Jeff McCallister

Valerie Williams reads to her children

A book for every child

Valerie Williams knew she wanted in from the moment she heard that the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library/Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library program was coming to Highland County.

When Ohio first lady Fran DeWine announced the program’s expansion into Highland County last March, Williams was not only one of those instrumental in promoting the program in the county, she was among the first to sign up.

Her sons, 4-year-old Porter and 1-year-old Moxley, now each get an age-appropriate book in the mail every month at no cost to the family.

Anthony Smith

The right way

Every now and then, Anthony Smith, president and CEO of Union Rural Electric Cooperative in Marysville, finds he’s dashed out of the house in the morning without eating breakfast, so he ends up in the drive-thru lane at the fast-food place next to his office to grab a bite

Every now and then, Anthony Smith, president and CEO of Union Rural Electric Cooperative in Marysville, finds he’s dashed out of the house in the morning without eating breakfast, so he ends up in the drive-thru lane at the fast-food place next to his office to grab a bite on his way to work. 

Co-op annual meeting

In the know

For customers of an investor-owned utility like AEP or Dayton Power and Light, communication with their electric company probably extends no further than paying their bill or finding out how long an outage might last.

“Members who are engaged are the ones who will attend the annual meeting — for more than just the chance of getting a bill credit,” says Michael Wilson, director of communications at Logan County Electric Cooperative, based in Bellefontaine. “Without engaged and educated members, the cooperative business model could not exist.”

Co-op employee at drive-thru

COVID rules

AJ Atkinson arrives to work at Carroll Electric Cooperative in Carrollton the same as he has every day since he was hired as the co-op’s manager of marketing and member services — but it’s different lately. 

At Carroll Electric, that meant a new office schedule that included a rotation of staff members working remotely so that those in the office would be able to maintain plenty of distance. While the full staff has now returned to a normal five-day on-site week, all are expected to wear masks when on the grounds, and office hours have been reduced to try to further limit close contact through the day.

Huber family with their Tesla model Y

It's electric!

Joey and Kristin Huber have been considering — consciously and subconsciously — the benefits of electricity for some time.

The Hubers are part of a growing number of people taking advantage of the benefits of using more electricity as part of a strategic plan to save money and reduce environmental impact. That, in turn, improves their quality of life and helps the stability of the entire electric grid.

Tietje family in front of solar panels

Solar power: Call us first

Nick and Amanda Kelly knew they were making a long-term investment, one they hoped would benefit not only their wallets, but the entire planet.

“It’s like most things that sound too good to be true,” says Andrew Finton, energy advisor for North Central Electric Cooperative, of which the Kellys are members. “The solar company either didn’t have or didn’t give them any information that is specific to connecting to the (co-op) system, and it would have made a big difference — things like our on- and off-peak rates and our demand charge that are designed to make our billing fair to all of our members. The numbers they were using to estimate the savings on their bill weren’t even close to real life.”

Project Ohio group

Powering up, powering through

Gathering a group of 16 linemen from across Ohio, leaving the security of home and family, and going to a remote part of Central America could never be considered a routine endeavor.

The day after they arrived in Guatemala, the team decided to make an impromptu stop in the village to check out the landscape of the job — to see the 67 homes and the school and get a look at the conditions they’d encounter.

lineworker in bucket

Co-op lineworkers: Always on

Weather forecasters knew it was a potentially devastating storm — a moisture-laden system rolling up from the Gulf of Mexico on a collision course with an arctic blast from the north, with Ohio right in the crosshairs.

“It was really just a good soaking rain that first night,” Martin says.

“We were getting a few calls, and it looked like some of our members might be out for as long as a day or two. Then when we woke up the next morning and saw it in the daylight, we knew it was a bad situation.”

Digital divide

Kyle Hicks sat at his computer at his Lancaster-area home, the homework assignment for his College Credit Plus course due in a few hours. He knew he was cutting it close.

Like a vast number of people in rural areas of Ohio and the rest of the nation, Hicks and his family have limited access to high-speed internet. The one company that provides broadband service where he lives promises connection speeds “up to 5 megabits per second,” but he says tests on the line show it’s rarely above 1 Mbps. What’s more, service in his area, even at that level, is expensive.

Satellite broadband could be an option but costs even more.

Roger Rank standing in a cornfield

Poppin' good time!

Roger Rank has grown popcorn on his fields near Van Wert for almost 40 years. For much of that time, the early part of each harvest has had to go to waste in order to comply with some of the regulations and demands of the distributors who bought the crop.

But lately, he’s found a use for those first kernels of the season. Instead of disposing of them, he donates a portion of that crop to various organizations.