Step Up To The Plate For Youth
and photos by Laura Emery, Field Editor
Ware is one of many young athletes who will benefit from the
volunteer work headed up by former Southside Electric Cooperative
lineman Frank Robertson.
As darkness falls, the community
gathers. Children with gloves, helmets and bats take their positions on the
diamond. The ballpark is their stage, the people in the bleachers their
The first crack of bat against ball
unleashes the crowd’s enthusiasm, as the stadium lights illuminate the
figures of young athletes running bases, throwing balls — all trying to
make the big play. The familiar smells of hotdogs and nachos waft through
the warm spring air. It’s all part of a timeless American tradition.
It’s the beginning of youth-league
ball season in Crewe on the Beamer and Hackney fields. This evening’s game
was made possible in part by a special group of retired Southside Electric
Cooperative (SEC) linemen who epitomize the core values of electric
cooperatives and their commitment to community.
For two days, six retired linemen toiled
— digging trenches, hoisting banks of lights, setting poles, and running
hundreds of feet of conduit and wire underground — all in an effort
coordinated with the Crewe-Burkeville Youth Recreation Association (CBYRA)
to install stadium lighting over the ballpark’s third, not-yet-named
And, now, local youngsters gather
beneath these lights as the community comes together to enjoy an evening of
America’s favorite pastime …
six retired SEC linemen who helped with the light-installation
project include (from left) Frank Robertson, Jack Leslie, Milton
Gray, Robert Stewart, Jimmy Hagaman, and Bobby Shreck.
THE SKILLED SIX
This story begins in December, when
Crewe attorney Jack Boswell was working to help CBYRA get utility poles from
SEC for this third field. In talking with the co-op about the best way to
get the poles installed, Boswell was told that he should contact retired SEC
lineman Frank Robertson, who is known for his strong sense of community
Boswell in turn passed on this
information to Joanne Worsham, project manager at Longwood University and
president of the CBYRA.
personally contacted Frank who, in turn, contacted the other retirees from
SEC, all of whom agreed without hesitation to pitch in and help,” says
Worsham. Robertson contacted former SEC colleagues Robert Stewart, Jack
Leslie, Milton Gray, Jimmy Hagaman, and Bobby Shreck.
The six retired SEC linemen jumped at
this opportunity to give back to their community by installing the needed
lighting. However, the project did have its challenges. By the time the work
was set to begin, the CBYRA was scheduled to hold its opening ceremonies at
the ballpark in only two weeks, so the men had to work quickly and
efficiently. “Time was tight,” says Robertson. “But if anybody could
do it, our group of guys could do it.”
Lights on the third field would allow
for evening games and make it possible for concurrent games on all three
fields if needed. Additionally, the CBYRA is scheduled to host the minor
league district and state baseball tournaments this year, and the third
field could be used for tournament practice.
The six retired linemen spent windy
afternoons on March 23 and 24 wiring and installing the poles and lights.
“We made a great team. Everything went smoothly and, most importantly, we
all worked safely,” Robertson says.
The men volunteered their time and
skills, and SEC contributed its equipment. “By donating our equipment, the
co-op sees this as our way of being good citizens in the areas we serve and
supporting the activities that are important to the people who live in our
service territory,” says Frank Harris, manager of public and member
relations at SEC. “Supporting our local area youth is very important to
Jordan Hurte of Crewe is all smiles as he waits to get out on the
field and play.
The CBYRA bought the poles, lights and
related materials with money raised in local fundraisers. Worsham explains,
“As a volunteer organization, our financial resources are limited, and we
often rely on volunteers to donate their time and efforts to us when it is
most convenient for them. For example, numerous local, skilled tradesmen and
volunteers have been working nights and weekends and donating their time in
building new dugouts and preparing our fields.” CBYRA purchased the poles
from SEC, and the lighting materials and cable from Farmville Wholesale.
One of the qualities of electric
cooperatives that sets them apart from many other businesses is cooperation
— working with local, regional and national organizations to help
communities they serve.
Robertson says, “We enjoyed working
together again; it was just like the old lineman days. When you’re a part
of the co-op family, you love what you do and that always involves serving
other people. For example, we did the lighting on the ballpark for the
area’s youth, but it’s no different than back in our lineman days when
we’d be out late at night during storms getting the lights back on —
only we did that for our co-op members. It’s a mentality that sticks with
you even after you retire from the co-op family.”
NO SMALL FEAT
Kelsey Burke, Kennedy Good, Mary Rash, and Gracie Rogers
are among the many youth league ball players that can now utilize
the third field. Laura Emery photos.
The project to wire the third field with
lighting required approximately 140 man-hours over a two-day period. On the
first day, the linemen assembled the lights and installed the poles. On the
second day, they wired the lights. Six poles were
installed on the third field with a total of 28
lights, 1,500 watts each, to illuminate the field.
“You need only look at the quality of
workmanship to know that these men know what they’re
doing,” says Harris of the volunteer linemen. “All of the guys have high
levels of expertise.”
