Maximizing local impact

How do you calculate how many lives your efforts have touched? In Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative’s case, it’s an impossible equation. But that’s not the point.

Our community-centric attitude is the gear that keeps us moving — a constant striving to empower our membership as a whole while still lending a hand to individual needs.

With territory in both northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana, our co-op spirit surges through the nearly 13,000 members we belong to. If we, as the electric provider, energize the “body,” it’s our job to act as the hands and feet of our communities —moving, lifting up, and improving local lives.

Service projects

Every year, we select a different labor of love to pour into the community. Since 2014, we’ve remodeled two members’ homes, handcrafted a new dock and benches at Black Swamp Nature Center in Paulding, revamped the Van Wert County Humane Society, patched up Auglaize Village in Defiance, and planted 16 trees at a ball park near our office.

Our attitude toward this “manual labor” has changed drastically; many of our employees find the hands-on shaping of our community restorative in nature. We’ve discovered the film sawdust leaves on your clothes washes out easily, knee stains while mulching are tattoos of pride, and digging through fresh soil is a great skin exfoliant. Reaching above your head with a paintbrush could be interpreted as meditative yoga, and operating heavy machinery keeps us sharp — even on weekends.

Getting dirty is expected; finding new ways to do it every year is the exhilarating part.

Operation Round Up

About 75 percent of our membership participates in Operation Round Up (ORU), a voluntary program where members’ monthly electric bills are “rounded up” to the next dollar with the spare change put into a fund for worthy causes in our community. Each quarter, our ORU board grants around $12,000 to local groups who apply.

Through members’ donations, we’ve helped fire departments purchase new hose nozzles, churches build shelters, animal clinics fund spay and neuter programs, food banks nourish the hungry, schools purchase AEDs, and rotary boards clean up parks. With ORU, small change from our members is used to make a big impact locally — neighbors helping neighbors, a founding principle we always revert to.

Since ORU’s inception in 2010, it has provided more than $392,446 to 124 organizations in Indiana and Ohio.

Causes that tug our heartstrings

Many of our employees are from our own communities, so local needs fall on our shoulders. Retirees love cooing over the antique speedsters at the Paulding Senior Center Car Show, elementary kiddos thank us for their Character Program books, high schoolers dance the night away at after-prom, and Van Wert’s World Leadership Summit conference ends with a standing ovation — all things we support.

Whether we’re volunteering at area gatherings like Flat Rock Creek Fall Festival or sending a team of linemen to play at the Miller City Cleveland Athletic Boosters golf outing, we take pride sending smiles wherever our employees go. But smiles aren’t the only thing we send.

In 2016, we sent 475 veterans on Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to see monuments in their names. This was our biggest community impact effort yet, as we raised more than $175,000 in a matter of months by hosting raffles and roping in the entire community to give these selfless men and women a respectful hoorah. We had no idea massive crowds would kiss and embrace them in the airport, tears streaming down faces of veterans and families alike. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association recognized our outreach, awarding PPEC the National Cooperative Purpose Award in 2017.

Youth programs

The next generation holds a special place in our mission. We are dedicated to educating and training tomorrow’s leaders. Wherever assistance can be provided, we do what’s feasible through sponsoring 4-H livestock shows, giving away zoo tickets to kids who’ve never seen a giraffe, and helping with the annual Paulding County Fair Rodeo Night to fundraise for Conquer Childhood Cancer Now.

When fifth graders’ faces light up, nobody assumes it’s because they’re watching an electric safety demonstration — but ours get repeat calls to come back. Check out our social media channels to see happy little second graders pedal their hearts out energizing the bulb on our energy bike, then tell us wellness and education don’t go together.

Two high school delegates visit Washington, D.C., on our all-expenses-paid Youth Tour leadership trip every year, and we funnel more than $4,800 into scholarships to give students of our members a leg up in the expensive world of career training.

Economic development

Through partnerships with our state economic development organizations, we strive to recruit sound companies to our industrial sites, pumping money back into our area economies. Community development efforts, like building the Herb Monroe Community Park in Paulding — named after our first general manager — are a high priority for us. Encouraging other organizations to build, we’ve awarded a $14,400 grant for site certification to Monroeville, Indiana, for developing 42 acres next to an American Mitsuba plant.

PPEC has representation on the Paulding County Vision Board, Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, and Northwest Regional Ohio Economic Development (NORED). One of our employees even serves as marketing committee chair for the NewAllen Alliance, which invests in livability initiatives to keep the heartbeat of our communities strong.

Employee outreach

Our employees are a direct extension of our cooperative family, tasked with spreading awareness of the familial circle outward. As a living organism, the cooperative family seeks to open its arms across territories.

Nobody in our office is stuck in the quicksand of status quo — every day is a chance to spread the cooperative difference. Our employees, saturated with this spirit of carpe diem, formed an internal committee, Community Relations and Employee Wellness (CREW), to represent the human power behind PPEC. They started Denim Day Friday in 2018, allowing employees to wear jeans on Friday in exchange for a donation, which has raised more than $700 toward revolving community needs.

Last year, employees donated $2,500 to people in need during the Christmas season, supplying gifts for 10 families in all the counties we serve. This year, we raised more than $7,400 for the United Way of Paulding County through our chili cookoff donations and voluntary payroll deductions.

PPEC employees volunteer for area chamber of commerce events, sit on community and church boards, serve at philanthropic dinners, assemble gift baskets for nonprofit auctions, cook brats at high school football games, and pass out candy at the John Paulding Days Parade. Almost every employee uses their time, talents, or treasures as a powerful, positive force.

If you recognize our employees without his or her blue PPEC T-shirts, you’ll start to notice them in places you least expect — your church’s Haitian goods fundraiser, your grocery store’s produce aisle, your county fair’s truck pulls, and even sitting behind you at the community theater’s matinée showing.

We are the co-op and the co-op is us. We don’t merely care for our community; we are the community along with you, and our roots spread wider and deeper with each watering.