The COVID-19 pandemic canceled Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative's in-school safety demonstrations last year, but the co-op still wanted to engage its youngest members and remind families about the importance of being safe around electricity.

Kearney, Missouri-based PCEC found a solution. For the first time, it sponsored a virtual electrical safety poster contest in elementary schools throughout its service area. Students emailed, hand-delivered or mailed posters on the theme “How Do You Stay Safe Around Electricity?"

“With COVID and not being able to get out in schools and the community, this was one way to reach our members," said Amanda McQuerry, who as the co-op's community relations coordinator would have made the presentations in schools with a member of the safety staff.

“Electrical safety is so important, and the contest gets kids thinking about it, and then they're also talking to their parents," she said, adding that co-ops will hold the contest again this year.

Whether to boost outreach to young families or reinforce electrical safety messages, school-based art contests are staples at many co-ops. And just like annual meetings and other member offerings, co-ops also made logistical adjustments during this extraordinary year.

In South Carolina, co-ops held a virtual Children's Book Challenge, an annual event sponsored by EnlightenSC, an energy-education initiative created by the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina. In previous years, students submitted entries on blank books from the co-op. But this time, students used a digital platform called, which the co-op will use going forward.

In the 18-county service area of Norton, Kansas-based Prairie Land Electric Cooperative, the changes in schools' virtual and in-person schedules presented new challenges for third graders to submit their artwork for the annual electric safety poster contest, said Jeff Hardiek, the co-op's director of member services. Still, more than 300 students entered, and the co-op awarded prizes to the top three finishers.

Take a look at these prize-winners—proof that the creative spirit can thrive even during a global pandemic:


Madeleine Benner, whose parents are members of York Electric Cooperative in York, South Carolina, won $500, and ECSC will publish and distribute her book, “Angel, the Solar Bird," to elementary schools throughout the state.

Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative

Prairie Land Electric Cooperative

Third graders at elementary schools won new bikes and helmets and funds for classroom supplies after their posters were awarded the top three spots in the Kansas co-op's annual poster contest.