East River Electric Power Cooperative was awarded a Workplace Excellence Award in the Community Impact category. The Sioux Empire Society for Human Resource Management Chapter (SESHRM) honors local companies for excellence in the categories of diversity, culture, and community impact.
“Our cooperative is committed to enhancing the communities we serve,” said East River chief human resources officer Liz Avery. “East River’s employees invest time, money, and expertise in guiding economic development projects, educating students about electrical safety, and leading community events and charities.”
The Rural Electric Economic Development, Inc. Fund (REED), a non-profit subsidiary of East River Electric, is staffed and operated within the organization and owned and governed by East River member cooperatives serving eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. It serves as a community development financial institution dedicated to providing financing and helping to leverage investment and making a difference in the region. Through funding, the REED fund promotes community growth, creates jobs, builds wealth and business creation, and improves infrastructure and programs in rural areas. Since its establishment in 1996, the fund has provided over $112,000,000 in funding and grants toward ag businesses, community infrastructure projects, education, and more.
East River has developed an employee committee dedicated to enhancing our staff’s lives and empowering them to enhance others’ lives. For the past 58 years, this committee has planned and implemented a fundraiser to support the LifeScape organization. The event includes a Rocky Mountain oyster feed, raffle, and online auction. Attendance and participation in the event attracts residents community-wide, and the legacy and tradition is multi-generational. In total, more than $379,000 in proceeds from the event have been donated to Lifescape to support children in the area.
Through the Co-ops in the Classroom program, East River dedicates a full-time staff member to educating kids in classrooms all over the region about electricity, electric cooperative principles and mission, and how to be safe around electricity. Other youth programs include our Who Powers You program and the Scholar of the Week program. These provide recognition, scholarships and awards to individuals and students who are making an impact in the region.
The cooperative model, where an organization is owned and governed by its members, provides a rare and unique position for direct community involvement because those same shareholders make up the communities and neighborhoods in which the co-op operates. This kinship and connection to community is powerful, and individuals take pride and ownership in the cooperative mission. As an organization, we value employees’ community involvement in clubs, committees and boards, sponsorships, events, fundraisers, and more.
Photo caption: (left to right) Liz Avery and Chelsea Gerdes accept the Workplace Excellence Award on behalf of East River.