Forever Connected

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

Virginia’s electric cooperatives are planting seeds of hope across the state by providing modest but meaningful help to deserving young people embarking on their educational journey beyond high school.

Outside an office window on Richmond’s western fringes, fingers of March sunshine persistently pull the last snowy blanket from its earth bed. After a season of slumber, life stirs and stands.

Crocuses and snowdrops peek out. Oak buds expand, pushing stubborn leaves crinkly as parchment off their branches, downward to the greening ground. Migrating robins return, joining the home cousins. Young squirrels and crows emerge, first tentative, quickly raucous.

Those who venture outdoors note that yesterday’s chilled winds are today’s moist breezes. Like sluggish dawn, spring spreads across the land.

Following a winter of discontent, the natural world is a refreshing elixir. The certainty of its arrival — if not the exact date — is comforting in a world where unease and uncertainty spread like kudzu on a woody hillside.

Spring brings many joyful events to our lives, from tilling soil to attending festivals to celebrating weddings and graduations. For over a decade, Virginia’s 13 local electric cooperatives have made graduation day a little brighter for many deserving high school seniors, providing them with scholarship money to help with the cost of college or trade school.

This help is provided through a nonprofit foundation created in 2000 to assist young people whose parents or guardians are electric cooperative member-consumers. Concern for community is one of the seven core principles that guide cooperative businesses. Helping young people in the communities we serve is one way that Virginia’s electric cooperatives apply passion to principle.

In the context of today’s high and ever-higher education costs, the dollar amounts awarded are modest; it’s unlikely that a $500 or $1,000 scholarship will transform a life. But the money does provide tangible help with the daunting costs of today’s higher education, and perhaps even more importantly, the award tells a young person that hard work and persistence pay off, in applying for a scholarship, and later in earning a college or trade school degree.

To receive an award, high school seniors must apply to the foundation by completing a questionnaire, which is then reviewed by the foundation’s board of directors, who make scholarship decisions based on the applicant’s financial need, academic achievement, and written personal statement.

Thanks to tax-deductible contributions from generous cooperative member-consumers, the foundation’s ability to help deserving young people has grown steadily; in fact, 2013 set a record both for total scholarships (50) and total dollars awarded ($50,000). That’s quite an increase from 2001, when the first five scholarships were given out, each for $500. In total, since 2001 more than 400 young people have received over $300,000 to help defray some of their costs for college or trade school.

And because the trade association that publishes this magazine covers the modest overhead costs of the foundation, literally every donated dollar is used for its intended purpose: helping deserving young people. 

If you would like to help such young people on their educational journey, please consider making a tax-deductible gift to the electric cooperative scholarship foundation.

Oftentimes we never see, or even know about, the results of our good deeds. In the first half of the 20th century, a Canadian farmer and World War I veteran named Nelson Henderson shared this thought with his son Wesley on graduation day: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

This thought resonates powerfully with anyone who’s ever cared deeply about a child, a community, or a noble cause. Despite our selfishness and short-sightedness, occasional cruelty and frequent folly, we humans are also capable of great acts of caring and sacrifice.

And whether we donate to good causes across the globe, or across the street, we infuse our lives with glowing meaning when we follow Nelson Henderson’s encouragement “to plant trees.”

Because, while it’s unlikely we’ll live to see these trees grow to maturity, there’s a sweet satisfaction in knowing that they will shade and shelter generations we will never know, but with whom we will forever be connected.

(To make a tax-deductible donation to the foundation, please make your check payable to “VMD Educational Scholarship Foundation” and mail it to the foundation at: 4201 Dominion Blvd., Glen Allen, VA 23060, Attn: Pam Johnson. You may also email her at pjohnson@odec.com. For more information on the foundation, please go to www.co-opliving.com or www.vmdaec.com.) 




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