2023 started in the aftermath of a major winter storm that caused a lot of damage, and for a lot of members, a lengthy outage. Halfway through 2023, a major summer storm caused flood damage beyond what many central Vermonters had ever seen.
Through the Community Fund, which is funded entirely by voluntary member contributions of capital credits, WEC aims to support the nonprofits that serve the communities in the Co-op’s service area. The application process is fast and easy, and when there is great and specific need, the Community Fund can quickly shift its giving focus.
This happened before, when the Community Fund made major grants to food security programs during the COVID stay-at-home period, and it happened again after the July floods, when the Community Fund pivoted to offer low-barrier, thousand dollar grants to impacted nonprofits.
WEC staff also organize support for donation drives that brighten holidays and help Vermonters through the winter.
Most of all, the Co-op’s commitment is to meet its members’ needs as well as possible. This year, WEC put out a reminder call that member households with someone who has severe medical needs should alert the Co-op, to ensure someone is checking on them in the event of an outage. Every day, Member Services Representatives are available to help members with past-due accounts create budgets that keep the lights on. Leaders partner with community action agencies to design resource programs that prioritize access and equity.
The East Montpelier Fire Department has organized a donation drive since 2012 that supports families with children in the East Montpelier and Calais elementary schools. Funds raised go to purchase gifts and holiday meals. WEC’s Community Fund supported this holiday tradition in 2023.
Veterans, Inc. is a regional nonprofit with a mission to end homelessness among military veterans. WEC staffers and vendors have a longstanding tradition of helping sponsor the holidays for veterans and their families served by the Bradford, VT office. In 2023, WEC employers and vendors contributed to support 14 veterans who are housing-insecure. WEC’s office provided basic needs, including winter clothing and groceries, as well as holiday gifts. To learn more: veteransinc.org
WARMTH is Vermont’s emergency home heating assistance program. It’s funded mainly through voluntary contributions from electric utility customers, and operated through local community action agencies. In WEC territory, that’s Capstone and Northeast Kingdom Community Action, or NEKCA.
To donate, initial the Operation Round-Up box on your electric bill to round up each bill to the next dollar and send the change to WARMTH. If you’d like to contribute more each month, write in the amount. If you bill through SmartHub or would prefer to call, contact Member Services to arrange your donation: 802-223-5245 or 1-800-932-5245.
WEC’s Community Fund
Co-op members have the option to donate their capital credit refunds. This money is pooled and distributed to worthy causes in WEC’s service area. Throughout each year the fund grants tens of thousands of dollars to small local nonprofits.
To donate your capital credits to the Community Fund, call Rosie Casciero at 802-224-2322.
How you can help
The Co-op’s list of Community Fund grantees is a good resource. Each organization on this list makes a difference right here in central Vermont. The full list of 2022 recipients is in the August-September 2023 issue of Co-op Currents.
If you need help
- Call 211 to find any emergency resource you need: food, mental health, fuel, shelter, and anything else.
- If you need help paying your WEC bill, call Member Services: 802-223-5245 or 1-800-932-5245
- If you are in danger of running out of fuel, call the toll-free Emergency Fuel Assistance number: 1-800-479-6151
- For food, housing, weatherization, and other services, contact your local Community Action Agency: either Capstone (capstonevt.org) or Northeast Kingdom Community Action (NEKCA, nekca.org)
2023 Community Fund Focus: Flood Grants
When it became clear just how damaging the July floods were, Administrative Assistant Rosie Casciero quickly worked with GM Louis Porter to shift the focus of WEC’s member-supported Community Fund. With the encouragement of the Board committee that manages the Fund, Casciero made a list of all recent Community Fund grantees and emailed them, offering them $1,000 each if they needed it for flood relief.
“We knew early money without a lot of strings attached could make a big difference,” explained Casciero. “We wanted to support organizations so they, in turn, could continue to support the central Vermont community.”
Some organizations that received funding sustained significant flood damage, like Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier. While physically located outside WEC’s turf, the library draws people from all over central Vermont to use its books and many services.
Other funding supported helper organizations: Casciero pointed to Central Vermont Community Radio, which was not harmed by floodwaters but played an important role giving out information to community members “and keeping up morale,” she said.
In the end, the Community Fund made about 20 flood-related donations.
Organizations that received flood relief grants:
- Good Samaritan Haven
- Prevent Child Abuse Vermont
- Kellogg-Hubbard Library
- Barre Community Justice Center
- North Branch Nature Center
- Turning Point Center of Central VT
- Twin Valley Senior Center
- Just Basics, Inc.
- Cabot Arts
- Central Vermont Community Radio
- Friends of the Winooski River
- Neighbors in Action
- Montpelier Alive
- The Barre Partnership