SVE tops $1 million in RoundUp awards
By ELISA SAND, Staff Reporter
In the past 12 years, close to $140,000 has been awarded to Lake County organizations through Sioux Valley Energy's Operation RoundUp.|
The program issues grants on a quarterly basis to support non-profit organizations and needy families. The total awards issued have now exceeded $1 million.
Through the national program, which was launched locally in 2000, electric bills for SVE customers are rounded up to the nearest dollar. Debra Sommers, SVE director of customer and employee relations, said all of Sioux Valley's 22,000 customers were automatically enrolled in the program when it was started, but they have the option at any time to withdraw their participation. The automatic enrollment continues with each new customer.
Today, 78 percent of SVE customers participate in Operation RoundUp, contributing an average of 58 cents a month. SVE employees also have the option to participate by contributing 50 cents per paycheck. Combined, the individual donations add up to about $26,000 each quarter when new applications are considered.
"Just the little bit they give collectively means a lot," Sommers said.
Sommers said 100 percent of the money collected is paid out to applicants. Awards are decided by a volunteer board that has one board member representing each of the six counties within Sioux Valley's service area and one at-large member.
The latest round of grants went out last week, bringing Sioux Valley's total awards to $1,021,556. Of those awards, Sommers said, $92,738 has been awarded to organizations that specifically support the residents of Lake County; another $45,650 has been awarded to organizations that have programs benefiting several counties that include Lake County.
Sioux Valley's service area includes Rock and Pipestone counties in Minnesota; and Minnehaha, Brookings, Lake and Moody counties in South Dakota.
The program was started by an electric cooperative in South Carolina and has gained participants across the country. While Sioux Valley was the first cooperative in South Dakota to participate, Sommers said, in-state participation is increasing and she knows of at least three other South Dakota cooperatives that take part.
Organizations can be awarded up to $10,000.
"We always have more need than money," she said.
Last week, the board considered 24 applications with requests totaling $52,000.
"We had $34,000 available," she said.
Sommers said that when requests exceed the funds available, the board often awards grants that are less than the amount requested so that each one benefits in some way.
"The directors really deliberate on the requests," Sommers said.
Organizations that apply must be a non-profit organization located within the SVE service territory, and the funds awarded must be put toward programs that benefit people in the service area.
Individual awards are also considered for families or people in crisis. Sommers said those awards can be issued up to $2,500.
Grants can be awarded for the following purposes: community service; education and youth; emergency energy assistance; environmental; economic development; and disaster relief.
Sommers said grants have been awarded to a variety of groups and organizations that include Habitat for Humanity, volunteer fire departments and schools. Locally, she said, beneficiaries have included ICAP, East Dakota Transit, East Central Habitat for Humanity and Lake County Food Pantry.
Sommers said the Food Pantry has received annual contributions since the program has been available.
"Operation RoundUp is our longest, continuous and most generous sponsor," said Food Pantry President Jeff Nelson. "It's a fine demonstration of cooperatives being committed to communities."
As an SVE member, Nelson said it's particularly heartwarming being both a member and a recipient.
"It's a great opportunity for neighbors helping neighbors," he said.
Nelson said the support received from Operation RoundUp is both valuable and vital for the Food Pantry. The funds have been used toward the holiday program, general operations and for backpack program (Kid's Pantry).
"In every instance, they've given," Nelson said.
Sommers said she's proud of the program and the impact it's had on the local organizations.
"It just goes to show, giving just a little bit collectively makes such a difference," she said.