This time of year is notably considered “the season of giving.” It’s when people find themselves slowing down to focus on what really matters: their loved ones, their neighbors and those in need. It’s a time to give thanks for what you have while also paying it forward to contribute toward the greater good.
But Great River Energy keeps the mentality of looking out for one another going all year long as part of its cooperative commitment to the health and vitality of the communities it serves. Electric cooperatives uniquely provide a strong foundation for their communities by powering them with affordable, reliable electricity which helps kids learn in school, businesses run smoothly and families live happily in their homes.
Beyond its main business purpose, Great River Energy also shows concern for its communities by strengthening them through donations made to local nonprofits; sponsorships of annual events that bring people together; and providing programs to boost local economies and create jobs. Great River Energy also believes that hiring and caring for veterans, service members and their spouses leads to strengthened communities.
Great River Energy and its employees showcased this belief throughout 2022 by organizing collection drives for veterans; volunteering to pack gift boxes for currently deployed troops; hosting an event to share best practices among organizations that support military employees and their families; and making a donation toward a project that honors veterans.
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon company
Many employees of Great River Energy and its member-owners come from military backgrounds and the cooperative strives to support them in various ways. In 2017, Great River Energy took steps to cement its veteran-friendly workplace designation by becoming a Yellow Ribbon company.
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is a program pioneered by the Minnesota National Guard to connect all service members, veterans and their families in the state with community support, services and resources. Yellow Ribbon companies must have an action plan for veteran recruiting, hiring and retention while also supporting military-connected employees and community groups.
“We pride ourselves on valuing diversity of all kinds when it comes to who we hire and who we work with, including veterans who offer valuable experience, skills and insight that better our company. Receiving an official designation as a Yellow Ribbon company bolsters our standing as an organization veterans and military service members can trust.”— Heather Bittle, talent and outreach partner at Great River Energy
Great River Energy had the opportunity to host the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Company Spring Conference this year, an event dedicated to sharing best practices and collaborating on challenges facing organizations and military employees. Approximately 100 people attended the conference where small-group discussions were facilitated on topics ranging from recruitment and retention to supporting employees during military deployments.
Employees donate items, time for service members past and present
Two initiatives were held this year to collect goods for veterans and current service members.
Members of the cooperative’s Transmission Division Outreach Team has aided various nonprofits and communities over the years through donations and volunteerism, but in 2022 chose to support veterans. The team held a collection drive and encouraged their fellow colleagues to donate items to the St. Cloud VA Health Care System, which were delivered in October.
One of the ways Great River Energy supports its employees with military backgrounds or those with connections to service members is through its Veterans Employee Resource Group (ERG). Members of this group are focused on engaging and supporting current and former members of the Armed Forces and their families.
This year, the Veterans ERG partnered with the City of Maple Grove Beyond the Yellow Ribbon to collect items for deployed troops in honor of Veterans Day and the upcoming holiday season. Employees set up collection bins at four different Great River Energy facilities in Minnesota and North Dakota and requested items focused on hygiene as well as individually wrapped snacks.
The ERG also encouraged employees to send a note of thanks to show commitment to — and support of — military members and their families.
Following the drive, Veterans ERG members together with volunteers from Maple Grove Beyond the Yellow Ribbon spent time packaging 200 gift boxes that were delivered to service members currently stationed on aircraft carriers and air force bases. This was the seventh annual care package event hosted by the two organizations.
“More than 30 local companies donated merchandise like T-shirts, baseball caps, food and goodie bags that we sent off along with handwritten letters to give those who are deployed some comforts from home,” Bittle said. “We hope it boosts their morale and serves as a reminder that they have support back home.”
Contribution helps fund ‘Bridge of Peace’ memorial
Great River Energy recently provided a $50,000 contribution for a project that elevates peace, honors veterans and memorializes an individual who made a difference for Minnesota’s electric cooperative members.
Great River Energy joined its member-owner cooperative Lake Country Power on Nov. 22 to deliver their financial support for the project, which honors the memory of Sen. David J. Tomassoni and Iron Range veterans.
The Sen. David J. Tomassoni Bridge of Peace will include a memorial arch and recreational plaza on the Longyear Lake causeway in Chisholm, Minnesota. Sen. Tomassoni passed away Aug. 11 after a two-year battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS. The project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2023.
The Tomassoni Family shared the following message with Great River Energy and Lake Country Power at the check presentation:
“The David J. Tomassoni Bridge of Peace Memorial is not only a testament to his work over 30 years in the legislature and his dedication to the Iron Range, but it is a way to honor all the partners that worked with him to make this state and region great. Lake Country Power and Great River Energy are some of those partners, and their dedication to that partnership after his passing is demonstrated today.”