Believe it or not, being a member of your electric cooperative has benefits. Your co-op is here to serve you - not the other way around. That's why West Florida Electric Cooperative's (WFEC) mission is providing safe, reliable and competitively priced electricity and other value-added services to our members while improving the quality of life for all citizens in our community. Cooperatives around the world operate according to the same set of core principles and values, known as the Seven Cooperative Principles. Their roots can be traced back to the first modern cooperative founded in Rochdale, England in 1844.
1. Voluntary and open membership - Membership in a cooperative is open to all persons who can reasonably use its services and stand willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, regardless of race, religion, gender or economic circumstances. Anyone needing electric service who lives within WFEC's service area can become a member.
2. Democratic member control - Your co-op depends on the guidance and perspective or our members and board to help set priorities for the cooperative and guide governance decisions. The purpose of our annual meeting is to give members a voice in co-op matters, impacting the membership as a whole. Members of the cooperative have a voice and a vote in how WFEC is governed - one member, one vote. Through democratic control, members like you elect representatives to serve on the board of trustees. Control stays in local hands and those trustees are your friends and neighbors who live and work in our service area because they are in a position to know where community investments are needed most.
3. Members' economic participation - Members contribute equitably to the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital remains the common property of the co-op. Here's where one of the most tangible benefits of your cooperative membership comes into play - the return of capital credits. What are capital credits? Capital credit refunds are to you (our members) what dividends are to stockholders at for-profit companies. Capital credits are any funds that are left over after the cooperative's bills have been paid, infrastructure built, and an emergency fund established. They go into a capital account for each member and are paid back when your board of trustees determines the co-op is in good financial shape.
4. Autonomy and independence - Co-ops are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control as well as their unique identity.
5. Education training and information - Education and training for members, trustees, CEOs and employees help them effectively contribute to the development of their co-ops. Some of your co-op's most recent
educational efforts includes the Empower Energy Education Workshop. Forty-four teachers from WFEC's four-county service area were able to attend this engaging, hands-on energy exploration workshop to equip educators to present a balanced approach to electric generation and distribution utilizing scholarships provided by WFEC. Another educational conference will be held this summer for local educators. The co-op has also provided safety training for local first responders and school children for many years.
6. Cooperation among cooperatives - By working together through local, national and region mutual aid agreements, your cooperative can help other communities recover after natural disasters like hurricanes, ice storms and tornadoes. Employees from your cooperative often volunteer to travel to areas hit by devastating storms to help restore power. In return, our members have benefited through assistance from other co-ops.
7. Concern for community - Your cooperative supports local communities through charitable donations, sponsorships and programs like the National Rural Electric Youth Tour. West Florida Electric has sponsored Youth Tour since 1979 and has sent nearly 80 students on this life-changing trip. We believe it is our responsibility as a not-for-profit, community-based organization to invest in our next generation of leaders. With that idea in mind, WFEC created a scholarship program to go hand-in-hand with its Youth Tour program. For the past three years, a scholarship for $4,000 to Chipola College has been awarded to the highest scoring participant from each of the four counties served by WFEC. These are just some of the ways your cooperative is different from investor-owned companies and demonstrates its commitment and
guidance by the seven principles.