"Electric Cooperatives: Going Beyond the Wires" - an unMetered Story

"Electric Cooperatives: Going Beyond the Wires" - an unMetered Story

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Thanks for listening to another unMetered story, brought to you by Middle Tennessee Electric. We’ve got a great story for you, that comes from the winner of our Washington Youth Tour writing contest.

Each year, Middle Tennessee Electric challenges local high school juniors to write short stories about the advantages of a cooperative. This year’s short story theme was “Electric Cooperatives: Going Beyond the Wires.”

More than 2,800 students from Cannon, Rutherford, Williamson and Wilson counties were presented the opportunity to submit 800- to 900-word essays, with the winners earning cash prizes and the opportunity to travel on the Washington Youth Tour.
This year, the winning story came from Lebanon High School’s Isaac Bland. He and the 14 other winners will join students from across the nation in Washington, D.C., for the 2018 Washington Youth Tour. During their trip, they will meet U.S. House representatives and senators, explore museums, memorials and monuments in our nation’s capital.

If you, or if you know someone that will be, an upcoming junior this year, be sure to ask your teacher about participating in Middle Tennessee Electric’s Washington Youth Tour writing competition. More information for students and teachers can be found by going to MTEMC.com/WashingtonYouthTour or you can reach out to our Community Relations Coordinator Jay Sanders at jay.sanders@mtemc.com.

So without further ado, here is the winning creative short story for the 2018 Washington Youth Tour.

“Electric Cooperative: Beyond the Wires” by Isaac Bland of Lebanon High School

All Christopher could think about before moving from New York City to a small rural community in Tennessee was how he was sure to be in for an unpleasant surprise. Afterward, he was, if nothing else, unpleasantly surprised for having jumped to such a conclusion.

Upon arriving in Tennessee, Christopher instantly felt at home, even though the setting was entirely different. Not only did he find his new community extremely pleasant, but the house he had feared would be unlikable turned out to be spacious and cozy. The only thing he had left to do was have electricity put in the house. Having grown up in New York, he was unfamiliar with electricity providers for rural communities. However, his friendly neighbor, Shirley, was more than happy to point him in the right direction.

“The electric co-ops of Tennessee are the source of electricity for the state’s 2.5 million homes, farms and businesses,” Shirley explained as she sipped on a cup of tea. “However, they do so much more than simply provide electricity — they are active in strengthening the communities they serve and improving the lives of residents.”

“In what ways do they do this?” Christopher inquired, becoming interested.

“Well, that can’t all be told in one sitting,” Shirley laughed. “I’ll tell you what you need to know, though.

“First of all, electric co-ops focus on seven basic principles: voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; members’ economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community. These form the foundation for co-ops’ operation. Rather than simply serving as electricity providers, the co-ops go above and beyond to ensure that their customers are satisfied. They are so dedicated to doing their job that the lights have stayed on 99.96 percent of the time, even during storms.”

Christopher was befuddled. “Nobody in New York had that kind of generosity!” he exclaimed.

“I was personally impacted by their generosity,” Shirley went on. “When I graduated high school, my parents had both lost their jobs, and I needed some way to support my family before I went off to college. I had heard that the co-ops were offering training programs for young people, so I gladly enlisted. I learned so much over three months that soon I was going around powering houses just like a regular employee. I was paid handsomely and was able to help my family get their finances back under control. That was easily the best summer of my life.”

She gestured to a framed photograph on the mantlepiece of her standing outside a house, dressed in an electrician’s uniform.

“I can imagine,” Christopher mused. “So, tell me, what else do electric co-ops do that sets them apart from electric providers in cities like New York?”

“For one thing, they are member-owned and -regulated,” Shirley replied. “Board members are elected by members of the co-ops themselves who know that the elected board will act in the co-op’s best interest and do only the right things for the communities they serve. Also, co-ops are not-for-profit, guaranteeing that communities are served as fairly as possible, not simply in the way that makes the most money. Would you believe that Tennessee’s co-ops have paid $63 million in taxes which help fund schools, roads and parks? Or that they provide jobs for more than 2,400 families in Tennessee?”

Just a quick break from the story to clarify about taxes. Middle Tennessee Electric is a not-for-profit organization, which means we are not required to pay county or city taxes, but we do pay an Ad Valorem Tax or “in lieu of taxes” to the counties and cities we represent.

Christopher was now beginning to wonder why he had never before heard about all these fabulous benefits of electric co-ops. “This just seems like the perfect place to live,” he remarked.

Shirley smiled. “That’s the reason I chose to remain here. Now, I presume you would like to learn more about this community. I will tell you that to get to know the co-op is to get to know the community. Tennessee’s communities and the co-ops that serve them are extremely intertwined and have a very strong relationship. The programs the co-ops offer to help strengthen communities are enough to make anyone want to live here. For instance, the Co-op Connections Card program has helped Tennesseans save more than $2.6 million on prescription drugs. In addition, the co-ops encourage regional industrial development in order to bring jobs to their communities by providing some of the most affordable energy around,” she recounted.

“Wow!” was all Christopher could say.

“All in all, they provide for extremely safe, reliable and affordable energy,” said Shirley. “Let me just say that I am beyond fortunate to have this kind of service provided to me. I can’t understand why anyone would want to live anywhere else — just because of the benefits the co-ops here provide.”

Christopher nodded in agreement. “Don’t ask me why I didn’t move here ages ago. This area, aside from being so much more pleasant and peaceful than New York, has electric providers that offer benefits beyond anyone’s imagination. I’ve found myself a place to stay for good.”

Congratulations to Isaac from Lebanon High School on winning the essay contest for the 2018 Washington Youth Tour and all the other participants who participated in this year’s competition and will be going on the tour. For a full list of the winners, check out the June edition of the Tennessee Magazine.

Don’t forget that if you get a bill from Middle Tennessee Electric, you’re not just a customer… you’re a member, and membership has its benefits. Find out more about what your benefits are as a member by going to ExperienceMembership.coop, that’s ExperienceMembership.coop.

Thanks again for listening and don’t forget to subscribe and share our videos on Facebook, YouTube, and podcast services to help your family, friends, and neighbors know about how their local electric cooperative is looking out for them. You can also find a full list of our podcasts by going to MTEMC.com/unMetered. Have a great weekend!

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