” said Vogel. “In the weeks ahead, electric co-ops will be promoting webinars on digital organizing and working closely with community organizations and businesses that are likely to remain open even if a resurgence of COVID-19 pandemic concerns occurs this autumn.”

“National Voter Registration Day is a great opportunity for us all to begin focusing on the most important aspects of this political season,” said Scott.  “This nonpartisan program promotes participation, and that includes ensuring that those who are registered to vote stay abreast of any changes that we might see in how to legally cast ballots in our state on election day.”

Remember to mark your calendar for National Voter Registration Day on September 22, and together, let’s enjoy the rights and opportunities we all share as Americans and celebrate our democracy. To learn more about National Voter Registration Day, visit www.nationalvoterregistrationday.org.

Derrill Holly writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

NASHVILLE – Sixty-eight volunteer lineworkers from seven electric co-ops across Tennessee are heading to Alabama to assist with Hurricane Sally recovery efforts.

The Category 2 hurricane brought strong wind, significant rainfall and widespread power outages to the Alabama Gulf Coast. Tennessee co-ops are assisting with efforts to reconstruct the severely damaged electric infrastructure in the region.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association in Nashville coordinates requests for mutual aid and makes travel and lodging arrangements for crews who respond.

Assisting Baldwin Electric Membership Corporation in Summerdale, Alabama, are:

  • Seven lineworkers from Chickasaw Electric Cooperative in Somerville
  • Five from Ft. Loudoun Electric Cooperative in Vonore
  • Five from Mountain Electric Cooperative in Mountain City
  • 21 from Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Murfreesboro
  • Five from Pickwick Electric Cooperative in Selmer
  • 13 from Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Carthage
  • 12 from Volunteer Energy Cooperative in Decatur

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 9, 2020) – Seventy-nine lineworkers from across Tennessee are traveling to Louisiana today to assist with recovery and reconstruction following Hurricane Laura, a powerful Category 4 storm that struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 27. These workers will replace workers from two Tennessee co-ops who have been in Louisiana since shortly after the storm hit.

“The current recovery is going to be long,” said Jeffrey Arnold, CEO of the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives. “We cannot give co-op members an estimate of time other than ‘weeks’ at this moment because of the number of transmission poles and towers that are down and the time and effort it will take to rebuild the power grid.”

Returning home are 18 lineworkers from Plateau Electric Cooperative and Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation who have been assisting Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative in Jennings, Louisiana.

Traveling to assist Jeff David Electric Cooperative in Jennings, Louisiana, are:

  • 10 lineworkers from Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville

Assisting Beauregard Electric Cooperative in DeRidder, Louisiana, are:

  • 11 lineworkers from Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Clarksville
  • Five lineworkers from Duck River Electric Membership Corporation in Shelbyville
  • 10 lineworkers from Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville
  • Five lineworkers from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville
  • 21 lineworkers from Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Murfreesboro
  • Six lineworkers from Mountain Electric Cooperative in Mountain City
  • 10 lineworkers from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative in South Pittsburg

 


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 31, 2020) – Eighteen lineworkers from two Tennessee electric cooperatives are in Louisiana to assist with Hurricane Laura recovery efforts. The powerful hurricane left massive amounts of destruction after it made landfall last week.

“Our crews have a reputation for responding quickly, working safely and showing compassion to those who are in need,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Associaiton. “We commend their desire to serve and wish them well in the days to come.”

Crews will be assisting Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative in Jennings, La. Following the storm, JDEC reported that 100 percent of the co-op’s 11,000 meters were without power and more than 1,000 poles had been broken. Tennessee crews are expected to be in Louisiana for seven to 10 days before being replaced with additional Tennessee crews.

“Hurricane Laura left catastrophic damage in its wake,” said Mike Heinen of JDEC. “In response, we’ve launched a massive storm recovery and power restoration effort, assisted by hundreds of personnel from other states. Even so, a full recovery could be weeks away.”

Please keep the people of coastal Louisiana, as well as our volunteer lineworkers and their families, in your thoughts and prayers in the days ahead.

Below is a list of Tennessee co-ops providing assistance. This information is likely to change as crews are replaced in the coming weeks.

  • Plateau Electric Cooperative in Onieda, Tenn. – eight lineworkers
  • Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville, Tenn. – 10 lineworkers

 

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today the TVA Board of Directors approved a special $200 million Pandemic Relief Credit for the coming fiscal year. The 2.5% base rate credit will begin in October and remain in effect through most of 2021 for local power companies – including electric cooperatives – served by TVA.

