First Person: ‘You Feel Like You’re on an Island’ Says Kentucky Co-op Rep

When Kentucky’s COVID-19 lockdown began in mid-March, life took a considerable detour for  Leslye Krampe, 36, commercial accounts and economic development specialist for Kenergy. She lives in Henderson with her husband and children.

Since Kentucky’s COVID-19 lockdown in March, Kenergy’s Leslye Krampe has been spending more quality time with her son, August.  (Photo By: Sophia Krampe)
Since Kentucky’s COVID-19 lockdown in March, Kenergy’s Leslye Krampe has been spending more quality time with her son, August. (Photo By: Sophia Krampe)

I’m always on the go, meeting with members or involved within the co-op’s communities. Before the pandemic, about 30% of my time was spent on the road meeting with commercial and industrial members, and another 40% of my time was spent in meetings related to economic development and other community organizations.

During the pandemic, I’ve been focused on sustaining and developing relationships with our large industrial members. Our large industries have been hit hard. It’s been challenging to keep up their adjusted schedules and how the pandemic is impacting their businesses. Comparing the industrial accounts usage from March to April, usage was down 15%.

Anytime I’m in the office, I love to make rounds and say hi to other employees. I’m definitely an extrovert, so I miss the social interaction. I consider myself a connector of people and things and try to help others by connecting them with other people. I really miss that. Working from home, you feel like you’re on an island. I work with a lot of introverts, so they probably don’t miss me as much as I miss them!

The pandemic has changed my routine drastically in other ways, too. I have a family, so I’m working all different hours to accommodate their needs. That includes working evenings so I have time during the day to play.  I’ve been homeschooling my first grader, which is more challenging than I expected. He’s very active and full of energy.

I start working about 7:30 in the morning, then I’ll break for lunch. I try to be as productive as I can in the morning because he’s calmer. In the afternoons, I’m literally throwing a baseball in the backyard with a cell phone in my pocket. Then I’ll run in for a conference call, work for about an hour, then run back out and play basketball.

We’ve adjusted our schedule so that homeschooling begins at 6:00 pm, after the phone calls and work emails begin to slow down. I also have three “bonus” daughters from my husband’s previous marriage. One is a senior in high school and her drive-thru graduation ceremony is this Saturday. She’s missing her friends and disappointed about how the school year ended; no normal end-of-year activities such as senior prom, banquets, honors night or project graduation.   

My husband is a market president/commercial lender at a local bank and he’s been issuing PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans. He’s literally been gone, working 17-hour days. He has the option to work from home but chooses to go into the bank because our home internet isn’t reliable to upload large files and documents efficiently.

We’ve really missed him not being home. The kids and I deliver lunch and dinner to him at the bank every day. The PPP loans are finally starting to slow down so he’s actually been home before midnight!

The pandemic definitely shines a spotlight on our lack of adequate broadband in rural west Kentucky. I have many friends working from home with small children. One friend has to pack up her two small children and drive 20 minutes to her parents’ house so she can participate in Zoom calls for work. 

In parts of our service territory, people are parking outside businesses with Wi-Fi to complete work or homework. I hope the lack of reliable internet during the pandemic will speed up efforts to fix the digital divide in our rural communities. 

In one office, Kenergy is distributing face masks for one county’s emergency management group. We’re an essential business that stayed open (drive-thru only), so they provided us with 900 masks for the public. Anyone from the community can pull through our drive-thru and ask for masks.

I’m trying to enjoy the time at home with the kids and a clear calendar. It’s definitely a slower pace of life with no scheduled events. It’s a different normal, but we are all starting to adjust. My husband and I feel very blessed to both be employed through the pandemic. Our family is healthy and that’s all that matters. I wish I knew what the world will look like post-pandemic.  Hopefully, we will come out better prepared for the future. 

Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.

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