When Yampa Valley Electric Association's Jim Chappell called a Craig woman to tell her she had just been approved for a $350 grant for her special needs daughter, the woman cried.
That's what YVEA's Caring Consumer Foundation is about, Chappell said.
"She's the one that I'll just never forget," he said.
Awarding grants is the easy part of the program. It's getting contributions that make those grants available that's becoming difficult.
Started in April 1999, the Caring Consumers program allows Yampa Valley Electric Association customers to donate by having their monthly electric bill automatically rounded up to the nearest dollar.
The program nets about $3,500 annually. Of YVEA's 24,000 customers, about 1,400 participate, and Chappell said he would like to see at least 6,000 customers enrolled in the program.
"We need more people to round up their electric bill," he said. "The application portion has been very successful, we've funded a lot of worthwhile organizations and individuals. I'm not as pleased with the number of people participating."
It costs each consumer who participates approximately $6 a year.
To participate, customers need only call their local YVEA office and say they want to sign up, Chappell said.
Applications for the 2003 cycle are due to YVEA by April 15 and the need this year is greater than ever.
"This year, with all the state cuts, we have a lot of people applying," Chappell said. "Choosing is going to be hard on the board."
The benefits of the program are far reaching. It's been used to purchase high chairs and wheelchairs, eyeglasses and eye exams, transportation for children and transportation for seniors. The program has provided funds for Advocates-Crisis Support Services, Boy Scouts, Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, the Independent Life Center, Horizons Specialized Services, the Visiting Nurse Association, Routt County Partners, Planned Parenthood and many others.
There are two restrictions for applicants -- the funds can't be used to pay utility bills or for an organization's administrative costs. Individuals and organizations are eligible for funds but the organizations must be non-profit. All those requesting funds must live within the YVEA service territory, which includes most of Moffat and Routt counties and a portion of southern Wyoming.
"It's for any project or projects that benefit the public at large or an individual in need," Chappell said. "It's so simple, you really don't notice your bill, it just gets rounded up to the next dollar and those few pennies go into the fund."
The money donated is tax deductible and is overseen by a five-member board. The Caring Consumers program board meets in April and October to discuss funding requests.
Separate forms are available for individuals and non-profit organizations and they are available at YVEA. The company also will mail them if necessary.
"By joining together, YVEA's customers have the opportunity to help the children, the elderly, the handicapped ... the list is endless," Chappell said.