OKLAHOMA CITY—If you spend enough time in Oklahoma, you get a sense of the items you want on hand when tornado warning sirens sound. Some electric cooperative senior staff and elected directors helped to fill those needs for senior citizens in the Oklahoma City area through a recent community service project.

The pop-up event, held earlier this month during NRECA's Regions 8 & 10 Meeting, was one of several service projects organized by Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives. The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives helped coordinate and designed the project to benefit clients of elderly services programs supported by United Way agencies in the Oklahoma City area.

"This was a great way to volunteer," said David D. Tipton, general manager of Swisher Electric Cooperative, a distribution co-op headquartered in Tulia, Texas. "I have a few minutes to kill before my next event, so helping out here gives me a chance to help make a difference in the lives of people who live in this area."

Touchstone Energy is celebrating its 20th anniversary as the national brand of electric cooperatives, said Lynn Moore, Touchstone Energy's executive director. "We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate and showcase the Cooperative Difference than by giving back with this #CoopsServe volunteer opportunity during regional meetings."

Volunteers, including dozens who had only a few minutes to spare between meetings, filled hundreds of small tote bags with low-cost items that emergency response experts believe can enhance comfort and survival after a severe storm or tornado.

"These small disaster kits include first-aid supplies, a small flashlight, an emergency blanket, a whistle and contact information for emergency resources and agencies," said Adam Baker, a volunteer center coordinator with the United Way of Central Oklahoma.

"We checked with the local chapter of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and they helped us determine how many bags might be required to meet the immediate need," said Baker.

In two and a half hours, regional meeting attendees and their guests not only created 1,900 "Be Ready Bags" but also prepared 150 "Stockings of Joy" to be distributed to local low-income children during the holiday season.

"Community service projects are part of many major conferences and events sponsored by NRECA, Touchstone Energy and our member cooperatives," said Anne Harvey, director of member relations and communications for Touchstone Energy.

"Each project across the country met a local need which benefited active military personnel, hospitalized children and their parents, veterans, senior citizens, families served by food pantries and students," said Harvey. "The statewide organizations we worked with and the co-op volunteers were so supportive, and we are truly awed by the power of their combined efforts."

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