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Whether they provide internet access for students in need or share ideas for DIY face masks, Texas co-ops work to keep their communities healthy and strong.
Customer service representatives are taking calls in their living rooms. Lineworkers are driving their work trucks home and donning face masks as they head out for work. Managers are posting video updates, reassuring everyone that the lights will stay on.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas’ co-op employees are doing whatever it takes—including social distancing—to keep power flowing and members updated while protecting themselves and their communities.
As they always do in times of crisis, co-ops are finding ways to strengthen and support their communities.
“Cooperative members and employees are family, and we pull together in times like this to make it through together,” Bryan Wood, Deep East Texas Electric Co-op general manager said.
Bandera EC has temporarily increased broadband speeds for its BEC Fiber users to help alleviate network strain as more employees and students rely on the internet for work and homework. The co-op is also working to provide free at-home internet to disadvantaged students.
“BEC Fiber plays an important role in helping members in our area stay connected,” said Shane Schmidt, BEC Fiber manager. “We care about our members and have recognized the increased need for broadband internet access at home. We are doing what we can to lessen the burden.”
In its service area north of Dallas, CoServ has established a relief fund, sending $200,000 from the CoServ Charitable Foundation to seven social service agencies. In Central Texas, Bluebonnet EC and Heart of Texas EC each have made significant donations to food pantries, between them giving $37,500 to 24 pantries.
Near its Itasca headquarters, HILCO EC invited students in need of Wi-Fi to the co-op’s event center parking lot, where the co-op provided free internet. Students and parents gained online access from their vehicles so they could maintain social distancing.
South Plains EC is giving away $5,000 in gift cards from local restaurants to local heroes—such as health care workers and teachers—using Facebook. “We … hope it’s just a small way we can show support for our communities,” said Whitney Bryant, public relations specialist at the co-op.
Wise EC employee Nicole Crabtree Haney has sewn nearly 250 face masks, donating more than 100 to her co-workers. “Honestly, this has turned into a bigger project than I anticipated,” she said. “It feels good to be able to help in some small way during these uncertain times that we are in.”