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Ditch Digging Done Right, Co-op Style

Inset, far right, Donna West of Choptank Electric pieces together a chain link fence. Below, from left, Loyd Rice, Tim McCarthy, Dave Sunderman, Cliff Reed, Steven Johnson and Jordan Warren.

Inset, far right, Donna West of Choptank Electric pieces together a chain link fence. Below, from left, Loyd Rice, Tim McCarthy, Dave Sunderman, Cliff Reed, Steven Johnson and Jordan Warren.

Ditch Digging Done Right

DONNA WEST WAS ON HER HANDS AND KNEES, PEELING BACK CLOTS OF DEBRIS AND WET LEAVES at a children’s playground in Murfreesboro, Tenn., when she made a discovery. “It’s a drain,” she said. “I wonder if anyone knew it was here.” Answer: Probably not. West, a director at Choptank Electric Cooperative, had helped to uncover a cast iron drain so buried that water routinely bypassed it, flooding the playground. That repair was one part of the annual Community Service Project, which Touchstone Energy Cooperatives sponsors prior to the annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The principle is simple: Cooperatives come into town and leave it in a better state than they found it.

On a breezy Saturday in March, more than 100 volunteers from 25 states dug foot-deep trenches, packaged 16,000 meals and rebuilt metal fences at sites in Murfreesboro, served by Middle Tennessee Electric Cooperative, which coordinated the project. Steven Johnson of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives helped to build a French drain to divert water from a day care center, while John Burke, a director at Choptank Electric, and Choptank member Kenny Lambertson of Pocomoke, Md., helped to install 200 LED fixtures in an elementary school. Ella Weaver, director of strategic initiatives and programs for the United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, a project partner, said students had been nosing around the materials when workers stockpiled them at the school.

“They were all excited to come to school on Monday and see the new lights. It’ll be a different educational environment for them,” Weaver said.

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