By Ally Maisano | October 30, 2020
Flint Energies Exemplifies Cooperative Spirit with Donations to Schools
The coronavirus pandemic has changed how we live. We’re working from home more, we’re social distancing, and we’re masking up to help slow the spread of COVID-19. One of the biggest changes nationally has been the turn towards virtual learning. Attending class virtually may help slow the spread of COVID-19, but it’s also shining a bright light on the digital divide.
The digital divide is not a new concept. It’s the gap between those who can easily access computers and the internet and those who cannot. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the digital divide even worse, and low income and rural students are the ones getting left behind.
Computers, like Chromebooks, are the standard for many school systems’ digital learning programs. They are the connection between students and their teachers, and without consistent access to a computer, students wouldn’t be able to learn and keep up with schoolwork.
Flint Energies, located in Reynolds, GA, saw this firsthand and jumped into action to help bridge that gap through its Flint Energies Foundation. The Flint Energies Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Flint Energies. The foundation’s mission is to assist with the food, shelter, health, safety, and education needs in the counties served by Flint Energies, using funds raised from when customers choose to round-up their accounts to the next dollar and to also utilize unclaimed capital credits.
“Our CEO, Bob Ray, asked us to reach out to local rural schools to see what their needs were.”, says Susan Poole, Community Investment Liaison at Flint Energies. “The main thing these schools were worried about was having enough Chromebooks for all the students.”
“We learned that there were families with several kids, but they only owned one Chromebook.”, Poole continued. “The kids would have to share, and that would cause their level of learning to drop.”
The Flint Energies Foundation knew there was an opportunity to make a difference in the community, but there was a roadblock: Chromebooks were surprisingly hard to find. The laptops were sold out at most places and were on backorder. But as the old saying goes – where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Poole got with Flint’s Manager of IT, Todd Bigler, to come up with a plan to track down the laptops. “Todd worked day and night to find a vendor that had Chromebooks available.” Poole said, “He worked endlessly and wouldn’t give up.”
The Flint Energies Foundation was able to spend $90,000 of its funds to purchase 200 Chromebooks. Poole worked with schools to identify their needs, and Chromebooks were designated to go to schools in 6 rural counties.
“Everyone came together to help get the Chromebooks to the schools,” Poole said. “Superintendents and school principals were going out of their way to come in their personal vehicles and pick up Chromebooks.”
The dedication to filling this digital need is just another shining example of the cooperative spirit. Cooperatives are staples in their communities. They provide a necessary service by fulfilling their community’s electrical needs, but they so often go above and beyond. Flint Energies was under no obligation to go so far out of their way to provide laptops to local schools, but they knew by doing so, they were investing in the youth in their community. They saw a chance to make a true difference, and they jumped at it.