Claiborne Electric’s Operation Round Up hits $1 million mark

When Claiborne Electric’s Operation Round Up trust board met recently to review grant applications and award funds to local causes, the money awarded pushed the organization’s donated total to more than $1 million.

Webster Parish communities have received nearly $170,000 of total funding.

“We are ecstatic that our Operation Round Up program has reached $1 million and amazed at the generosity of our members,” Mark Brown, Claiborne Electric’s general manager and CEO, said.

Operation Round Up is a community service program the co-op began in 2007. The program gives members the option to allow their bills to be rounded up to the next whole dollar. The difference in the actual bill and the rounded amount is deposited into the Operation Round Up Trust Fund. These collected funds are dispersed to charitable causes in the communities served by Claiborne Electric.

The program is governed by the co-op’s Operation Round Up Trust board. This board consists of nine Claiborne Electric members from across the service area. One member represents each of the co-op’s nine districts. Every other month, the board meets to review applications, make decisions about allocations and disperse the funds. At their September meeting, the total donated since the beginning of the program rose to $1,012,887.97.

Operation Round Up was originally created by Palmetto Electric Cooperative in South Carolina. After seeing the success of the program, other co-ops began starting their own.

“Currently, there are more than 300 similar programs at electric cooperatives across the country, and Claiborne Electric has one of the highest member participation rates in the nation,” Brown said. “More than 95 percent of our members allow us to round their bill up each month and use their spare change to impact our local communities in a positive way.”

Claiborne Electric’s first grants were awarded in October 2007. Since then, the program has been used to award more than 300 grants to local charitable organizations and families in need.

Organizations receiving grants have included schools, fire departments, youth organizations, police departments, veterans’ efforts, food banks, libraries and museums. Families receiving assistance have included those who need immediate assistance after their homes have burned, along with home repairs and modifications for elderly and disabled individuals.

One hundred percent of the money raised through Operation Round Up stays in Claiborne Electric’s six-parish service area.

Brown says he recalls specific instances over the past eight years where Operation Round Up funds have met community needs that will always stick with him. He remembers instances where school budgets were reduced and Operation Round Up was able to provide computers that would not be purchased otherwise. He recalls police and fire departments receiving grants for safety equipment that could not be bought due to budget restraints.

He also remembers the instance of a lady undergoing an unexpected amputation that left her in a wheelchair. A local church applied for an Operation Round Up grant to purchase supplies needed to build a wheelchair ramp on her home.

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