Local Initiatives

S.C. Co-op to Fund 75 Acts of Kindness

By Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer Published: February 24th, 2014

Six-year-old Kelsey’s new “big girl bed” is helping a South Carolina electric cooperative mark a notable milestone, turning 75.

Six-year-old Kelsey checks out her new “big girl bed,” a donation from Laurens Electric Co-op. (Photo By: Laurie Riser)

Six-year-old Kelsey checks out her new “big girl bed,” a donation from Laurens Electric Co-op. (Photo By: Laurie Riser)

Large enough to fit the youngster’s stuffed animals, the bunk bed is just the latest example of Laurens Electric Cooperative’s “75 Acts of Kindness” charitable program.

Launched to observe the co-op’s 75th anniversary, the program will award up to $40,000 to 75 needy individuals and charities in its service area. Successful applicants must meet certain criteria to qualify for funding up to $500.

The Laurens, S.C., co-op’s board of directors challenged the staff to turn the once-in-a-lifetime occasion into a meaningful activity, said Jim Donahoo, director of marketing.

“We were planning on doing something small, maybe something internal,” said Donahoo. “While celebrating a 75th anniversary is important, it doesn’t make us more reliable or improve our service or make our electric rates cheaper.

“So we decided to use the occasion as a platform to communicate the cooperative difference and the value of the cooperative principles.”

In Kelsey’s case, she was still sleeping in a toddler bed because her unemployed and sick mom couldn’t afford a regular one. “Kelsey is a very sweet girl, the oldest of my three kids. And even at [age] six, she sacrifices a lot for her two little brothers,” said Sonya, her mom.

Because the source of revenue comes from already-established co-op charity events, such as a golf tournament, the 75 Acts program was easy to set up, said Donahoo. It’s promoted on social media outlets, and a committee of five co-op employees reviews applications.

Laurens Electric Co-op is celebrating No. 75 with 75 acts of kindness. (Image Courtesy of LEC)

Laurens Electric Co-op is celebrating No. 75 with 75 acts of kindness. (Image Courtesy of LEC)

“We want the money to go to people in our community for specific reasons, not just to catch up on bills. We want to help people we can make the biggest impact with,” said David Hammond, a marketing specialist serving on the review committee.

So far, the co-op has made 15 awards, mostly to families who’ve fallen on hard times because of sickness or unemployment. The committee has reviewed about 300 applications, and expects more this year.

Another award will help a family send its straight-A teenaged daughter to a summer leadership institute.

“There are a lot of sad stories out there,” said Hammond, adding that when he called recipients to tell them of their awards, several of them broke down in tears. “That really touched me. It makes me grateful for my own situation.”

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