“On behalf of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives, we applaud TVA’s decision to provide $200 million in Pandemic Relief Credits,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Electric co-ops and the homes, businesses and communities we serve face extreme challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The region’s economy is fragile, and the future remains uncertain. Today’s announcement is a positive move that will provide needed relief for many. Co-ops exist to provide power, but in reality, we exist to serve our consumers and our communities. As our wholesale power provider and public power partner, it is essential that TVA shares our vision for reliable power, affordable rates and a vibrant Tennessee economy. We appreciate TVA for providing these resources that will assist the entire region.”

“The continued impact of this pandemic on our communities is unprecedented and creates continued economic uncertainty,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA president and CEO. “Because of the TVA team’s strong operational and financial performance under challenging circumstances this past year, we have an opportunity and responsibility to use TVA’s resources and expertise to provide continued support for customers, businesses and communities.”

Nashville – State officials on Friday awarded $61 million in emergency broadband grants, with $40 million going to Tennessee’s electric co-ops. The grants were awarded through the recently created Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that broadband is essential for modern life,” said Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “From telemedicine and distance learning to telecommuting and e–commerce, Tennessee’s rural communities must have reliable and affordable access to high–speed internet. Families and businesses in rural communities unfortunately understand what life is like without internet access, so today’s announcement is welcomed news.”

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development worked with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and other stakeholders to develop the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund using a portion of resources allocated to Tennessee through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Recipients must utilize the funds before the end of 2020.

Nearly 70 percent of the funds awarded went to electric cooperatives. “When the state asked ‘Who can build rural broadband quickly?’ they turned to electric co-ops,” said Knotts. “Tennessee’s co-ops are demonstrating their ability to expand access quickly and leverage grant funds for maximum impact. We appreciate the trust and confidence Governor Lee has placed in us through today’s announcement.”

Tennessee’s electric co-ops will immediately begin construction on 29 separate projects to bring broadband to locations that currently do not have access. These projects will enable tens of thousands of people in some of the most remote parts of the state to participate in modern work, education and commerce. Broadband expansion will also improve Tennessee’s ability to respond to current and future public health emergencies.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was approved by Congress on June 4, 1919, but it took more than a year for the measure granting women the right to vote to gain ratification by 36 states. On Aug. 18, 2020, the nation marks the centennial of this human rights milestone.

Rural America was built on and owes much of its success to family-run farms and businesses. While dads and husbands are often celebrated throughout history and heritage, wives and mothers have been full partners in creating thousands of communities. In fact, electric cooperatives have served as incubators for the leadership skills that guide co-op-served communities today.

“Historically, rural wives were always isolated and only had interaction with their husbands and children, but they helped run farms and ranches and ran their homes,” said Betsy Huber, president and CEO of the National Grange.

Founded in 1867, the Grange chapters took root as fraternal community organizations committed to promoting sound agricultural concepts in the North, South and the expanding West.

“From the very beginning, women could hold any office in the Grange,” said Huber. “We have 13 offices, including four that are only open to women.”

By the early 1900s, organizations like the Grange were providing rural women with meaningful leadership opportunities and fueling passions for full engagement in public life that included political participation.

With the rise of suffragist sentiments, the Grange in the early 20th century routinely included women in governance decisions, said Huber. “One of our national agriculture committees early in the last century had six members, three men and three women who reviewed and discussed the resolutions submitted by local Grange chapters that ultimately set policy for the National Grange.”


The Woman Suffrage Monument in Nashville’s Centennial Park features five women who were actually in Nashville during the final ratification effort: Anne Dallas Dudley and Frankie Pierce of Nashville, Sue Shelton White of Jackson, Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga and Carrie Chapman Catt, the national suffrage leader who came to Nashville during the summer of 1920 to direct the pro-suffrage forces and stayed at the Hermitage Hotel.

Among the tarm women embracing the suffragist cause was Febb Ensminger Bum, a widow from Tennessee’s McMimi County who ultimately played a decisive role in earning women die right to vote and forever changing U.S. history.

“Suffrage has interested me for years,” Mrs. Bum once told a reporter.

Between miming her farm and caring for her family, she followed news accounts from Nashville and was turned off by harsh opposition speeches against ratification in the summer of 1920. In August, she penned a seven-page letter to her son, Henry T. Burn, a freshman representative in the House of the Tennessee General Assembly.

