WFEC Celebrates National Cooperative Month
Every October, cooperatives from all sectors across the country celebrate National Cooperative Month. The purpose of this annual celebration is to recognize the cooperative difference and remind you, the members of the co-op, about West Florida Electric Cooperative’s purpose. Being part of a cooperative means something special and WFEC is celebrating, along with 40,000 other cooperative businesses serving more than 130 million people nationwide.
“Cooperatives Build” is the theme of this year’s National Cooperative Month. “This year’s theme is excellent, because there are so many ways that cooperatives help build a stronger rural America,” says Terry Mullen, Manager of Marketing & Communications at WFEC. Consider these ways that co-ops build:
Cooperatives Build Trust
Most co-ops strive to adhere to seven key principles, which combine to help build trust between the co-op, its members and the community. For example, the first principle is Voluntary and Open Membership, which means that we are a voluntary organization open to all people who reside within our service territory to use our services and are willing to accept the responsibility of membership. The second principle, Democratic Member Control, gives members a voice in the cooperative’s policies and decisions. Through the fifth principle, Education, Training and Information, we educate and train members by providing energy efficiency information to help our members save energy and money. We also educate and provide electrical safety information and demonstrations to help our members stay safe around electricity. WFEC also provides information about legislation that may impact members as well as the cooperative to help our members make informed decisions when voting. The cooperative strives to keep members informed and educated about all matters that may impact them.
Cooperatives Build Community
The seventh cooperative principle is Concern for Community. Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through employee involvement in local organizations, through charitable contributions to community efforts and through support through schools. The cooperative contributes donations to many organizations within its four-county service area including the local schools. One way the cooperative contributes to the community and its future is by gifting four Youth Tour participants each year (one from each county) with a scholarship to Chipola College to be used after their graduation from high school. Another way WFEC builds community is by participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month every October. You will see our linemen wearing pink hard hats to raise awareness and our inside and other office personnel wearing pins or bracelets as a reminder to have an annual breast exam.
Cooperatives Build Jobs
Cooperatives generate jobs in their communities, keep profits local and pay local taxes to help support community services. They often take part in community improvement programs, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to benefit from the cooperative experience. This can be seen through the cooperative's participation in local economic development organizations like chambers of commerce, economic development councils and other organizations that help bring new industry and jobs into the community.
Through all of the above ways, cooperatives are building a better world. For co-op employees and members that are familiar with the principles, the month of October is a great opportunity to renew our connection to each other and the purpose of our co-op. In the U.S., there are more than 29,000 co-ops serving in every single industry.
There are actually more cooperatives in our local communities than most people realize. Credit unions, agricultural and farmer’s co-ops, farm credit and more are also cooperatives. Did you know that stores like Ace Hardware, True Value and insurance companies like Nationwide are also co-ops? Co-ops are even represented on the shelves at your local grocery stores by brands such as Land O’Lakes, Welch’s, Organic Valley, Cabot Cheese, Sunkist, Ocean Spray and many more.
According to the latest data, more than 130 million people belong to a co-op in the U.S. alone, and co-ops employ more than 2 million Americans. This speaks to the heart of why we take every opportunity to celebrate and teach others about the cooperative business model.