Tuesday, June 30, 2015

MVEA serves members!

By Will Bublitz

If you’re having trouble paying bills or your nonprofit organization needs some extra money, Mountain View Electric’s “Operation Round-Up” is ready to help.

Operation Round-Up is a program that provides grants to those in need whether they are individuals or 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Since Mountain View Electric began the program in 1999, it has provided more than $2 million to those needing financial assistance.

“We know that there are people in our local area who are in need,” said Pat Bandy, an Operation Round-Up board member who lives in Limon. “This is a way for them to get back on their feet financially, and it’s totally confidential.

“We approve these grants to those we feel this money will really improve their lives,” she said. “It all depends on what the need is. Many people are in financial need because they weren’t expecting a catastrophe. They could really benefit from this extra help.”

The funding for Operation Round-Up comes from the members of the Mountain View Electric Association. To contribute to the Round-Up fund, they are given the option of voluntarily “rounding up” their payments to the next whole dollar on their monthly electric bill. For example, if a customer’s electric bill is $100.45, it would be rounded up to $101.

“We encourage our new association members to join Operation Round-Up when they first sign up to become electric customers, but they can do it anytime,” said Megan Morse, Mountain View Electric’s Member Services Administrative Assistant who is also the Operation Round-Up coordinator. “It’s only a few cents more on any monthly billing statement and averages about $6 a year. It’s also tax deductible and for a good cause.”

The money from the “rounding up” of the billing statements is pooled to fund the program. Operation Round-Up is designed primarily to help association members.

“The only prerequisite for applying for a grant is that you must be a Mountain View Electric Association member or an organization that benefits our association members,” Megan said. “To get one of the grants, the member can apply themselves at any time, or our billing department may recommend a member if they know that they are in need.”

What kind of “need” qualifies an individual to receive an Operation Round-Up grant?
“The one thing that doesn’t qualify is paying your electric bill, but it can be for any other expense,” Megan said. “Our grants have paid rent and medical bills, or for the installation of wheelchair ramps and chairlifts in homes.”

To receive one of the grants, an association member must first fill out an application.
“They can print out an application from the Mountain View Electric website,” Megan said. “We can also mail out the applications to association members. Included with the application is a checklist of everything that an applicant needs to submit. Some members come into our office and I help them fill out the applications.”

One of the requirements in the application process is to provide supporting documentation.
“For an individual’s application, they need to provide proof of income and a cover letter explaining why they need the grant,” Megan said. “If it’s a bill or a mortgage payment, we need copies of them. If it’s something that the applicant wants to purchase such as a chairlift for a home, they need to provide at least three estimates. Also on the checklist, the applicant must include three reference letters from people unrelated to them.”

All of the grant applications are submitted to Megan who reviews them for completeness. She then prepares them for submission to the Round-Up  Board of Directors whose 12 volunteer members are from the communities serviced by Mountain View Electric Association which is headquartered in Limon.

“I usually handle from seven to 11 applications bi-monthly,” Megan said. “The board meets every other month.”

Prior to the board’s meetings, Megan mails copies of the applications to all of the board members.
“Once we get the packet of applications from Megan, each board member reviews them and prioritizes the applicants,” Pat said. “Each member then sends in their prioritized list to Megan to compile. 

“During our meetings, we discuss each individual application and vote on whether to give the grant or not,” she said. “Sometimes all of the applicants get a grant, while other times only some of them get them. We approve the grants if we feel we can really improve their lives with this money. It all depends upon what the need is for.”

The grants that are awarded range from $2,500 for individual applicants to $5,000 for nonprofit organizations.

“We recently awarded a $5,000 grant to Lincoln Community Hospital for the purchase of telemedicine equipment, and another $5,000 to Home Health & Hospice to help pay for its electronic medical records program,” Pat said.

Once the board makes it decision, all of the applicants are informed by mail whether or not they will be receiving a grant.

“Megan sends out the notification letters,” Pat said. “If an application was denied, the applicant can always apply again.”

If the grant was approved, the notification letter will explain how much money was awarded for each bill owed by the applicant. The applicant must then have the grant letter notarized.

“Once I get that notarized letter, I can cut the check for the grant, but the money does not go directly to the applicant,” Megan said. “Instead, the check goes to the businesses that had billed the individual. For example, if it was an unpaid propane bill by the applicant, the grant check goes to the propane company to pay the bill.”

For more information or to get an Operation Round-Up application, go to www.mvea.coop/community/operation-round-up. You can also call Megan, Operation Round-Up Coordinator at (719) 495-2283 or 1-800-388-9881, ext. 2622.

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