Planting Trees

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor


Richard Johnstone

Virginia’s electric cooperatives are helping to grow tomorrow’s leaders by providing modest but meaningful help to deserving young people embarking on their educational journey beyond high school.

Spring brings many joyful events to our lives, from tilling soil to attending festivals to celebrating graduations and weddings. For 16 years, 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 $1,000 scholarship will transform a life. But the money does provide tangible help with the rising cost of higher education, and perhaps even more importantly, the award tells a young person that hard work and persistence pay off. These virtues not only reward the young people who apply for a scholarship, they later enable them to graduate from college or trade school, or in the case of nine scholarship recipients last year, from the Power Line Worker School at Southside Virginia Community College.

To receive a scholarship, applicants first complete a detailed 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 2016, 59 young people each received a $1,000 scholarship from the cooperative foundation. That’s quite an increase from 2001, when the first five scholarships were given out, each for $500.

In total, since 2001, 580 young people have received $475,500 to help defray some of their costs for college or trade school.

And because the association of electric cooperatives 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. As you read this, applications are being processed from young people across Virginia, requesting help with higher-education expenses. A donation of any amount will be appreciated, and put to very good use.

Oftentimes we never see, or even know about, the results of our good deeds. A Canadian farmer and World War I veteran named Nelson Henderson once 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. And whether we donate to good causes across the globe, or across the road, we infuse our lives with meaning when we follow the encouragement “to plant trees.”

It’s doubtful that we’ll live to see these trees grow to maturity, but we can take sweet solace in the certainty that they will shade and shelter generations we will never know, but with whom we will forever be connected.

(If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation to the foundation, please make your check payable to “VMD Education Scholarship Foundation” and mail it to the foundation at 4201 Dominion Blvd., Suite 101, Glen Allen, VA 23060, Attn: Nina Jacobs. You may also email her at

For more information on the foundation or the scholarship application process, please go to or 



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