"Hi, Mrs. M.!" the classroom of fifth-graders sang out together, putting a smile on the face of PEC Youth Engagement Representative Celeste Mikeska.
“I love getting to go into classrooms with hands-on programs like Building Circuits,” Mikeska said later. “You can see the kids start to really understand the difference between the different circuits. Their faces light up.”
If you were asked to name important jobs at an electric utility, odds are you might respond “lineworker” or “engineer.” But for PEC, being an electric cooperative doesn’t just mean keeping the lights on: It’s so much more.
“It’s about building relationships,” PEC Connections & Community Engagement Director Trista Fugate said. “It’s about providing support for our communities. When our communities are thriving and strong and vibrant, everyone does better.”
Fugate’s group — PEC’s Connections & Community Engagement team — maintains a point of contact between the cooperative and Hill Country schools, businesses and local governments. Whether they’re writing grants for local nonprofits like Little League, pet rescues and EMS; facilitating training for local chambers of commerce or supporting the Hill Country’s economic development, these four team members know that community-building is serious business.
“Our team does a lot,” PEC Community Engagement Representative Tessa Schmidtzinsky said. “We offer so many programs and services …. It’s a lot of face-to-face, a lot of member contact, which enables us to be aware of our community needs.”
Concern for community is woven into the fabric of PEC as a matter of principle. It even makes practical business sense, Fugate explained: “We’re a cooperative. We do better when our community does better. When our communities have the basic building blocks — libraries, strong schools, fire departments — they’re in a better position to attract new businesses. That creates jobs, which enriches and diversifies the region for all of us.”
In addition to offering support, listening ears and helping hands to countless members in our 8,100-square-mile service area, during the past year this team:
- Facilitated the awarding of $100,000 in PEC Scholarships
- Facilitated the Youth Tour essay contest, sending 10 students on Youth Tour this year
- Distributed over $40,000 in community grants
- Through grant-writing assistance, helped secure another $324,161 in LCRA grants for area nonprofits
- Maintained active memberships in 33 local chambers of commerce
- Facilitated employees’ volunteer efforts for three LCRA Steps Forward Projects
- Coordinated community-oriented events such as the Hill Country Solar Tour, the PEC Annual Meeting, the Community Partnerships Dinner and more
“In everything we do on our team, it’s all about the members,” said. “Our team cares so much. We work hard. We get dirty, too — putting events together is hard work! But it’s worth it. Having that presence, being engaged, says ‘We’re here for you.’ Because we are.”