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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Sweeps Co-op Nation


[Taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge at Dawson Public Power in Lexington, Nebraska.]
Representing the interests of more than 900 electric cooperatives across the U.S., the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association provides retail electric service to more than 42 million consumers in 47 states. ECT Staff Writer Michael W. Kahn wrote this story about highlighting an outpouring of support for ALS victims by co-op leaders:

Along with rock stars, sports heroes and a former president, electric cooperative leaders and staffers across the nation are joining in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

The challenge benefits the ALS Foundation, which is fighting what’s commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. As of September 8, more than $111 million has been raised.

While fundraising is nothing new for co-ops, this takes concern for community to a new level and its all playing out on social media.

“The ice bucket challenge has taken social media fundraising down a new path—one that could not only help us raise money, but could also highlight our commitment to our employees, our members and the communities we serve,” said Lisa Taylor-Galizia, director of Communications at Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative in Newport, North Carolina. “Last year, we had great success raising money through Facebook for one of our linemen who was battling cancer.”

Take it to the top

For the ice bucket, some co-op employees have been gutsy enough to challenge their bosses.

At Navopache Electric Cooperative, Kristi Davis, a database specialist, called out CEO Chuck Moore. Despite what you may think about Arizona in August, it was 55 degrees outside the co-op’s Lakeside headquarters when Moore got doused by three gallons of ice dumped from a bucket truck.

When Berl Davis, president and CEO of Palmetto Electric Cooperative accepted the challenge, he noted that “a good friend of mine was diagnosed with ALS.”

“He worked for another electric cooperative in South Carolina, so I’d like to encourage everyone to participate,” said Davis, who challenged the CEOs of the state’s other co-ops to follow his lead, before he, too, took a drenching from a bucket truck.

In North Dakota, the general managers of Roughrider Electric Cooperative, KEM Electric Cooperative, Slope Electric Cooperative and Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative participated, while three Basin Electric Power Cooperative executives took a soaking.

At NRECA, Jim Bausell, senior vice president of Communications, accepted the challenge from writer Derrill Holly.

“Over 30,000 Americans, and tens of thousands of people all over the world, are at any point in time affected by ALS,” Bausell said before his wife Pat dumped a bucket of ice water over him.

Sometimes, the boss calls out his staff, which is exactly what happened at Choptank Electric Cooperative. Before president and CEO Mike Wheatley got dunked, he challenged his linemen. The Denton District crew promptly took him up on it.

Kids say the darndest things

Even the youngest members of the community can put the grownups on the spot.

At Randolph EMC in Asheboro, North Carolina, “the co-op’s energy services consultant, Michael Trent, was challenged by a football team of 7- and 8-year-olds from the youth football program he manages,” said Jill Vanness, director of Communications.

Trent promptly challenged CEO Dale Lambert, who, along with other senior co-op officials, took their dousing.

“We accept this challenge on behalf of Randolph EMC and to help with the cause of raising funds to find a cure to this awful disease,” said Lambert.

The CEO received “an extra dousing because employees thought his hair didn’t get wet enough on the first try,” Vanness noted.

Remembering those lost

Several co-ops dedicated the challenge to people directly affected by ALS.

Such was the case at Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative in Auburn, Illinois. “We dedicated our project to Lee Marten, an RECC director from 1994 to 2010, who passed away from complications of ALS in July 2013,” said Dana Smith, director of Member and Public Relations.

Likewise, Butte Electric Cooperative dedicated its challenge to Norris Rovere, who served more than three decades as a director of the Newell, South Dakota co-op. Several employees wore their T-shirts, as they got drenched by two bucket trucks.

Forty-one employees of Midwest Energy Cooperative took the challenge, including Roger Bowser, manager of Energy Programs and Services at the Cassopolis, Michigan co-op. He shared the story of his uncle’s struggle with ALS, and how he watched his dad do everything possible to help him.

“At the time I remember feeling very helpless,” Browser said. “But today we all help make a difference.”

— writer Victoria A. Rocha contributed to this report.

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