“Vote for suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt,” wrote Mrs. Burn to her 24-year-old son. “Don’t forget to be a good boy and help.”

With the letter from his mom in his pocket, Rep. Burn broke a 48–48 deadlock by changing his vote to pass the measure, and women nationwide were guaranteed the right to participate in all national elections.

“I spend a lot of my time encouraging co-op members to contact their legislators, and mother-son influence is a great example of true grassroots activism,” said Amanda Wolfe, a National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) senior political advisor who lives in Nashville.

The area where Mrs. Burn once farmed and raised her family is still served by Decatur-based Volunteer Energy Cooperative, said Wolfe, adding that voters there are still inspired by the state’s role as being the 19th Amendment’s “Perfect 36” — a reference to its decisive ratification role.

“Voting is so much more than just a right; it is a privilege,” said Wolfe. ‘The Suffragettes fought for generations to finally win that privilege 100 years ago, and every time we cast a ballot, we honor their memories.”

When electric cooperatives were organized years later, many of the same principles honored by rural organizations, including recognition of property rights, were among the fundamental tenets included in co-op charters. Family memberships were vested in heads of households, regardless of gender, and women were among the founding members of many electric cooperatives.

When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935, farm magazines quickly published stories about the news. Maye Shaw of Quitman, Texas, was a former teacher and regular reader who knew life on the farm would be easier with electric power.

She wrote Rep. Morgan G. Sanders for information and persuaded her husband, Virgil Shaw, to look into it. By 1937, they both were riding through the surrounding countryside, recruiting members and collecting $5 sign-up fees. Mr. Shaw eventually became the founding general manager of Wood County Electric Cooperative, which now serves nearly 36,000 meters and is still headquartered in Quitman.


Erected in 2018, the Burn Memorial depicts Rep. Harry Burn of Niota and his mother, Febb, and honors each of their roles in the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

“Though it was men who signed their names to charter Taylor EMC (in 1937), women have played a vital role in the cooperative’s development and success,” wrote authors of a 75th anniversary book on the history of Flint Energies. The Reynolds, Georgia-based co-op, originally founded as Taylor Electric Membership Corp., has enjoyed an active female membership since its early days.

Beulah Taylor and Ruby McKenzie became the cooperative’s first female board members in 1938 and helped lead the co-op through some of its formative years.

“Homemakers living in rural Taylor County spurred the cooperative’s early membership growth,” wrote authors. “Eager to bring the benefits and conveniences of electricity to their homes and farms, they held neighborhood meetings and took applications to further the cooperative cause.”

In 1939, when the Rural Electrification Administration approved its first loans for electric cooperatives in South Carolina, women were actively involved in the formation of Darlington-based Pee Dee Electric Cooperative.

Mrs. E.S.J. Evans, the home demonstration agent for the Darlington County Agricultural Extension Service Office, was an organizer, and Miss Sue Coker and Mrs. E.A. Gray were elected to the founding board.

America’s electric cooperatives support Co-ops Vote, a grassroots movement designed to encourage voter registration, political engagement and participation in local, state and national affairs.

“We provide the information to co-op consumer-members to find out how, where and when to vote and information on the issues that affect rural communities,” said Laura Vogel, an NRECA senior political advisor. “We do not tell people who to vote for, and we don’t endorse candidates.”

Many electric co-ops are supporting National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 22 to encourage political participation leading up to the November elections.

“With so many uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic fueling concerns about how voting will proceed this fall, electric co-ops can play vital roles in reminding members of important dates and explaining rule changes,” said Vogel. “There will be great opportunities to meet community needs on information about mail balloting or changes in precinct operations, ensuring healthy turnout and widespread voter participation.”

Derrill Holly writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for NRECA, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives that serve 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

Nashville, TENN. – Today Gov. Bill Lee announced that a portion of Tennessee’s aid from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund would be used to expand access to broadband service. The newly created Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund will expand broadband access to better facilitate participation in telemedicine, distance learning and telecommuting.  

“The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the digital divide that exists in Tennessee,” said Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Never before has the need for broadband access been greater or the limitations for Tennesseans who can’t access the internet been more obvious. The Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund will help bring this essential service to many of the homes and businesses that need it most.” 

