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4-County members use pocket change to fund grants for community organizations

 

Mrs. Willie B. Robinson of Clay County was the winner of the 4-County Annual Meeting 2017 grand prize — a retired co-op fleet truck. She is flanked by 4-County Board President Marty Crowder, left, and 4-County CEO Joe Cade.

Mrs. Willie B. Robinson of Clay County was the winner of the 4-County Annual Meeting 2017 grand prize — a retired co-op fleet truck. She is flanked by 4-County Board President Marty Crowder, left, and 4-County CEO Joe Cade. Photo by: Courtesy photo/Brad Barr/4-County Electric

 

Slim Smith

 

 

For the small communities which 4-County Electric Power Association serves, sometimes even the basic tools are budget-busters. 

 

"Small towns have small budgets," said Ackerman Police Chief Kevin Stark. "What might not seem like a lot of money in a bigger city can be a real problem in towns like ours." 

 

It is a something of a paradox, then, to realize that a lot of those un-budgeted expenses are both "big money" and "pocket change." 

 

Thursday, 4-County held its annual meeting for the member-owned electric coop, with almost 300 members gathering at the Mayhew campus of East Mississippi Community College. 

 

Members were treated to a variety of events -- everything from health screenings to a demonstration by the East Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Department to give-aways, including a retired 4-County fleet truck to a catfish luncheon to the business meeting where new board members were elected and the coop's financial statement was reviewed. 

 

The meeting was also used to announce grants from the 4-County Foundation, which over the past two-plus years has collected what amounts to pocket change from its members to generate almost $540,000 and has funded more than $400,000 in grants. 

 

The Foundation is funded by members who agree to "round up" their bill to the next highest whole dollar. 

 

The Ackerman Police department used a $4,000 grant last year to purchase body cameras for its five full-time officers and another camera shared by its part-time officers. Thursday, Stark's department was awarded a $7,000 grant to purchase new Tasers, one of 14 grants totaling more than $60,000. 

 

Stark said the grants have made a real difference for his department in procuring the much-needed equipment. 

 

"I would say it would have been impossible to find the money, but it would have been very hard," Stark said. 

 

4-County CEO Joe Cade aid he's been amazed by the way members have embraced the program. 

 

"Other companies have been doing this and I got interested in it when I was working as a manager in Georgia, which had the program," Cade said. "It's one of the things I brought over when I came back to Mississippi. I thought it was a good program, but really, it's worked better than imagined. All of the credit for that goes to our members. They've embraced it and we've raised money to do a lot of good things." 

 

According to the Foundation report, 93 percent of its customers are participating in the voluntary program. The average annual cost for the customer is $5.50. 

 

"I'm a (4-County) member, myself, and I round up my bill," Stark said. "I've never missed that amount of money. It's just pocket change, really, but it helps a lot of people." 

 

 

 

2017 4-County Grants 

 

■ Noxubee County Volunteer Fire Department: $9,852 for five sets of turnout gear. 

 

■ Noxubee County Emergency Medical Responders: $9,072 for AEDs and stretcher 

 

■ Greater Columbus Learning Center: $2,400 for 20 GED tests 

 

■ Starkville Police Department: $5,900 for 10 radio headsets 

 

■ Mississippi State University: $2,042 for T.K. Martin Children's Center supplies 

 

■ Mississippi State University Foundation: unspecified among for Autism toys 

 

■ Mississippi State University Foundation: $1,000 for engineering science fair. 

 

■ Girl Scouts Heart of the South: $1,500 for education workshops 

 

■ Columbus Arts Council: $2,500 for art education for 625 students 

 

■ East Mississippi Community College: $10,000 for linemen/emergency response training. 

 

■ Ackerman Police Dept.: $7,004 for six Tasers and related equipment 

 

■ Mennonite Service Center: $2,930 for physical fitness equipment and arts/crafts/games 

 

■ Christian Women's Job Corps of the Golden Triangle: $5,000 for computer and security equipment. 

 

■ The Father's Child Ministries: $1,850 for camp T-shirts and facilities rental

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is ssmith@cdispatch.com.

 

 

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