BREMCO community grants awarded

Christina Day Staff Writer

January 20, 2014

The Blue Ridge Electric Members Foundation announced that it will reward $36,000 to community groups in Ashe County as a part of its 2013-14 grant cycle.

BREMCO established the Members Foundation in 2006 to “support the work of community organizations providing services that improve the quality of life for the cooperative’s members.”

“It is not an easy task to choose which grants are funded and which are not, but after careful consideration and weighing the needs of all the grant requests in Ashe and other counties, I feel the committee did a great job by recommending four grants that will benefit Ashe County citizens now and years to come,” Grey Scheer, Director of Community Relations for Blue Ridge Electric Members Foundation said.

Health, economic and community development, wellness, education and youth are the Foundation’s priorities for support, according to a release from the company.

Locally, Ashe Partnership for Children, Ashe Really Care, Shoes for Kids and Ashe Memorial Hospital were awarded funding to continue their work within the community.

Ashe Partnership for Children will use the $2,000 grant to implement a peer empowerment group for adolescent girls at Ashe County Middle School.

“The average teen will at some point experience or make decisions about issues such as bullying, drug and alcohol use, violence in relationships or their family, rape or sexual assault, consensual sexual activity, and so many more,” Robin Faulkner, A.S.H.E. program director said. “It is our belief that we can prevent or lessen these risky behaviors and traumatic experiences by providing adolescents with the tools necessary to make healthy choices in their lives before they are faced with the decision.”

Faulkner said the the arts-based empowerment group will partner with Ashe County Middle School, Ashe County 4-H Link After School Program and individual community members from specialized fields as guest speakers.

Ashe Really Cares (ARC), an outreach arm of the churches of Ashe, was awarded $5,000 to provide food and utility assistance to local families in need.

“Most of it will be used for purchasing food, but we are setting some of it aside to help a lot of the Gates employees that have been laid of with electrical help,” Pat Miller, Director of ARC said.

In the summer of 2013, the Gates Corporation announced plans to shut down its Jefferson plant by early 2014 and lay off 247 employees.

ARC, which serves an average of 250 Ashe families every month, expects that number to grow with the Gates Corporation layoffs going into effect.

Also meeting a local need, Shoes for Kids, a new organization, was awarded a $5,000 grant from BREMCO to “purchase sufficient inventory of shoes to meet the need of hundreds of Ashe County students without necessary footwear.”

Shoes for Kids works in collaboration with school guidance counselors to identify students in need.

Ashe Memorial Hospital (AMH) was announed as a recipient of the BREMCO Impact Grant for the 2013-14 cycle.

The Emergency Department at AMH, and the patients who walk through the doors, will benefit from the $25,000 Impact Grant, which according to BREMCO will “assist in the capital campaign to renovate and expand the Emergency Department” of AMH.

“We are pleased to be able to award a $25,000 impact grant to help Ashe Memorial Hospital expand and upgrade its emergency department,” said Kay Sexton, Ashe District Manager for BREMCO, “Maintaining strong hospitals in each of our four primary districts is very important to all of our members.”

A funding advisory committee, made up of 12 member volunteer representatives from BREMCO’s service district, make the community grant funding decisions.

Nonprofit agencies serving communities within BREMCO’s service district at eligible to apply for the grants.

The Foundation also works in collaboration with local helping agencies to provide heating assistance in the community. This is funded in part by BREMCO’s Operation Round Up and Operation Round Up Plus, in which enrolled members round up their bill total or add an extra dollar to each bill for the fund.

“Foundation funds helped over 560 Ashe County members stay warm in 2013,” Scheer said, “It is simply amazing that the generosity of our members, donating an average of just fifty cents per month through their electric bill, can have such an impact on Ashe County.”

Christina Day may be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cdayinWJ