It’s been a roller coaster of a year. What started out as a normal winter season soon spiraled with the spread of a novel virus and a storm that ravaged our community.
But from these obstacles came an opportunity for the community to rise up and help their neighbors and friends.
Looking back, here’s how LaGrange County REMC spent our 2020:
Dealing with COVID-19
COVID-19 first popped up on most people’s radars in January or February, but hit home in March when the state put in place stay-at-home orders. The co-op went into action to keep our members and our employees safe by closing our office to the public and implementing proper precautions — masks, hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies — for our employees.
We also worked with our members to put payment arrangements in place for those adversely affected by the virus, and our annual meeting and directors’ election went virtual for the first time in our history.
Seized by the storm
If you were in central or eastern LaGrange County on June 10, it’s hard to forget the hurricane-like winds and rain that blew in and out of the area in less than 20 minutes but devastated the local landscape.
Trees were uprooted, and electric lines and poles were torn down. Our linemen spent the next three and a half days away from their families to get the lights back on for the more than 3,000 affected members, and they continue to help today in clearing trees and brush that still haven’t been dealt with.
It’s been years in the making, but LaGrange County REMC formally announced this year our plan to provide high-speed fiber optic internet to our members. We made public our applications for local and federal funding, and received $5 million in LaGrange County Major Moves funding in November. The co-op plans to move forward in 2021, with the potential to deploy 525 miles of fiber to about 5,500 members over the next two years.
Giving back to the community was more important than ever this year, especially with all that’s happened. The REMC didn’t slow down in its usual programs and efforts, giving more than $30,275 in Operation Round Up grants and $3,500 in EnviroWatts funding throughout the year.
We also gave back with our time, spending a day at the preserve surrounding Maple Wood Nature Center, clearing downed trees that have made its trails unusable since the June storm. Our linemen also installed LED lights at the LaGrange County Fairgrounds, our office staff passed out candy at LaGrange’s Halloween and Heroes event, and our energy advisor helped to judge area 4-H Electric program competitions.
Four decades is a long time to devote to any one thing or person, but add seven more years and you’ve just hit the standard of loyalty that former Operations Manager Terry Helmer gave to the co-op.
Beginning as a lineman in 1973, when the co-op only had one line truck and no substations, Helmer retired in January with a celebration of his leadership and service to the REMC.
With big shoes to fill, Randy Troyer was promoted to engineering and operations manager, and Delmar Bontrager was named operations foreman.