Two Ohio electric cooperative nominees have been named winners in a national contest by Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, the nationwide alliance of more than 730 consumer-owned electric cooperatives. Touchstone sponsors the #WhoPowersYou contest to honor co-op members for demonstrating their concern for their respective communities, which is one of Touchstone’s core values. The awards come with cash prizes to help the winners continue their valuable work.
Grand-prize winners: Bob and Midge Custer, Pioneer Electric Cooperative
Pioneer Electric Cooperative members Bob and Midge Custer of Woodstock, Ohio, were named the grand-prize winners from more than 300 entries nationwide. The Custers operate Downsize Farm, a Medicaid-certified agency that helps those with developmental disabilities to “learn by doing.” The Custers know there are providers in larger cities with good services, but they strongly believe that local individuals should experience their own communities — and in Champaign County and four surrounding counties served by Downsize Farm, those communities are rural.
The Custers and their more than 30 employees aim to allow those with disabilities to act not only as consumers but also as contributors. A staff member works with each client individually to determine his or her interests and connect them with productive activities, including volunteer initiatives, that can translate into real jobs. In addition, Downsize Farm’s “Just Right Jobs” program focuses on supported employment positions and allows local, community-based businesses to hire Downsize Farm clients. Bob, Midge, and their team are making a true impact.
Third-place winner: Ronnie Kahle Sr., Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative
Ronnie Kahle Sr., the third-place national winner, has dedicated his retirement years to volunteering in his hometown of Kalida. In addition to Lions Club activities and fundraising, volunteering for the Pioneer Days festival, and other community service projects, Kahle has been instrumental in the development of Four Seasons Park and the Plum Creek Nature Area in Kalida. He’s been involved with this extensive community project for the past decade, arranging the purchase of the properties and designing and constructing the 80-acre park — including installing the underground utilities and overseeing construction of buildings.