NEW ORLEANS—NRECA honored co-op leaders with three prestigious awards at the annual meeting this week. Here's a look at their accomplishments:

Cooperative Purpose Award

Farmers’ Electric Cooperative of Chillicothe, Missouri, won this top honor, which recognizes cooperatives for meaningful contributions to the community and for exemplifying the co-op purpose. General Manager Rod Cotton accepted the award on behalf of Farmers’.

In 1993, Farmers’ Electric Cooperative established the Area Youth Benefit Fund, which provides financial assistance for families to pay the medical bills of sick or injured children. The co-op program helps families—with and without insurance—who face big bills for health care.

“Farmers’ Electric Cooperative has helped families in the communities it serves in significant ways,” said NRECA President Curtis Wynn. “Through its Area Youth Benefit Fund, Farmers’ provides financial assistance to local families struggling with high medical care costs. I can think of no better example of the cooperative principle, Concern for Community.”

Cotton said the honor belongs to Farmers’ entire team.

“This award only happens as a result of everyone pulling together to help make the Area Youth Benefit Fund such a great community asset,” Cotton said. “The Area Youth Benefit Fund has made an impact not only on the lives of families with sick kids; it has also touched the lives of our team members, business partners and those in the community that support the fund.”

George W. Haggard Memorial Journalism Award

Rural Missouri, the statewide magazine of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, was honored as the co-op publication that demonstrates the most forthright, concise and balanced presentation of ideas advancing electric co-ops and their consumer-members.

This is the third time that the magazine, led by editor Jim McCarty, has won the award. McCarty, who accepted the honor on behalf of the staff, joined the magazine in 1985 and was named “writer of the year” in 1994 by the Cooperative Communicators Association.

“Rural Missouri is an inviting window into the electric cooperative community and the diversity of its members,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. “Its pages are filled with original stories that showcase the state’s electric co-ops’ commitment to the people and places they serve. The top-notch writing, photography and design help give Missouri’s electric cooperatives a strong presence in their local communities.”

McCarty said it’s an especially big honor to receive the award this year.

“For the first time, all of the statewide publications are magazines with glossy paper,” he said. “That’s been the goal since I joined the staff in 1985 and we created the model standards for ourselves. The quality of these publications has never been higher. NRECA has played a big role in that improvement by sponsoring annual institutes with speakers who are the best in the business.”

NRECA International Award

Ron Schwartau, president of Nobles Cooperative Electric in Worthington, Minnesota, won this honor for his “exceptional dedication to the development of international communities through electrification, cooperative development and global commitment.”

For the past 16 years, Schwartau has volunteered his time on NRECA International trips, working in South Sudan, the Philippines, Guatemala and Bolivia. Most recently, he worked with the NRECA International team in Uganda to help co-op directors and managers in that country deal with governance issues.

As an NRECA board member, he served as chairman of the NRECA International Committee from 2012 to 2017. He has met often with members of Congress to talk about the importance of bringing power to developing nations.

“Ron’s numerous contributions to NRECA International over more than 15 years make him richly deserving of this award,” Wynn said. “His visionary leadership, enthusiastic dedication, and thoughtful guidance have helped shape NRECA International into the successful program it is today.”

Schwartau said his volunteer work, and receiving the award, “has been both a rewarding and humbling experience.”

“Rewarding in being able to share cooperative experience with fellow directors, managers and civic leaders in our partner countries, and humbling to have been the recipient of the kindness, generosity and hospitality of those same people,” Schwartau said. “It has been a privilege which I will never forget.”

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