Operation RoundUp program connects members to community

EnergyLines 2020


Lori Grubbs, vice chair of the board of directors for Volunteers in Medicine Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland Counties, says the free clinic was at a crossroads when it received a $1,000 grant from the Southeastern Indiana REMC’s Operation RoundUp.


“Our biggest expense is labs – we spent $12,000 this year,” she says. “We were debating if we had to start charging for labs, and the grant was a godsend. We needed money right then, and the grant kept our mission of providing free health care progressing forward.”


Having the ability to do blood tests is vital for the services the clinic provides. “If the person can’t get their blood work done, how do I know if their cholesterol is high?” Grubbs says. “There are people who have ignored a long-term health care condition, and then have a monumental event, like a stroke because of hypertension or their cholesterol’s been high. Or they’ve ignored strep, which is treated with a simple antibiotic, but now they have a heart condition from the infection.”


Grubbs tells about a couple that visited the clinic because they were concerned the husband might have cancer. Through attentive care and questions from the volunteer staff, the couple left with health care, food, antibiotics for the wife’s pneumonia–diagnosed when she coughed and said she had been sick for a month–medication for the husband and information for new job opportunities.


“The wife was crying and hugging us,” Grubbs says. “Who would have thought that one phone call would have helped this couple in so many ways? The impact just spawns and gets larger and larger.”


According to Barry Lauber, who administers SEI’s Operation RoundUp, members round up their monthly electric bill to the nearest whole dollar, which averages about $6 a year each. Since the first biennial disbursement in January 2017, the co-op has given more than $370,000 to causes in its seven-county service area thanks to the generosity of its members.


“Six dollars by itself wouldn’t make much of an impact – but when you put that with 20,000 other members, it adds up pretty quickly,” says Lauber.


“Operation RoundUp benefits the communities our consumers live in, which makes them a better place to live and enhances the quality of life. We can’t put a price tag on what our members are doing for their neighbors and friends.”


Grubbs reiterates how just a few dollars can change a person’s life. A young woman visited the clinic for a respiratory concern and ended up getting help because she was thinking about harming herself. “At that point, $6 was life and death for that girl,” Grubbs says about the annual contribution from SEI members. “How many times do we throw $6 away?”


General manager Keith Mathews says the granting board normally has more applications than they can fulfill, but still grants about 35 to 40. That support often helps volunteer fire departments and emergency medical services, as well as youth organizations, churches and agencies focused on health and safety.


“We emphasize giving back to community because we are committed to giving back to the community – it’s one of our priorities,” he says. “Without our membership and their willingness to give, none of this would be possible.”


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