During the past year, Yampa Valley Electric Association's Caring Consumers program distributed $8,000 to benefit service organizations and needy individuals throughout the Yampa Valley.
They could have donated more money if more than 1,400 of the Yampa Valley's 24,000 residents participated in the program.
Caring Consumers collects donations by rounding the bills of volunteer Yampa Valley Electric customers to the next highest dollar. In October, Caring Consumers collected $662.
That's an average of 50 cents per customer. And no one ever pays more than 99 cents per month. The average participant pays six dollars per year.
"One hundred percent of the collected donations goes to funding," Caring Consumer Secretary Jim Chappell said.
This past October, Caring Consumers distributed $3,650 among the Yampa Valley Autism Program, Craig Recreational After School Program, Moffat County Search and Rescue, North Routt Fire District, Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition, Visiting Nurse Association and Moffat and Routt County Veterans.
Individuals also receive donations.
"In the past, we've donated money to individuals who wanted high chairs, strollers, and needed to pay medical bills," Chappell said.
The Caring Consumers program started in 1999, modeled after a similar South Carolina co-op program. Caring Consumers' revenue has more than doubled from the monthly average of $200 to $300 collected in 2000.
But Chappell hopes to someday see 6,000 to 10,000 people participating.
Caring Consumers board member Andre Ellen of Craig guessed that more people don't participate in the program because it hasn't been advertised enough.
Chappell said the most successful programs have used an opt-out strategy to collect funds. There, all of a company's customers are automatically enrolled in the program, and anyone who doesn't wish to participate must call the company and ask to be removed from the program.
"Yampa Valley Electric didn't like that premise, and went opt-in," Chappell said.
Anyone interested in becoming a Caring Consumer can join the program by contacting Jim Carroll at 871-2231 or 824-6593, or Yampa Valley Electric customers can just write 'round up' on their next bill.
At least twice a year, the five-member Caring Consumer board, composed of community members from throughout the Yampa Valley, decides to whom to donate funds.
Recipients of donations must first submit an application to the board stating how the donation will benefit their lives. The board then talks things over, and makes a decision based on the application and availability of funds.