If you want to find the electric cooperative work ethic in full force, look no further than the massive restoration efforts following a major weather event.
Hurricane Laura slammed into southwestern Louisiana in late August, leaving the service area of Jeff Davis Electric Co-op in tatters. Employees are continuing to work long hours, many of them enduring hardships at home—including two pregnant customer service representatives, both due Sept. 25.
Seven days a week from 5 a.m. to 9.p.m., Ana Davis and Kaylie Romero, amid the fatigue of nine months of pregnancy, are answering phones, communicating with line crews, meeting with members and doing other tasks.
“When you work at an electric cooperative, you become a member of the family, which means during the hard times you don’t want to be anywhere else. It’s part of co-op life, and storms are part of the business,” said Winnie Farris, an administrative assistant at the Jennings-based co-op.
Davis, 21, and her 2-year-old son are staying with her parents while they wait for power to be restored to their Welsh home. Her boyfriend is working in New Mexico and is scheduled to return Sept. 22, when she will be induced.
“We actually have an air mattress set up over here at work,” said Davis. “So if it’s not too busy, we’ll get downtime and we can go lay down and relax.”
Romero, 25, lives in Creole with her two small children and lost her manufactured home in the storm. She and her kids are staying at her parents’ house, also in Welsh—and also lacking power.
“I haven’t been down there [to see the damage], but my kids’ father sent me pictures and videos,” said Romero. “There’s nothing left to my house, and my sister-in-law’s house is just a dirt mound. My mother-in-law’s house, the roof looks like it was ripped off. Their trailer is still up on pilings, but everything inside is ruined.”
Both Davis and Romero understand that storms are part of the business. Their jobs’ hectic pace and the sense of unity that come during hardship are welcome distractions from their own challenges.
“You can’t stop working just because there’s all kind of stuff going on around you,” said Romero. “Your world might have stopped spinning, but not everyone else’s.”
Both women, who are expecting boys, said they will have quite a story to tell their “co-op babies” someday.
“I will tell him that he was born during one of the biggest storms they’ve had in awhile and that it damaged pretty much everything,” said Davis. “I’ll tell him we done went through hell…a storm and a pandemic, and that you went through all of this with me.”
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.