Since the passage of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act in 2017, 14 of Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives have launched broadband projects, and Tennessee’s electric co-ops have proven their ability to maximize state and federal funds. For every dollar of grant money received, Tennessee co-ops are investing $15 of their own money. This multiplier means that Tennessee electric co-ops are stretching grant funds further to have the greatest impact. 

“The Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund can position Tennessee to better respond to the current pandemic and be better prepared to face the challenges that will come our way in the future,” said Knotts. “The impact of this investment will be felt for years. We appreciate the vision of Gov. Bill Lee and Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bob Rolfe as well as Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, Speaker Cameron Sexton, Senate Finance Chair Bo Watson and House Utilities Chair Pat Marsh. Their allocation of these funds will positively impact tens of thousands of Tennesseans. 

Learn more at tnelectric.org/broadband.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | 615.515.5534 | tscott@tnelectric.org 

Your vote matters! Early voting for the Tennessee State and Federal Primary and County General Election begins today and runs Monday to Saturday until Saturday, August 1. Election Day is Thursday, August 6.

By voting early you can avoid Election Day crowds and take advantage of the flexibility of evening and Saturday hours and multiple polling locations in many counties.

During early voting and on Election Day, Tennesseans are encouraged to do their part. This includes wearing a face covering and maintaining a six-foot distance from poll officials and other voters. You should expect to see signs with further safety instructions at your polling locations. All poll officials will be wearing face coverings and are trained to take appropriate protective measures.

Find your polling location, view and mark sample ballots and much more with the free GoVoteTN app or online at GoVoteTN.com. You can also update your registration on GoVoteTN.com. Reviewing your sample ballot and making sure your registration is up to date will reduce the time you will need to spend at your polling location.

Remember to bring your ID to the polls. Information about what types of ID are acceptable can be found on GoVoteTN.com.

Make your voice heard. Vote Early!

Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and its not-for-profit subsidiary, Gibson Connect, have announced their boards have approved moving forward with Phase III of their broadband network buildout.  Phase III work will begin in the Rutherford, Kenton and Newbern zones.  These zones have met their participation goals using Gibson Connect’s registration website, join.gibsonconnect.com.

“A start date for Phase III has not been set, but board approval will enable us to soon begin the engineering step of the buildout,” says Dan Rodamaker, President and CEO of Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect.  “We plan to start Phase III with these three zones and add more zones a little later, based on join.gibsonconnect.com registrations, as well as engineering and grant/loan requirements,” he said.

Charles Phillips, Gibson EMC VP of Technical Services and Gibson Connect VP of Operations, explains, “Gibson Connect provides its internet service through Gibson EMC’s substations, meaning work must be completed in the substation and the fiber network must be built from the substation to the zone before Gibson Connect can begin construction in the zone.  A grant or loan can impact the order of our buildout because it is typically for an area that has met grant eligibility requirements and may have deadlines by which we must complete the work to receive the funding.”

“Gibson EMC is actively seeking out and taking advantage of every grant opportunity in order to save our members’ money on construction costs,” Rodamaker says.  “Where grants are not available, we’re applying for low-interest loans.”

Rodamaker says the ReConnect loan Gibson EMC was awarded by the USDA will ultimately help construct the fiber network in certain parts of Obion County in Tennessee and in Gibson EMC’s Kentucky counties.  ReConnect also has a deadline by which Gibson EMC must complete the work, but Rodamaker says, “it allows a five-year period as opposed to the shorter deadlines of the grants.  Utilizing grants and low-interest loans will make the fiber network construction more affordable for Gibson EMC’s entire membership,” he says.

More than 4,700 consumer-members have been connected since construction started in February 2018.  “We’ve completed the initial construction in Phase I zones, and we are diligently working to connect those who have more recently signed up for the service,” Phillips says.  “Phase II is well underway, but there is still considerable work to do.  Board approval for Phase III zones will enable us to begin the initial step of the build in those areas,” Phillips said.

“We plan to ultimately provide high-speed internet access to all of our eligible members, but the buildout is a massive project that is time-intensive, he says.  “With about 3,100 miles of the fiber network to engineer and build, we knew from the time we started construction in August 2018 that it would take at least five years to provide access to all of our members.  Even so, we understand how urgently this service is needed and we are doing everything within our power to provide it as quickly as possible.”

“We began this project because our members told us they needed this service,” Rodamaker said, “and after experiencing the necessity to work and learn from home during the pandemic, we are more convinced than ever that we are doing the right thing for our members and our communities,” he said.  “Those who have already been connected are extremely pleased with and grateful for this service.”

