Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative is asking its members for their spare pennies at the end of each month.
“Operation Roundup,” as the company calls the program, allows customers to voluntarily round up their bill to the nearest dollar. For instance, a bill of $152.49 would become $153, with the remaining 51 cents pooling into a fund for local organizations.
“We hope to be able to help out in a lot of areas, and we are,” said Wayne V. Kipps, an SVEC customer in New Market. He was selected to be a founding member of the SVEC’s area committee for determining how Operation Roundup funds are distributed in Shenandoah County.
“We are dispersing monies already,” Kipps said. “It’s all coming back home. So many people are doing good things, and they’re asking for monies.”
The first round of grants was doled out in January, totaling approximately $7,000. A slice of that was given to 4-H in Shenandoah County, a youth development program, to allow the organization to hire a summer intern.
The other grant recipients were: Blue Ridge Area Food Bank; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Virginia; United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley; Boys and Girls Clubs of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County; Shenandoah Area Council of Boys Scouts of America (Frederick County).
“It’s a difficult task to make sure everybody’s getting what they deserve and their fair share,” said Preston Knight, SVEC spokesman, highlighting the importance of the area committees. “Their task is to make sure the money is given to good causes in general, but also they’re there to give their opinions on what would be the best uses of funding for their own backyard, in their own county.”
The program officially launched in November, and so far 700 customers have joined. But Knight has high hopes for how big the program can become.
“Every little cent can go a long way to charitable giving,” Knight said. Because monthly round-ups will vary from one to 99 cents, he said the average donation will be $6 a year. “We’re just hoping with 90,000 members that we can get quite a few signed up … and make a real impact on the community that we serve.”
Customers who do not opt in to the program will not experience any rise in their electric rates, Knight said.
Operation Roundup draws inspiration from several other electric cooperatives. The SVEC website credits Palmetto Electric Cooperative in South Carolina for originally coming up with the idea to ask customers to round up their bills to contribute to local organizations.
Knight also pointed to Rappahannock Electric Cooperative for its similar version of the program, dubbed “Power of Change.”
According to REC spokesman Matt Faulconer, the company’s round-up program began in 2005 and has since donated $326,000 to community organizations.
He included a list of Power of Change recipients in an emailed statement: “Homeless shelters, volunteer fire and rescue departments, literacy programs, home safety visits for seniors, food pantries, service dog training and mental health counseling just to name a few.”
Even though SVEC’s program is only three months old, Kipps said he’s already built a strong admiration for his fellow Shenandoah County committee members.
“I’ve just been so impressed with the people that Preston has come up with,” Kipps said.
“They’re so knowledgeable, and they’re leaders. Just a real strong leadership … It’s a well-balanced program, all around.”
Members of the 10-person committee serve three-year terms before being rotated out.
SVEC members interested in joining the program can follow the instructions found on the company website at: http://www.svec.coop/Your-Cooperative/Community/Operation-Round-Up.aspx. The next round of grant applications is due April 11.