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Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative Answers the Call and Aids Irma Victims


As Hurricane Irma was churning across the Caribbean heading toward our neighbors to the south, Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC) officials were coordinating a plan of action should Mother Nature unleash her wrath and leave members of our sister cooperatives with severe damage and in dire need of assistance from MEC’s line personnel.  Regretfully, Irma was a powerful and destructive storm, and MEC quickly became part of a coordinated and historic response. As the hurricane made landfall in the Florida Keys, MEC was activating its assistance plan to send line crews, trucks and materials to areas experiencing widespread outages.


Fifteen line workers were deployed to aid sister electric cooperatives in South Carolina—from the Emporia district were Adam Brewer, Rob Clary, Stuart Clinedinst, Andy Epperson, and Craig Phelps; from the Gretna district were Mark Bandy, Kevin Haskins, Jamie Walden, Leathern Yeatts, and Calvin Younger; from the Chase City district and Headquarters were Brad Clark, Joe Hostetter, Anthony Lenhart, T. W. Parks and Mark Towery.  These men joined a concentrated effort among more than 110 experienced line workers from electric cooperatives across Virginia and Maryland.


“Original reports delivered the overwhelming news that damage to cooperative electrical distribution  systems was devastating and had resulted in widespread outages, including estimates of 595,000 without power in Florida, 428,000 in Georgia, and 52,000 in South Carolina,” states John C. Lee, Jr., president and CEO of MEC. “Our line workers first aided members of Mid Carolina Electric Cooperative in Lexington, South Carolina. This area was somehow spared from the more extreme damage caused by the hurricane, and power there was quickly restored. Our teams of line workers were then reassigned to electric cooperatives in Georgia where the storm was far more destructive.”


The MEC crew from the Emporia district assisted Rayle Electric Membership Cooperative (EMC), a 14,000-member cooperative based in Washington, Georgia; and MEC’s crews from the Gretna and Chase City districts worked to repair the damage left in the wake of this powerful storm while aiding Walton EMC, a large distribution cooperative based in Monroe, Georgia, that serves 127,000 members.


Gretna version for Star Tribune, The Union Star, Altavista Journal, Danville Register, and News and Advance

Line Technician Kevin Haskins says, “I enjoyed going to help. When people passed us on the road, they would blow the horn and wave to thank us.” Line Foreman Jamie Walden adds, “Numerous people would stop by while we were working in their neighborhood and drop off a box of cookies or donuts. I’m thankful to have a job that I love dearly, and I appreciate the opportunity to travel south to help others in need.”


Chase City version for News Progress, Mecklenburg Sun, South Hill Enterprise, Southside Messenger, Charlotte Gazette, Mecklenburg Reporter

Underground/Apparatus Foreman Anthony Lenhart mentions the long work days while in South Carolina and Georgia. “At most it seems we only got about three hours of sleep and the days were really long; it was tiring, but the people showed such gratitude and thanked us so sincerely, it really made me feel good and that kept me going.”  Underground/Special Equipment Technician Mark Towery adds, “Going down there for a trip that should have taken six hours took nine as traffic was so bad. People were returning to their homes in Florida to see if they had anything left.” He adds, “One afternoon we stopped at Hardees for a quick lunch, and a man there struck up a conversation.  Before he left, he prayed with us and for our safety. It means a lot to know people really care.”


Mix of quotes from Gretna and Chase City for News and Record and Gazette-Virginian

Chase City District Line Technician Joe Hostetter mentions that even though the area where they were working for Walton EMC in Georgia was on the outskirts of the most severe damage, the cooperative had 116 broken poles that had to be replaced. Gretna District Line Foreman Jamie Walden adds, “Numerous people would stop by while we were working in their neighborhood and drop off a box of cookies or donuts. I’m thankful to have a job that I love dearly, and I appreciate the opportunity to travel south to help others in need.”


Emporia version for Independent Messenger, Lake Gaston Gazette, Brunswick Times and Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald

Emporia District Apprentice Line Technician Adam Brewer says, “While we were in South Carolina, we helped replace a lot of broken poles for Mid Carolina cooperative. By the time our crew arrived in Georgia, those folks had been without power almost a week. It was an amazing experience to see line trucks from so many different states . . . even some from Canada . . . and linemen from all over the country . . . not knowing one another, but working together to get the job done. While we were working, people riding by would let their car windows down and call out thanks to us or give us a “thumbs up.” I loved being a part of it all!”


Lee praised the continuing willingness of MEC employees to help restore power to sister cooperatives during these natural disasters, stating, “The employees at Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative always stand ready to assist those in need, and I am very proud of the 15 who went south, and all the others here at MEC who would’ve gladly gone but stayed here to take care of our members. Our line crew associates are well-trained, highly conscientious workers who take their responsibilities seriously and take great pride in their work and abilities…and they are ALWAYS willing to step up and help. In this and similar situations, they work long, hard hours in terrible conditions eking out a few minutes here and there to grab a quick meal, get some much-needed rest, and then return to the task at hand. They are tough and committed and sacrifice time from their homes and families; and in this instance, one of them has a newborn baby at home.”


Lee continues, “I highly commend the dedication of these men to their profession and cooperative members here and anywhere they are in need of men who can get the power restored; I am very proud, and at the same time, humbled, to be a part of this organization and to work alongside these men.”


Lee also mentions that natural disasters such as Hurricane Irma highlight the resilience, preparedness and collaboration of the electric cooperative system. He recalls instances when electric cooperatives from other states have come to Mecklenburg’s aid in similar situations. “In 2011 Hurricane Irene blew down trees and limbs that severed power lines, snapped power poles, and caused major outages in our territory. At the peak of the storm we had nearly 11,000 services without power, which is over one-third of our entire membership. I’ll never forget how thankful I was to see electric cooperative trucks with line workers from Georgia, South Carolina and Ohio rolling in to our parking lot to help us tackle the task of rebuilding.” He continues, “Then about a year later our system suffered damage from the Derecho windstorm, and electric cooperatives from North Carolina assisted us during that restoration period.”


“MEC employees and electric cooperative systems across the nation make up a tremendously dedicated group of people who hold their service to the members as their highest professional priority and who are good and generous people,” Lee adds. “They take very seriously their responsibility to provide the members with reliable and affordable electricity; and to them, working for an electric cooperative is more than a job . . . it is a passion, and a privilege. We are so very thankful that all of our men have returned home safely, and without incident; and we thank their families for their sacrifices too while these men were away assisting others."


Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative is the not-for-profit energy provider to over 31,000 meters located in portions of the Virginia counties of Brunswick, Charlotte, Greensville, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Pittsylvania, Southampton and Sussex and the North Carolina counties of Granville, Person, Northampton, Vance and Warren. It is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative, headquartered in Chase City with district offices in Gretna, Emporia, and Chase City.






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