Nashville, TENN. – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives recently awarded $16,000 in scholarships to young people from across the state.

Kelsey Bizzell, a recent graduate of Rossville Christian Academy, was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Bizzell was a 2019 delegate of the Washington Youth Tour, an annual leadership and education event sponsored by the state’s electric cooperatives. In the year following the tour, delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperatives and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Bizzell was randomly selected from among the delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

“When I found out I won the scholarship, I was shocked and excited,” said Bizzell. “I was shocked that out of 186 people, my name was chosen! Writing the paper was fun. I didn’t think I would win, and getting the opportunity to go on the trip was fantastic. I learned so much on the trip, and this scholarship is just the cherry on top of the entire experience.”

“The Youth Tour and Cooperative Youth Ambassador Program are great opportunities to help students learn about public policy, cooperatives, and leadership,” says Andrea Kee, communication specialist for Chickasaw Electric Cooperative, Bizzell’s sponsoring co-op. “We are proud to help prepare Fayette County’s next generation of leaders, and we are excited to see the impact Kelsey will have on our community.”

Students are selected for the Washington Youth Tour by writing winning short stories about electric co-ops. While public health concerns forced the 2020 tour to be cancelled for the first time in the program’s 55 year history, TECA judged more than 10,000 short stories submitted from across the state. Lily Durbin from Pickwick Electric Cooperative, Zoe Clever from Caney Fork Electric Cooperative and Leah Brewer from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative were awarded $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships for having the first, second and third place papers.

McCarty, an employee of Volunteer Energy Cooperative and long-time chaperone on the annual Youth Tour, lost a battle with cancer in 2015, and sponsoring cooperatives renamed the scholarships in honor of his love for young people.

“We were heartbroken to cancel the 2020 event, but Youth Tour has always been about more than a trip to D.C.,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Electric co-ops share the belief that the communities we serve are truly special places, and we are confident that these young people will have an impact on the world. An investment in them is an investment in the future of Tennessee, and we think that is a sound strategy that will pay enormous dividends.”

 

Murfreesboro, TENN. – Having just completed its merger with the Murfreesboro Electric Department, Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE) announced today $100,000 in donations to three Murfreesboro-based charitable organizations. Rutherford County Area Habitat for Humanity will receive $50,000 while Wee Care Day Care and Community Helpers will receive $25,000 each.

“We think it’s fitting and appropriate to mark our first official day of service to Murfreesboro by investing in those who are serving in such an impactful way,” said MTE CEO Chris Jones. “One of the seven cooperative principles is ‘Commitment to Community,’ and we plan to live this out consistently as we serve in our home city.”

Jones said the donation to Habitat will support construction of a subdivision in East Murfreesboro, while the donations to Wee Care Day Care and Community Helpers will support their ongoing missions.

“We have a long-time relationship with Community Helpers, as they assist electric customers who are having difficulty paying their electric bills” he said. “Wee Care Day Care is an inner-city organization that we’ve never been able to assist before, but with the merger opening that door, we are honored to aid their worthy mission.”

While MTE features a charitable arm of its own called, SharingChange, these are one-time donations facilitated by the cooperative in recognition of July 1 being day number one for the merged utility.

“We’re very excited to call our brothers and sisters from MED teammates…officially,” Jones said. “We have an incredibly bright future in front of us.”

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation is donating $30,000, which will be matched by the Tennessee Valley Authority through its COVID-19 Community Care Fund, making a total of $60,000 available to help members who qualify for the cooperative’s Project Help program amid financial hardships resulting from the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.

“The pandemic caused the loss of jobs, uncertainties and economic standstills in our communities, which left some members struggling to pay monthly bills, including electric bills,” says DREMC Office Supervisor Tara Groce. “With this additional funding for Project Help, more families impacted by the lingering effects of COVID-19 will receive assistance.”

For three decades, DREMC’s Project Help program has assisted many members who were unable to pay their electric bills. The program continues to be a successful part of how the cooperative cares for members, many of whom are finding themselves in need of assistance for the first time.

“Now more than ever, it is important to support the members we serve during tough times and financial hardships,” said DREMC President and CEO Scott Spence. “This is why Project Help exists.”

