The Cooperative Family Fund was established at the end of 2022 to support children of active electric cooperative employees who pass away. The fund is a small way for the network to support cooperative families during difficult times.
Children in the program have an initial investment made on their behalf by the Cooperative Family Fund into an account with Homestead Funds. This investment grows as the child ages. On the first day of the month following their 18th birthday, the child will receive all proceeds from their account, which can be used for college or any other expenses related to launching themselves into adulthood. The fund also provides children with a memory book with pictures and stories from their deceased parent’s coworkers at their cooperative.
NRECA Board President and CFC Director Tony Anderson conceived of the Cooperative Family Fund after finishing his 17-year goal of completing a marathon in each state while raising money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of NW Michigan. As he finished his marathon journey, Anderson learned about a Michigan cooperative that lost a line worker who had six children.
“I simply wondered what was going to happen to those kids,” Anderson said. “At the same time, I was looking for ‘what’s next’ for me after the completion of 51 marathons [each state plus D.C.].”
He began discussing the idea of the Cooperative Family Fund with several cooperatives, including CFC during its strategic planning session in January 2022. After fine-tuning the mechanics and processes, the fund was set up as a Michigan based 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and was operational just before the end of 2022.
“While we are not yet a household name and more donations are needed, the fund has been received very well,” Anderson said. “We have nearly 200 cooperatives contributing, and the number continues to grow. Everyone has immediately understood the need and simplicity of the organization.”
Anderson said the next steps for the charity are “fundraising, fundraising, fundraising.”
“CFC and NRECA gave us a great kick-off at PowerXchange in Nashville when they each donated $50,000,” Anderson said. “We have at least one donation from almost every state with a cooperative. We have had some five-figure donations from individual cooperatives and statewide organizations as well. The Michigan Electric Cooperative Association just made the largest donation to date of $100,000. We have individuals doing monthly recurring donations. Other cooperatives have had fundraisers among their employee groups. It really is a grassroots effort that is growing.”
Despite launching just six months ago, the Cooperative Family Fund is already serving kids from 3 months old to age 18. The fund’s first check will go to an 18-year-old from Alaska in August.
“To get $10,000 into every child’s investment is our goal,” Anderson said. “This will require hundreds of cooperatives to join in this effort. We also need to get the vendors that serve our industry involved. We need to write policies and firm up our procedures as the organization grows. We want a strong organization capable of doing more in the future.”
Monroe County Electric Cooperative President/CEO and former CFC Board President Alan Wattles said, “It has been incredible to see how far this effort has come in the past 12 months. CFC has been a wonderful supporter, not only financially, but also with promoting the fund.”