Co-ops care: Member-funded charitable programs

Little league baseball team
Mid-Ohio Energy helps the Kenton Little League ensure that every kid has a spot.

After serving the Army in the Vietnam War in 1968–69, Bill Pike returned to his home near Greenfield to get on with a normal life.

Partly because of exposure to Agent Orange, but also for other maladies, he’s needed the type of medical services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, so he’s been a regular visitor to the Chillicothe VA Medical Center for treatment, physical therapy, and regular checkups through the years.

“I really enjoy going there,” Pike says. “We’re always with the other veterans. It’s really about being with your peers.”

The Chillicothe VA Medical Center has been a place of healing for veterans for almost a century. In 2016, the Ross County Veterans Council built a gazebo and later added a healing garden designed to connect the facility with the beautiful surrounding nature of southern Ohio.

“I mostly use it for walking and relaxing. It’s really something to see. It sits on a hill and overlooks the golf course. The layout is just beautiful,” says Pike. “It’s really used as a getaway, a calming place to get away from the world. It’s so quiet with a great view. It really puts you in a great frame of mind.”

Research sponsored by the VA and others has found that gardens are therapeutic through the fragrance, beauty, colors, and sounds of nature, as well as the opportunity for exercise. Nature is an important part of the healing process.

“The garden is designed for veterans suffering from PTSD,” says Michelle Schatzman, project manager. “It’s a place where they can meditate and clear their minds.”

The garden is also home to events like the Veterans in Transitions Family Fun Day, an event for veterans and their families to gather for music, games, food, and prizes. It hosted the Ross County National Guard deployment, where families spent time together before the unit deployed.

The gazebo and healing garden were made possible in part by $10,000 in grants from the South Central Power Company Foundation. The foundation is funded through Lancaster-based South Central Power Company’s Operation Round Up — where consumer-members voluntarily round their electric bills up to the next dollar to make a donation to the foundation. Money donated through the program supports schools, civic groups, charitable organizations, food pantries, fire departments, and more in communities throughout the co-op’s service territory.

The program is inspired by the seventh cooperative principle, Concern for Community, which all electric cooperatives honor. Most co-ops around the state have similar programs and stories that give testament to co-ops’ devotion to that principle.

The Rothhaar Family

Eastin Rothhaar, a sixth grader at Wynford Local Schools, received a life-changing gift, thanks to Attica-based North Central Electric Cooperative’s People Fund.

Maple, a female golden retriever-Labrador mix, now serves as a service dog for Eastin, who is on the autism spectrum. The family needed to raise $15,000 to cover the cost of Maple from 4 Paws for Ability. North Central Electric Cooperative’s People Fund donated $3,000 to the worthy cause.

Maple is trained to assist Eastin by providing calming and comforting interactions on the handler’s command. Maple can recognize a wide range of Eastin’s emotions, approach him, and cuddle or provide kisses for comfort.

“This co-op isn’t just about providing electricity — it’s about people caring about other people,” says Sarah Rothhaar, Eastin’s mom. “When you round up on your bill, positive outcomes happen, just like with Eastin and Maple.”

Kenton Little League

Kenton Little League’s motto is “No kid gets turned away,” so the league raises funds to cover the registration fees for children from families in need. Kenton Little League works to provide children and families a safe, healthy, and fun place to spend time together.

The Community Fund, another member-funded charitable program — this one at Kenton-based Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative — awarded $1,000 to sponsor youth baseball players.

The donation will help cover registration fees, uniforms, umpires, field maintenance, equipment, and more. With their registration fees covered, families won’t have to worry about getting turned away because of finances.

The Highland County North Joint Fire and Ambulance District

The South Central Power Company Foundation also provided funds to the Highland County North Joint Fire and Ambulance District (HCNJFAD). The district used the money to purchase a new power unit and high-tensile steel cutters, spreaders, and hoses, which enable the HCNJFAD to perform extractions on newer-model automobiles that are made with stronger materials.

The district’s first responders put the new equipment to use just four days after it arrived, when they were called to assist at the scene of a motor vehicle accident — a rollover with heavy damage and entrapment.

With the new apparatus, the team extracted the victim in only 12 minutes. The person survived after being flown by medical transport to a trauma facility.

“Thanks to the generosity of South Central Power members, our capabilities will no longer be hampered by old, obsolete equipment when seconds matter,” says Assistant Chief Erica D. Hurless-Miller, Highland County EMS coordinator.