Project Help is an emergency residential energy-assistance program overseen by local charity organizations in seven counties served by DREMC and supported by generous monthly and one-time donations from members and employees, who have given more than $214,000 over the past five years to the program.

DREMC partners with the Franklin County Good Samaritan Association to offer Project Help assistance with electric bills. Assistance is available year-round to applicants who qualify.

“It’s great to be able to extend help to our community through the Project Help program,” said Christie Shaw, a director of the Franklin County Good Samaritan Association. “We can help more residents of Franklin County throughout the year because of this program.”

To apply for electric-bill assistance through Project Help, visit the Franklin County Good Samaritan Association at 1725 Decherd Blvd. in Decherd.

Normal hours are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. To speak to someone at the organization, call 931-967-9336.

“DREMC’s commitment to the communities we serve reaches hundreds each year through the power of Project Help,” Spence said.

Appalachian Electric Cooperative recently announced that it has partnered with the Tennessee Valley Authority to award $30,000 to Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority to help the local service area during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“We’re pleased to continue our efforts to help our members during this difficult time,” said Greg Williams, AEC general manager. “Douglas-Cherokee will be using this donation to provide energy vouchers, up to $100, for Co-op members who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

AEC has long partnered with Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority in each county the Co-op serves. This partnership leverages federal dollars for energy assistance and also manages local Project Deserve contributions from AEC members.

Funds from AEC are being matched by TVA’s COVID-19 Community Care Fund, which helps local power companies meet immediate needs in their communities by providing matching funds for local initiatives addressing hardships created by this pandemic.

“In the spirit of public power, we are honored to partner with AEC to address the unprecedented challenges facing those we serve,” said Jeannette Mills, TVA executive vice president and chief external relations officer. “TVA has a mission of service to make life better for the people of the Valley, and providing these funds to address immediate needs is one way we can help ease the burdens on families and communities.”

Centerville, TN – Concern for Community is one of the Seven Cooperative Principles by which Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative operates. Recently, it partnered with the Tennessee Valley Authority on a fifty-fifty matching grant to contribute $30,000 to community agencies supporting local residents during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Six-thousand was awarded in each MLEC served county to non-profit organizations.

“Our hometowns continue to deal with the impact of COVID-19, and many are facing challenges they’ve never faced before. We see the community hurting and want to help lighten their burden,” says MLEC President and CEO Keith Carnahan. “By working with organizations as they support local families with groceries, education, pay rent and other expenses, we can stretch their resources to help more people.”

Hickman County – The Hickman County Board of Education received $5000 to help equip some buses with Wi-Fi, making them mobile hot-spots students and the community can use for internet access. Hickman County Senior Citizens Center and Helping Hands of Hickman County each received $500 to help those they serve pay utilities and purchase pantry and other items.

Houston County – Bethesda Community Mission, Inc. received $6000 to assist additional families facing job loss with utilities, rent, groceries and other expenses.

Humphreys County – United Way of Humphreys County established a COVID-19 Family Support Fund and will use its $6000 grant to help with rent, utilities and basic financial needs.

Lewis County – Two non-profits each received $3000. Lewis County Food Bank will purchase additional food for their increased demand brought on by more families facing unemployment due to COVID-19. Lewis County Senior Citizens will prepare the center to reopen and cover the related expenses of masks, thermometers, and cleaning supplies, as well as serve member and non-member needs.

Perry County – Perry County School Nutrition received $6000 to help offset the hardship of COVID-19.  Extra food and labor costs, as well as required changes to their operating procedures, created unexpected expenses as they as they continued to feed children nutritious meals during the pandemic.

“In the spirit of public power, we are honored to partner with local power companies like MLEC to address the unprecedented challenges facing those we serve,” says Jeannette Mills, TVA executive vice president and chief external relations officer. “TVA has a mission of service to make life better for the people of the Valley, and providing these funds to address immediate needs is one way we can help.”

For additional information about MLEC, see mlec.com. For additional information about TVA, see tva.gov.

Trenton, Tenn. – Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and CoBank will contribute a total of $45,000 over the months of April, May, June and July to the food banks that serve Gibson EMC’s members and communities. Already, Gibson EMC has donated $20,000 to our local foodbanks.  TVA has agreed to contribute $15,000 and CoBank has agreed to contribute $10,000.

“One of the unexpected blessings of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an outpouring of goodwill,” says Dan Rodamaker, Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect President and CEO.  “During this time Gibson EMC sought out opportunities to serve.  And after speaking with our local leaders about the needs within our communities, we were encouraged to work with our local food banks.”

