Electric Cooperatives were formed to bring affordable, reliable energy to their communities. Although no two co-ops are the same, they all operate according to the same set of core values and principles which ensure that co-ops put the needs of their members first. One of those values, concern for community, truly exemplifies what makes cooperatives special. When Tanner Greer, Sr. VP and CTO of Blue Ridge Energy, heard that a local charitable organization was the target of a robbery, he turned to his coworkers and put that value into action.
“As a co-op, we’re constantly thinking about our community. Blue Ridge gives all employees a couple of days that can be used to volunteer,” Greer said. “We always keep an eye out for opportunities to help.” In January, an opportunity to help presented itself when the Wig Bank, a local organization that provides support to people afflicted with cancer, was burglarized. From providing personalized wigs for people experiencing hair loss to snacks and gas cards, the Wig Bank strives to ease some of the hardships caused by cancer. Greer, who sits on the board of The Wig Bank, has seen firsthand the difference the organization has made in the community and realized that he had specialized skills that they could use to make the Wig Bank more secure.
“We wanted long-term solutions,” Greer said, “I come from a technology background, so I proposed a camera surveillance system.” As he began to formulate a plan, he brought in some of his co-op teammates to help. Duffie Stone, Jason Smith, and Thomas Russell all work with Greer at Blue Ridge and have backgrounds in technology. “As a technical group, volunteering doesn’t always give you the chance to use your specialized skills,” Greer explained. “It’s really neat when we’re able to volunteer our time as an organization and use the technical skills we’ve developed from working at the co-op. We were happy to be able to give our technical expertise to an organization that would have a hard time paying someone else for that.”
The tech savvy group all took a volunteer day to run network cabling and install a series of cameras around the Wig Bank. They also trained the staff there on how to use the newly installed technology to monitor the area. “It really made a big difference to them. There are only two employees and a lot of volunteers, which the Wig Bank relies on, and you want people to feel safe,” Greer said. “There’s a sense of violation when someone comes into your space. The Wig Bank provides peace of mind for the people they help, and we wanted to help provide peace of mind for them.”
The group of volunteers even brought out a Blue Ridge Electric bucket truck to help with the camera installation! “Thomas is bucket trained because his team does some fiber work as well, and the bucket made the process faster and safer.” Greer said. “The members own all the equipment, so if there’s a way to give them additional use out of it and we have them available, then that’s a great thing for the co-op.”
Giving back to the community is deeply ingrained in the country’s cooperative culture. “It’s a different culture of being a servant.” Greer explained. “Whether you’re working with a member to explain a bill, or you’re upgrading a line so that its reliability will be better, or you’re upgrading a new technology feature for a new set of data that a member can have, it all comes back to the member. Everything we do, and this is true for all co-ops, goes back to community.”