Robertson’s last position at the co-op
was as assistant manager of operations. He worked for SEC for 32 years. Jack
Leslie also worked for the co-op for 32 years, and last served in the
position of right-of-way superintendent. Milton Gray worked as line-tech
supervisor, and was employed at the co-op 31 years. Robert Stewart last
worked as line-tech supervisor, and was an SEC employee for 31 years. Jimmy
Hagaman also worked 31 years for the co-op and last served in the position
of district operations supervisor. Bobby Shreck last served as line-tech
supervisor and worked for the co-op 32 years.
“We, at Southside Electric
Cooperative, are very proud of our retired employees who continue to support
their respective communities even though they have retired from our
cooperative. This support ensures that our youth have the facilities needed
to help them develop as they grow into contributing adults. SEC is very
proud to do our part in supporting our communities and our membership in
endeavors such as these,” says SEC President and CEO M. Larry Longshore.
left: Southside Electric's Manager of Public and Member Relations
Frank Harris, CBYRA President Joanne Worsham, and SEC President and
CEO M. Larry Longshore.
SEC has a long-standing relationship
with the CBYRA and youth-league softball and baseball in the
Crewe-Burkeville area. Even before the installation of the lights on the
third field, SEC has pitched in with light installations, bulb replacements
and other field maintenance items for the two other fields (Beamer and
Hackney). SEC installed the stadium lights at the Hackney softball field,
and a number of SEC employees are also actively involved in coaching teams
or helping CBYRA out in various capacities.
“The reason I, and the other guys,
were so willing to help install the lights is because of the community’s
youth. It’s all about the children, who are our future. If I can help to
keep one child out of trouble, then that’s pay enough,” Robertson
SEC sponsors a soccer team and
continually supports CBYRA’s efforts through advertising in tournament
programs and with fence ads. “Southside Electric, working in collaboration
with our local recreation association, is a win-win situation for our
community,” Worsham concludes.
THE NATURE OF
By their very
nature, electric cooperatives are tightly woven into the fabric of the
communities they serve. This takes many forms, from
helping with youth-league ball fields, to providing safety training in
schools, to assisting volunteer fire departments, to helping raise money for
cancer research. In Virginia, co-ops from all points of the compass are
actively involved in helping to improve their communities.
Honeycutt steps up to the plate. Cheyenne and her fellow CBYRA
leaguers can now play under the lights at three fields in the CBYRA
To the east,
A&N Electric Cooperative gives safety presentations in the schools to
over 400 students a year. This co-op also supports the
Eastern Shore Historical Society, Literacy Council, Boy Scouts and Girl
Scouts, Habitat For Humanity, Light House Ministries (family shelter
program), Little League, local fire companies and community colleges, and a
multitude of other organizations.
To the west, Powell
Valley Electric Cooperative (PVEC) contributes to United Way and Boy and
Girl Scouts of America, gives safety presentations in local schools,
participates in an annual storytelling festival for students, and employees
participate in the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Needy Children’s Christmas
Program. Randell Meyers, general manager and CEO of PVEC, says, “By
supporting community projects, we hope to enrich and improve the lives of
those in our service area. Our board and employees alike have a genuine
interest in the quality of life in our area, and believe in helping out in
the community in any way possible.”
To the north, Northern
Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) sponsors WalkAmerica in three
counties, an event that raises funds for March of Dimes. NOVEC also
participates in the American Cancer Society’s fundraising event, Relay For
Life. The cooperative also contributes to the performing arts in all the
counties it serves, and supports the Prince William County Public School
Education Foundation and the Library Foundation. “By contributing funds to
these organizations, we are supporting our children and preparing them for
the future,” explains Donna Snellings, public relations liaison at NOVEC.
Additionally, NOVEC sponsors numerous youth-league teams.
To the south,
Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) has a Relay For Life team called “Mecklenburg
Live Wires.” Last year it raised over $8,000 for the American Cancer
Society through a variety of fund-raising events. MEC also demonstrates the
high-line hazard display at various schools, and
provides nine $500 scholarships to young people whose parents are MEC
members. MEC also contributes generously toward fund-raising for new
community projects in its service area. Brian Mosier, vice president of
business development at the co-op, says, “Everything we do is for our
service territory, whether we serve the specific school or ball field, since
our members are part of those organizations. Helping build up our
communities and Southside, Virginia, is part of what Mecklenburg Electric
Cooperative is all about.”
This is just a sampling
of the deep community involvement in which each of Virginia’s 13
member-owned electric cooperatives takes part. As Joanne Worsham, president
of the CBYRA observes, “Having a local business like Southside Electric
come together with our local recreation association says a great deal about
the company and its commitment to our community. We are very fortunate to
have them in our area and value our relationship with them.”
And this commitment to
community is perfectly defined by the six retired linemen from Southside
Electric Cooperative, volunteering their time and talents to help perpetuate
America’s favorite pastime in Crewe, Va.