“We have been thrilled and very thankful that both TVA, our wholesale power supplier, and CoBank, a national cooperative bank that annually provides ‘Sharing Success’ grants to improve the quality of life for our communities, shared our vision for meeting the critical need of food during the pandemic,” Rodamaker said.

The donations will be distributed among more than a dozen food banks, with donation amounts based on the number of Gibson EMC members in each of the areas.

“We are strong because we care about the people around us,” Rodamaker continued.  “Regardless of the challenges we face, we can be confident that the people of Northwestern Tennessee and Western Kentucky will find ways to adapt, demonstrate compassion and, above all, power on,” he said.

Gibson EMC is a local, not-for-profit, member-owned and member-controlled electric cooperative serving almost 39,000 homes and businesses in eight west Tennessee counties (Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Haywood, Lake, Obion, Madison and Weakley) and four west Kentucky counties (Carlisle, Fulton, Graves and Hickman).  Gibson Connect is a wholly-owned, not-for-profit subsidiary of Gibson EMC, working to provide high-speed, fiber-based broadband service access to all of the cooperative’s eligible members.

Volunteers distribute food through a mobile food pantry in Alamo, Tennessee on Saturday, June 6.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – More than $11 million of $19.7 million in broadband accessibility grants announced last week by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development will go to Tennessee electric cooperatives. Ten of the 17 grant recipients were electric co-ops.

“One of my top priorities is ensuring the success of rural Tennessee. With the assistance of these grants, communities across 21 counties will now have access to broadband that will aid in that success,” Gov. Bill Lee said. “I applaud the efforts of these 17 broadband providers as they play a fundamental role in our efforts to boost rural communities throughout Tennessee.”

The grants come at a time when the need for rural broadband is clear.

“We’re excited about this investment in rural Tennessee,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The current COVID-19 crisis has confirmed what we’ve known for some time: Rural America needs reliable broadband. Education, healthcare and commerce rely on a dependable, high-speed connection to the internet. More than ever, we’re seeing how vital that connection to the rest of the world truly is.”

Electric co-ops receiving grants are:

  • Fayetteville Public Utilities: $1,750,000, serving parts of Lincoln County
  • Forked Deer Electric Cooperative: $719,921, serving parts of Haywood and Lauderdale counties
  • Gibson Electric Membership Corporation: $703,518, serving parts of Obion County
  • HolstonConnect LLC (Holston Electric Cooperative): $361,211, serving the Mooresburg community in Hamblen and Hawkins counties
  • Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative: $593,166, serving parts of south Perry County
  • PVECFiber (Powell Valley Electric Cooperative) and Scott County Telephone Cooperative: $1,908,811.24, serving part of Union County
  • SVEConnect (Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative): $1,654,882, serving the Battle Creek and South Pittsburg Mountain communities in Marion County
  • Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation: $1,768,686, serving parts near the Brownsville community in Haywood County
  • Tri-County Fiber Communications LLC (Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation): $501,811, serving parts of Trousdale County
  • United Communications (Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation): $1,331,504.80, serving the Eagleville community in rural Rutherford and Williamson counties

The broadband accessibility grant fund was created in 2017 as a key component of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act – sweeping legislation designed to close the digital divide in Tennessee. In the years since, many of Tennessee’s electric co-ops have invested more than $187 million in broadband projects that will eventually bring high-speed internet access to more than 790,000 homes and businesses.

UPDATED | NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Recovery efforts continue across Middle Tennessee today following a strong tornado that ripped through the area early Tuesday morning.

Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation suffered heavy damage to their systems. Storms also caused minor damage to Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative and Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation.

UCEMC’s Cookeville office

Today, MTEMC has fewer than 2,000 consumer-members without power. Crews have restored power to more than 45,000 since the storm originally hit. MTEMC estimates that more than 250 poles were broken during the storm. MTEMC is being assisted by crews from Caney Fork Electric Cooperative, Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Duck River Electric Cooperative and Fayetteville Public Utilities.

Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation has approximately 2,200 consumer-members without power. More than 12,000 have had their power restored since the storm originally hit. UCEMC’s Cookeville district office was heavily damaged in the storm. Crews from Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation are assisting UCEMC today.

