Caring Consumers join together to give

Christina M. Currie

In the six years since its inception, the Yampa Valley Electric Association Caring Consumers program has distributed $43,227.

And that’s just a fraction of what’s possible if all customers were to participate, YVEA Manager of Consumer Accounts Jim Chappell said.

As of this month, 3,090 YVEA customers have opted to round their electric bills up to the nearest dollar and donate the difference to the Caring Consumers program. There are 24,190 YVEA customers.

The program is one example of what can happen when a lot of people join together to give a little, Chappell said.

He’s been enrolled in the program since it started in 1999. It’s cost him $41.11 — not quite $7 a year.

“It’s a wonderful program, I just wish more people would do it,” Chappell said.

His goal was to have 5,000 people enrolled by the end of this year. He expects to fall short.

The money collected is turned into grants for individuals and organizations in the Yampa Valley. Recipients have included Yampa Valley Autism, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Moffat County Partners, Horizons Specialized Services, Craig senior citizens, Boy Scouts and more.

Funds have been used to purchase high chairs and wheelchairs, eyeglasses and eye exams, transportation for children and transportation for seniors.

Last year, $11,410 was distributed.

“Normally, we try to keep just a little in reserve in case someone comes in and really needs it,” he said.

Chappell remembers calling a Craig woman to tell her she had just been approved for a $350 grant for her special-needs daughter, and the woman cried.

“She’s the one that I’ll just never forget,” he said.

Grants are awarded in the spring and the fall. Oct. 14 is the deadline for anyone wanting to be considered for fall funding. Applications are available at the YVEA offices in Craig and Steamboat Springs.

YVEA customers who want to participate can call their local office or check the box marked “Caring Consumers” on their bill. Each month’s bill will be automatically rounded up to the nearest dollar.

Although participation isn’t what Chappell hopes for, it is growing. In 2003, there were 1,400 participants. More than 100 have signed up this year. Chappell said those are generally new customers.

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. 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.

The money donated is tax deductible and is overseen by a five-member board with representatives from Craig, Hayden, Steamboat Springs and South Routt County. YVEA President Larry Covillo also sits on the board.

“By joining together, YVEA’s customers have the opportunity to help the children, the elderly, the handicapped … the list is endless,” Chappell said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 8724-7031, ext. 210, or

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