Kim Vaughn never imagined that warm coats could be a luxury for youngsters in a local after-school program. And then she heard about two brothers sharing a coat.
“One would use the coat to play outside, then return inside and give the coat to his brother for his turn to play outside,” said Vaughn, a systems information technician at South Carolina’s Laurens Electric Cooperative.
Vaughn knew she had to act. And thanks to a special “pay it forward” fund at the upstate South Carolina co-op, Vaughn was able to buy $500 worth of coats and other winter wear for the 40 elementary school youngsters at the Fountain Inn Kid Enrichment Center.
“What an amazing idea and way to give back to the local community,” said Cindy Marler, the center’s executive director. “Our students were so excited to try the coats on and did not want to take them off. The parents were equally grateful and could not stop thanking us for the assistance the coats provided.”
Laurens EC began the “pay it forward” program in 2015, its 75th anniversary year, “out of a desire to continue the good work of our 75 Acts of Kindness community initiative,” said Laurie Riser, a communications specialist.
“We decided to keep it going by drawing an employee name each month for a chance to apply funds toward their own act of kindness,” said Riser.
In the past, employees have used their $500 to help neighbors or co-workers with critically ill family members or for other causes they are already involved with, said Riser. The funds come from the co-op’s employee-run charity events.
The winter’s bone-chilling temperatures in the region made Vaughn, last month’s designee, wonder how people were keeping warm. After learning that a local chamber of commerce was a collection point for One Warm Coat, a national non-profit, Vaughn selected that cause.
Vaughn and her husband, Kent, went to six stores to buy the coats. While they were waiting to pay for them in one store, several shoppers commented on their haul. Vaughn made sure she mentioned the “pay it forward” program.
Vaughn told them that’s what’s special about Laurens Electric. “They care about their employees and their community. It’s a good feeling.”
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.