It’s back-to-school season, and electric cooperatives have been busy helping students and teachers prepare for the new school year.

Many of these efforts have focused on families struggling to make ends meet.

For the past three years, employees at Flint EMC in Reynolds, Georgia, have selected one county in the co-op’s service area to receive donated school supplies. This year, volunteers delivered 2,100 items to schools in Macon County.

A “Pack the Lunchbox” initiative at Missoula Electric Cooperative’s headquarters resulted in enough member donations of school supplies to fill 180 lunchboxes and drawstring backpacks. Employees delivered the items to 18 K-5 schools.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to deliver supplies to students that truly need them. Knowing we helped start the school year on a positive note for 180 kids feels really good,” said Kelsey Lodge, manager of communications and public relations at the co-op in Missoula, Montana.

In a spirit of friendly competition, employees at the eight district offices and headquarters of Pedernales Electric Cooperative vie to see who can collect the most supplies. As the donations add up, employees post photos. This year, more than 6,000 pens, pencils, notebooks and other items poured in.

“Our employees are already looking forward to helping next year and finding new opportunities to give,” said Caroline Tinsley Porter, community relations coordinator at the Johnson City, Texas, co-op.

Here’s a roundup of other ways co-ops are pitching in for back-to-school season:

Stuff the Bus

Cramming a big yellow school bus with school supplies and other items is a popular way for co-ops to show their commitment to local schools. Warren Rural Electric Cooperative donated $1,000 to a fundraiser sponsored by the aptly named Stuff the Bus Foundation.

“Stuff the Bus provides essential school supplies for students throughout South Central Kentucky. We have an eight-county service territory, so this one is a great match for us,” said Kim Phelps, director of communications at the Bowling Green-based co-op.

Union Rural Electric Cooperative has supported the local United Way’s Stuff the Bus campaign for the past two years. Members drop off donations at the co-op’s Marysville, Ohio, headquarters, which school guidance counselors then distribute. Proceeds from an employee potluck fundraiser were used to buy additional supplies.

Don’t Forget the Teachers

And because a teacher’s job often goes beyond the confines of a classroom, co-ops are supporting them, too.

Salem Electric in Salem, Oregon, delivers 1,000 pencils and 500 erasers to 10 schools in a custom wagon with the school’s name. Tucked among the supplies is a welcome-back letter explaining how the co-op can partner with their school during the year with career days, safety presentations and sponsorships.

In Cullman, Alabama, Cullman Electric Cooperative distributes a similar welcome-back package to teachers. This year, the co-op added a drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card at each school district’s in-service day. “That was a big hit,” said Bonnie Baty, the co-op’s communications specialist.

Teachers need to eat, too. And that’s why volunteers from Taylor Electric Cooperative in Merkel, Texas, found themselves behind the serving lines at five schools during the teacher work period in August. Nearly 1,000 teachers and administrators feasted on tacos and got a small gift, too.

“Employees from all departments volunteer, and it’s a way to thank them in person for their hard work,” said Elizabeth McVey, the co-op’s public relations and communication manager.

In Missouri, Crawford Electric Cooperative relies on area high school teachers to encourage students to try out for the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour and coach them on the essay and interview process. As incentives and expressions of thanks, the Bourbon-based co-op awards classroom grants to schools sending finalists and delegates. “Many of our teachers use our essay contest as a teaching tool. The grants allow us to give teachers even more tools to use in their classrooms year-round,” said Lori Rego, the co-op’s Youth Tour coordinator.

Art at School

Over the years, the art club at Cracker Trail Elementary has acquired quite a few banners from an arts show, a field trip destination. But it had no way to display the billboard-sized works of art. So officials turned to Glades Electric Cooperative’s district office in Lake Placid, Florida, to hang two of the banners outdoors on school grounds. Using a cherry picker and muscle strength, GEC line crews made quick work of the project. Crews will return later this year to replace the banners with new ones.