One of the Seven Cooperative Principles is “Cooperation Among Cooperatives,” and as an electric co-op, Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation serves our members most effectively and strengthens the cooperative movement by working together with other cooperatives through local, regional, national and international structures. This creates a system of mutual exchange among cooperatives for their benefit and the benefit of the members.
This principle becomes most evident during restoration efforts resulting from large outages. During these large events, the resources required to restore electric service to co-op members can easily overwhelm the local cooperative. It is at that time when cooperatives turn to the local, regional and national brothers and sisters and say “HELP!” And, when that call is sent out, cooperatives are ready, willing and able to come to their rescue. Fortunately, it is a two-way street. As the old song goes, “Lean on me.” This song teaches the principle that we all need help from time to time. I help you this time, and you will be there to help me next time.
Recently, the Louisiana State Cooperative Association sent out a call for help due to damage caused by Hurricane Ida. The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association (TECA) then sent out the call to its members. Being a member of TECA, STEMC responded. As soon as the storm passed through our area and all our members had their power restored, STEMC sent help to Washington–St. Tammany Electric (WSTE) headquartered in Franklinton, Louisiana. STEMC provided two groups of two five-men crews with bucket trucks, digger derrick and pole setter Bobcat skid steers to help with storm restoration for up to two weeks each.
Cooperatives reimburse each other for the cost of sending help. As such, WSTE will reimburse STEMC the cost for providing the equipment and manpower to help with their electric restoration efforts. FEMA usually reimburses the cooperative 75 percent of the cost when it is a FEMA declared eligible event as in an electric restoration effort following a hurricane emergency.
Each time STEMC sends a group of employees to help with a large event such as a hurricane, we develop a T-shirt to say “Thanks” to those who were sent to help. This also promotes the team spirit. Once you have worked during an electric storm restoration with a group, you develop a closeness and comradery that brings the team closer together even after they return home. The T-shirt helps to cement the event in memorial.
STEMC is proud of the employees who gave of their time and sacrificed time away from their families to help another cooperative and put into action the cooperative principle of “Cooperation Among Cooperatives.” One day, if STEMC needs the help, other cooperatives will have the opportunity to return the favor. Let’s hope that day does not come anytime soon.