Community Engagement

The heroes among us

Since the beginning of COVID-19 hitting our country, there has been much talk about heroes. From health care workers to grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, childcare providers and sanitation specialists – many long-overlooked people who help our everyday lives have been celebrated and honored for helping us through this especially difficult year by showing up to work day in and day out.

During the height of the shutdown back in March/April/May (in Virginia), in addition to always being grateful for our power and water workers, I particularly appreciated convenience store workers. As a lover of Diet Pepsi, I masked up, socially distanced and went to the 7-11 down the street during that difficult time. Those workers were there every day and have been throughout. On a slightly different note, being at home more often during that time made some of these often-unsung heroes’ work more visible to my daughters – we now regularly see the face (behind a mask, of course) of the delivery drivers who serve our neighborhood, get to wave to the public works employees who pick up our recycling, and observe from afar the utility crews taking on maintenance of nearby equipment (which gives me a hook to talk to my daughters about what they are doing and why we should be so grateful for their efforts).

From what I’ve heard and “seen” on videos and in pictures provided by our members, there is an even more enhanced civic pride in cities and towns served by public power. Perhaps this stems from the determination of utility founders decades ago, who worked to electrify their towns when the private electric companies would not.  It could also be a result of the countless hours that governing board members spend to ensure the utility’s actions and goals reflect a cross-section of interests across their communities – community pride is a heartbeat of public power.

In our public power communities, heroes come in many forms. Including the crew members who are quick to get to work restoring service following severe weather or who willingly head into other communities near and far to lend a hand. Or customer service representatives who work with customers facing economic hardships. I also think of APPA’s “Seven Hats Award” winners, who in addition to the myriad roles they fill to keep the utility running, often serve other vital community roles, such as fire chief.

Despite their efforts – whether responding to a pandemic, a severe storm or a wildfire – public power and other community heroes aren’t often recognized. In the spirit of celebrating the many people who make our community thrive – inside public power and out – we’re asking members to participate in our Community Powered Heroes Poster Contest. Your participation involves asking students from your community to submit a poster drawing and a brief written description of one of their community heroes. We’ve outlined some parameters and suggestions for you to host a contest locally. We’ll then hold a national contest highlighting all the local winners and will select a national winner who’ll receive $500. The contest aligns with Public Power Week, and could offer an alternative activity if you are unable to celebrate in your usual ways this year. More details about the contest are at: https://wearecommunitypowered.com/hero-contest/

We hope the prize and the national recognition will encourage participation, but I’m most excited to learn more about the unsung heroes in your communities. As our communities face future challenges, I know that more heroes will emerge because public power’s duty is to keep electricity flowing. And that is worth talking about.