Cooperative News

Going above and beyond

PEC employee helps members locked out of home

When PEC’s Alex Cortez showed up to member Melissa Ponekovich’s home to trim some branches, he thought it would just be a typical call. Little did he know it would turn into helping someone in a time of need.

PEC's Alex Cortez

Cortez, the regional operations supervisor at PEC’s Canyon Lake office, got the call to trim branches around Ponekovich’s home at around 1 p.m. on Monday, December 19, 2022.

“I was in the area, I saw the order come in and thought I’d check it out,” Cortez said. “It was the Monday before Christmas, and I remember it was really cold.”

Upon arrival, Ponekovich called Cortez back to show him what needed trimming. As he started his job, he heard Ponekovich begin to feel concerned after trying to enter through the garage.

“She was missing her socks and a coat, and only had a short-sleeved shirt on. I was walking to my truck when I start hearing, ‘oh no, you’ve got to be kidding me,’” Cortez recalled. “She then called me over and she had a panicked look on her face and said, ‘I think I just locked myself out of my house.’”

It was also brought to his attention that she’d left her cell phone and purse in the home. He tried to rig open a door, but because it was a fairly new house, that wouldn’t work. Ponekovich began to worry more.

“She had cookies in the oven, her dogs were in there and she had some family flying in from Toronto,” Cortez said. “That was all beginning to set in, and I could see the look of desperation on her face.”

He asked if there were any neighbors she could ask for help, but they were all working. So, he began calling locksmiths. Most said they were backed up or closed due to the holidays, but they finally were able to make contact with someone in Boerne — an hour-and-a-half away from the member’s home.

“I’m thinking, ‘I can’t stay with her that long, but she’s shivering,’” he said. “The only thing I thought to do was just leave her with my personal cell phone so that she could call me or somebody else if it became an emergency.”

He was hesitant to do so at first, but he wanted to help a member in need, so he unlocked the phone and let her keep it until the locksmith arrived. After some more time passed at around 3:30 p.m., he received a text on his work phone saying the locksmith arrived and she was back inside the home.

When he returned to pick up the phone, he found that Ponekovich had cleaned it for him and put it in a plastic bag. Ponekovich sent an email to PEC recognizing Cortez’s efforts and thanking him for helping her during a time of need.

“I am very grateful that Alex Cortez was the team member on my property,” she wrote. “I don’t know how the day would’ve progressed if he wasn’t.”

Cortez has been known around the co-op for his caring attitude and professionalism, as he has received several tokens of appreciation from other employees for his dedication and teamwork. For Cortez, he feels like it’s just a part of his job.

“As I was coming up in the cooperative, I had a supervisor who would always tell me to do the right thing for the right reason,” he said. “In this line of work, we’re going to come across a lot of people who need help, and if there’s anything we can do to help them, that’s what we’re here for.”

Alex Cortez pull quote

On every job, Cortez said he always thinks back to the phrase, “a member doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

“As cliché as it sounds, it’s really true,” he said. “That was just my way of telling her, as a co-op, we do care about our members. We’re not just there to do a job and leave.”