CEO’s Report: Making a difference

Public power is defined by commitment to community.

Public power supports local commerce, employs 93,000 people in hometown jobs, and invests more than $2 billion annually directly back into the communities they serve. Employees volunteer their time on community boards and improvement projects. Residents have a voice in utility operations and the opportunity to make decisions that benefit the community.

Public power is embedded in the fabric of the communities we serve. We are quite literally community powered.

To celebrate our commitment to community, public power utilities across the nation celebrated a Month of Giving in June.

American Public Power Association has organized a Public Power Day of Giving since 2008. The event traditionally kicked off APPA’s National Conference, where attendees and guests spent the day volunteering with local service organizations in the conference host community or in their own communities.

Due to ongoing safety precautions connected with the COVID-19 pandemic, APPA revamped the event in 2021 to a month-long celebration. Utilities were encouraged to plan special efforts to give back to their communities or highlight the many ways they already give.

Heartland staff gives back

Heartland marked the occasion by donating bird feeders and bird houses to senior living centers in our customer communities.

Bird-watching is a popular pastime for elderly adults. It relieves stress, helps people reconnect with nature and is accessible for people with a range of abilities. It also provides sensory and memory benefits.

During the pandemic, it became especially important as people were stuck indoors and socially isolated.

Heartland donated 115 bird feeders and 30 bird houses to 29 facilities in 19 communities. What started as a simple idea grew into quite the undertaking, and was ultimately a very rewarding experience.

Each facility received five items of their choice, plus bird seed with the feeders. Paul Hansen, Madison resident and friend to Heartland, volunteered his time to construct most of the bird houses while Heartland staff painted them.

Throughout the month, we took turns traveling to communities and making deliveries. Each visit was a reminder of how little things can make a big difference in the lives of others.

Local officials were also invited to join us for presentations and be recognized as the hometown public power provider.

In Sioux Falls, SD, the city matched Heartland’s donation to the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan. Jerry Jongeling, traffic, light and power superintendent for the city, said the project brought fulfillment.

“As a public power provider and public servant, we are driven by the people who live here,” he said. “Being able to give back to the community you serve is the best reward.”

We won’t forget the looks on residents’ and facility staff’s faces when we handed off the items. We hope our gesture leaves a lasting impact for them as well.

We traveled more than 2,400 miles overall and committed about 60 hours to this project. What can’t be measured is how much joy it brought to everyone involved.