An employee of UCEMC and her husband were injured when the storm destroyed their home. The employee is recovering following surgery. Some MTEMC employees also lost homes and experienced property damage.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association has established a fund to assist employees of electric co-ops who who were injured or experienced property damage during the storm. Visit tnelectric.org/give or contact Amy Jordan at TECA for more details.

In the midst of their own recovery efforts, employees from MTEMC had the co-op’s food truck, the Electric Griddle, in Mt. Juliet on Wednesday, preparing grilled cheese sandwiches for first responders, clean-up crews, volunteers and restoration crews.

MTEMC employee Tim Sudds serves hot food to first responders in Mt. Juliet following a major tornado in Tuesday morning.

“Many Tennessee communities experienced extreme damage and loss this week,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We have also seen co-ops rally to serve their communities and neighboring cooperatives. Co-op people are the best people, and it is an honor to watch these community servants do what they do best.”

JOHNSON COUNTY, Tenn. — A crew of Mountain Electric Cooperative lineworkers rescued a woman from her nearly-submerged vehicle after a rockslide pushed it into a swollen creek. 

After falling into the creek, the vehicle was washed about 300 yards downstream through turbulent waters and became lodged in the middle of a creek. With raging water on both sides, it quickly became apparent to local first responders that they had no equipment to make a swift-water rescue. Officials decided to request assistance from Mountain EC. Co-op employee Mollie Ingle had already stopped to help out, and she radioed additional crews for assistance.

Lineworkers Rick Courtner, Cody Bryant, Dakota Tester and Charlie Grindstaff rushed to the scene with a bucket truck, unsure of what they would find. “I was pushing it as hard as I could go,” Bryant said. “We had two or three hills we had to pull at like 20 miles per hour.”

The crew was able to set up the bucket truck along the edge of the water where the bucket would just barely reach the vehicle. Two linemen manned the bucket and were able to reach the vehicle and pull the frightened driver into the bucket and to safety.

“I started talking to her, asking her name,” Courtner said. “[We were] trying to keep her calm considering the situation because you could see the fear in her eyes.”

Ingle said, “When they got her in the bucket, she was clinging to Rick. She was so … everyone there was so happy.”

Courtner and Bryant don’t see themselves as heroes. “I knew the lady’s life was at risk, and we got her out,” Courtner said. “But as far as the mindset in us doing it, it’s something we do every day.”

“It is unclear how the lady would have been rescued if not for Mountain EC,” says Joe Thacker, manager of the cooperative. “It was a very serious situation, and emergency personnel had limited options due to raging water, so we’re glad we could help. Our lineworkers put themselves at risk every day to serve our communities. We are very proud of Rick, Cody, Dakota, Charlie and Mollie and their willingness to go above and beyond to help others in need. This is Mountain Electric at our best.”

Some reporting by WCYB News 5.

NASHVILLE – More than 200 electric co-op leaders from across Tennessee were in Nashville on Tuesday, Feb. 4, asking for commonsense rules to protect the state’s electric lineworkers. Over 100 individual meetings with legislators were scheduled during the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s 2020 Legislative Conference.

When not installed properly, generation sources such as solar panels, wind turbines and gas generators that feed power to the grid can pose a real threat to the safety of lineworkers, first responders and the general public. Co-ops asked lawmakers to support SB 1991 and HB 1923, legislation that would require property owners installing a generation source to notify their local utility, comply with basic electric safety codes and install a switch that would allow lineworkers and first responders to disconnect the generation source in an emergency. Tennessee is one of only three states that does not have similar requirements in place.

“The interest of safety demands that any interconnected generation be properly installed,” says Kevin Murphy, president of Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and chairman of the TECA board of trustees. “This legislation is a simple and practical effort that will go a long way to protect lineworkers, first responders and the general public.”

In addition to the lineworker safety legislation, co-ops also discussed other important topics.

Lawmakers were asked to support legislation that would allow certain utility-owned vehicles to display the Powering Tennessee specialty license plate that was introduced by the state in 2019. Proceeds from the plates support the Tennessee Lineworker Lifeline Fund, a nonprofit organization established to support lineworkers and their families.

Co-op representatives also shared information on broadband projects and encouraged lawmakers to support additional funding for rural broadband expansion.

“Every day, legislators make decisions that can impact the important work we do,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Visits like these provide us with valuable opportunities to educate lawmakers about co-ops and our communities. We appreciate co-op consumer-members and employees who take time away from family and work to meet with their elected officials. They help us tell the co-op story.”