Running a summer camp doesn’t sound like a typical thing for an electric co-op, but in Kentucky they did it while keeping the youngsters—and parents—happy.
“I loved going to camp when I was a kid,” said Julie Lewis, member services secretary at Grayson RECC, who got the idea for what became Camp Co-op.
Lewis has a degree in graphic design and teaches art to neighborhood youngsters on weekends. Her member services colleagues Kim Bush and Tina Preece have teaching degrees. It was the perfect recipe for a camp that would be both fun and educational.
CEO Carol Ann Fraley said she also wanted it to be “inexpensive, convenient for parents and a fun learning experience for the campers.”
Planning began when it was still cold outside.
“We came up with different experiments, arts and crafts projects,” said Lewis. “I wanted to do a canvas painting with them because all kids like to be creative and most like to paint. I was hoping to help them create something they could take home and keep.”
And since the campers would be some of Grayson’s youngest members, there would be just the right amount of explaining what a co-op is.
“We thought it would work well for them to start understanding about a co-op—even at a young age—that co-ops are different,” said Lewis.
“We wanted to give them that emotional attachment that stays with you, so when you’re older you’re still going to think that the co-op was great.”
Fifteen boys and girls finishing grades three through five attended the inaugural Camp Co-op in June. The three-day camp was promoted on Grayson’s Facebook page, in Kentucky Living magazine and on the radio. A nominal $10 fee included breakfast, lunch and a snack.
The participants learned about solar through Grayson’s small array, and Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives’ Solar Sam paid a visit. They learned about energy efficiency. Kim Bush, manager of marketing and member services, took them on a tour of the building, during which they got to bang the gavel in the boardroom and meet with Fraley in her office.
An entire day was devoted to safety. Campers made outlet covers, and neighboring Fleming-Mason Energy Cooperative, performed a hot-line safety demo.
Robert Brown, GIS technician, was in charge of recreation and brought in a pig on the final day for the kids to play with.
And, as Lewis envisioned, there was a canvas painting—a light bulb with each child’s name painted on the filament.
Grayson is a small co-op, but that didn’t deter anyone. “We do not have a big community building. So we utilized what we had: our break room, our basement, truck barn and yard areas,” said Lewis. Eight college-age children of co-op employees were working at Grayson this summer and helped out.
When the three days were done, the kids didn’t want to leave. And when Preece later ran into a camper’s mom, the woman told her how much her son had learned and how he was encouraging the family to be energy efficient. That made Lewis smile.
“It really looked like the messages were hitting home,” she said. “These kids see there’s more to the electric co-op than turning the lights on.”
Camp Co-op will return next summer, Lewis said. “We are looking at new projects and have already decided that we need a camp song for next year.”
Michael W. Kahn is a staff writer for NRECA.