Making a Difference in Kids’ LivesBy Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer Published: March 7th, 2011
EUSTIS, Fla.—Lois DeYoung ran a finger across some caulk she had just applied to the trim around a cabin window, looked at her friend Patty Fetting, and laughed, “Just call us Lucy and Ethel.”
Ah, but for all their hijinks, Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz were never part of a project quite like this.
DeYoung, representing Jasper REMC, Rensselaer, Ind., and Fetting, from Dairyland Power Cooperative, La Crosse, Wis., were among more than 100 volunteers who pitched in on energy-related improvements at Camp Boggy Creek.
By the end of the day March 5, volunteers had provided the Florida youth camp with a much-needed solar power system to heat its pool, and applied drips and drabs of caulk and sealant to weatherize 16 cabins for campers and two that house staff members.
The activity was part of a community service project organized by Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives and NRECA that has become a tradition before the NRECA annual meeting, which is being held in nearby Orlando.
“This is great. It’s a fantastic feeling, and you know that you’re really standing up for something,” said Geoff Oldfather, communications and public relations manager for Arizona’s G&T Cooperatives, Benson, and a member of the national Touchstone Energy board.
“We’re out here because we do want to do something good, but we’re also sharing an experience with a wonderful group of people,” he said.
Founded by the late actor Paul Newman and retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Camp Boggy Creek is one of a kind, the only camp in Florida that provides medically supervised recreational opportunities for kids affected by 14 types of chronic or life-threatening illnesses.
The $23 million facility is a not-for-profit venture, so any opportunity to save money on heating and cooling costs is welcome, said Liz Rogers, major gifts officer at the camp. Beyond trimming monthly electric bills, though, the community service project will make life a little more pleasant for campers. Workers rebuilt and repositioned an inoperable solar panel system designed to heat the camp pool that unaccountably was installed in partial shade.
Youths with sickle cell anemia area among those who will benefit; they can’t swim in cold water because temperature fluctuations trigger crises in their bodies.
“For campers who come with sickle cell, it’s one of the few times all year they can swim. You can imagine being a child in Florida with pools all around you, and lakes and oceans, and they’re worried about going into that painful crisis,” Rogers said.
Inside one cabin, energy savings were already accruing as Pat Carlyle of Choctawhatchee Electric Co-op, DeFuniak Springs, Fla., applied foam insulation around a pipe leading to the outside.
“There was a huge hole in the wall,” she said, descending a ladder. “I could feel it when I was standing up there. This’ll make a huge difference.”
At lunch time, volunteers from Peace River Electric Co-op, Wauchula, Fla., cooked up 175 pounds of pork with all the fixing for hungry crews; some of the co-op’s workers camped overnight at Boggy Creek to get a head start on the day’s events.
Another group of volunteers came from Sumter Electric Cooperative, Sumterville, which provides power to the camp.
Jim Duncan, CEO and general manager of SECO, said employees at his co-op have been very good about responding to community needs and were delighted to hook up with their co-op brothers and sisters.
“You have chosen to take part in a project that will help Camp Boggy Creek lower its energy costs and, in turn, will certainly benefit the children who come to this unique facility,” he told the volunteers. “We are making a difference.”