Rural life in the 1930’s and 1940’s was hard for many families. Just look at old family photos, or ask anyone who experienced the hardscrabble chores that were necessary to put food on the table, clean clothes, pump water, or cook.
The great equalizer between rural America and cities was electricity, and local electric cooperatives led the way in this massive infrastructure project. In 1939, Wiregrass Electric Cooperative (WEC) set to work building a grid that brought electricity to farmers and rural towns in Southeast Alabama.
“WEC filled the gap for many rural areas,” said Brad Kimbro, Chief Operating Officer. “When WEC opened, the goal was to serve areas that larger companies thought were unprofitable. Now, our consumers are our members.”
Today, WEC provides power to over 22,000 consumer-members in Southeast Alabama – that is 4,000 miles of line. The cooperative is a locally owned initiative.
Building on its roots to make life better for consumers, WEC is involved in giving back to achieve this goal. Wallace Community College – Dothan (WCCD) is a recipient of WEC’s generosity through the Pre-Apprentice Lineworker program.
“I cannot begin to express the gratitude Wallace has for WEC’s commitment to the success of our students,” said Dr. Linda Young, WCCD president. “Students who complete this program have many choices of employers after completion. WEC’s commitment trains good lineworkers and employees for the entire area, and we all benefit.”
Program instructor Greg Chaney expressed gratitude about the many ways that WEC helps WCCD train future lineworkers. “The poles that students practice on need to be replaced every two classes, and WEC is there to help with equipment and staff. They have loaned us equipment and donated a pole trailer. They make sure that our students have what they need to do a good job professionally.”
Joe Johnson, director of workforce development, echoed Chaney’s gratitude. “We are extremely appreciative and thankful for the support, on numerous levels, that Wiregrass Electric Cooperative provides our Pre-apprentice Electrical Lineworker program,” Johnson remarked.
“Beginning with scholarship opportunities, WEC graciously donates equipment needed to facilitate hands-on training and participate in mock interviews to ensure our graduates prepare for future employment. The partnership with WEC is vital to the success of our program as we strive to meet our regions workforce needs.”
WEC’s work with Wallace leads to student success, a leading indicator in education. Operation Round Up is a voluntary program where members ‘round up’ their power bills, and is a key component in the company’s partnership with Wallace. The fund provides scholarships, emergency assistance, and training for first responders, and other local causes.
One fortunate Wallace student, Cole Dean, recently benefited from WEC’s Operation Round Up. “I chose this program because I didn’t want to work inside,” he said. “The scholarship paid 100% of my tuition for the Wallace College Lineman Apprentice Program. The WCC lineworker program instilled in me the foundation and skills to become successful.” I am grateful.”
WEC is always working to build a strong energy company, but its mission, as always, is building the strength of the community. Wallace Community College students have certainly benefited.