When Pedernales Electric Cooperative’s Jesse Martinez saw the financial toll that the COVID-19 pandemic was taking on members during the early months of the crisis, he was inspired to create the Children’s Hot Dog Ministry to help ensure little ones didn’t go hungry.

Three years later, he still runs the group, coordinating with local schools to provide meals and even donating school supplies.

“I see PEC members at the grocery store and at church. We do life together and whatever their needs are, we see that they get it. It’s all a part of who we’ve become as a cooperative,” said the member relations field technician.

Martinez is one of many co-op employees who exemplify “Concern for Community” by regularly spending their free time volunteering at schools, fire stations, food pantries and elsewhere in their communities. In honor of Co-op Month, we asked co-ops to tell us about these employees who put the seventh cooperative principle into action where they live. Here’s a look at their stories.

Big Ole Heart

More than 10 years after Delaware Electric Cooperative’s Josh Wharton co-founded the Good Ole Boy Foundation to help a child with cancer, the nonprofit is still going strong. The operations supervisor and volunteers have donated Christmas presents to hundreds of families over the years, built wheelchair ramps, constructed a wheelchair-accessible clubhouse for a boy with muscular dystrophy, and helped Delaware families recover from disasters.

A Local Hero

A Volunteer for All Seasons

At GreyStone Power, coworkers of Dawn Lovingood say she’s always willing to lend a hand in the Douglasville, Georgia, service area. The cashier supervisor regularly volunteers at Relay for Life and Gabe’s Chemo Duck, a support organization for children with cancer. During the holidays, Lovingood decks out her property with a communal holiday display to welcome visitors throughout the season.


A Happy Camper

A Golden Fire Chief

Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative's Denny Kingren has two titles: warehouseman at the Paxton-based co-op and fire chief of the Paxton Fire Department, where he just celebrated his 50th anniversary. When he's not out on calls, Kingren promotes fire safety at local schools and even led a fundraising campaign for the Grand Old Flag project, a 150-foot flagpole that now hoists a flag visible for miles around. Kingren is set to retire later this year from the co-op after 35 years of service.

Alzheimer's Awareness

Each year, Boone Electric Cooperative's April Cockrell helps plan and organize the Walk to End Alzheimer's in Columbia, Missouri, which this year raised more than $140,000. The business analyst got involved with the charity in 2017 after her mother-in-law was diagnosed with the disease; she passed away last year. Cockrell also helps organize support groups in Boone County for those affected by Alzheimer's.

Building Community

North Itasca Electric Cooperative Line Superintendent Daryl Pederson and Krista Erickson, an accountant, spend a lot of their free time helping the Bigfork Improvement Group, a nonprofit in northern Minnesota, raise money to renovate the B.I.G. Building, a community gathering place. Fundraisers include a haunted house, community breakfasts and flower deliveries. Proceeds also go toward scholarships.

Kaua‘i Super Volunteer

Kaua'i Island Utility Cooperative's Shelley Paik is the “unofficial historian for many different organizations, always taking pictures," said colleague Scott Sato. Paik also serves on the board of the Christmas Concert in Kilauea. Finally, the public affairs specialist is a co-op stalwart at several community events, including its golf tournament that raises money for local community college students.

Kaua‘i Super Volunteer, Part II

A Buddy for All