Pa. Co-op Delivers Surprise MealsBy Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer Published: December 3rd, 2013
Northwestern REC’s Gerda Frazier can drive a hard bargain, and she’s proud of it, especially when it comes to helping people in need.
Frazier’s deftness with a deal has paid off the past eight years, as Frazier and her family have shopped for an annual holiday meal drive that she helps lead at the Cambridge Springs, Pa., co-op.
“If the turkey is not less than 29 cents a pound, I don’t buy it. I’m a haggler, and I’d rather see as many meals as possible go to those in need,” said Frazier, a consumer service rep at Northwestern REC. “This year, I cleaned out the mashed potatoes section at Wal-Mart, Giant Eagle and Aldi.”
It’s been a good year for the holiday meal drive, too. With donations from the co-op, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and others, the project is on track to set a record for meals delivered: 150 between Thanksgiving and Christmas, compared with 181 meals during the past eight years.
The co-op’s Facebook page was a factor in this year’s success; public engagement rocketed more than 400 percent because of social media, according to officials. “We’ve had as many hits, if not more, than when we’ve had an outage,” said Frazier.
Each year, Frazier collects names of members from across the co-op’s 10 districts who’ve fallen on hard times because of financial or health issues.
“I talk to people all year long and I hear what they’re going through. Lineworkers, consumer service representatives, and community agencies also give me ideas,” she said.
Frazier notifies each recipient of the gift. Employees, including her co-op lineman husband, Michael, deliver the bounty to each home.
“I was amazed at the gratitude this year,” said Michael Frazier. “We have never had the members crying or hugging us before and during deliveries. They kept asking us, ‘How did you know we needed this?’ ”
The outpouring of donations and Gerda Frazier’s knack for finding a bargain—each meal cost $18 per household, compared with $39 per household in years past—have meant that the co-op will provide meals during Easter, too.
“People can’t believe that an electric utility would think of them and provide for them,” said Gerda Frazier. “It’s nice for people to see that we’re not always collecting money and we’re not always the bad guy. That we are a family.”