Together Again


Steve Freese
President and CEO

A few of our readers have contacted me to ask why a magazine produced for your electric cooperative carried content relating to COVID-19 over the past few months. (An equal number of readers have contacted me to say thank you for sharing this vital information.) The simple fact is found in the Seven Cooperative Principles, to which all electric cooperatives adhere.

Principle number 7 is Concern for Community. While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies accepted by their members. It has been clear to us for some time that a significant number of readers of this magazine have no access to the internet or very spotty access like I have. Plus, some of our readers get television through satellite TV, which rarely has local channels, so local information about COVID-19 is harder to come by. They have no resources to tell them about COVID-19, where to get tested, or even get a vaccine. Worst of all, a lack of high-speed internet hampers their ability to research the virus, so they are left in the dark. This publication reaches much of rural Wisconsin, and we were able to fill that void.

Principle number 5 is Education, Training, and Information. Cooperatives provide education and training for their members. They inform the public, particularly young people and opinion leaders, about the nature and benefits of cooperation. We knew if we partnered with the Wisconsin Department of Health, we could at least give our readers access to information to do the research like I did to make informed decisions about what they wanted to do for themselves and their families. This is a very personal decision to make. We know that giving you access to reliable information is the first step to making that informed decision.

We have seen firsthand the damage this virus has done to rural Wisconsin’s economy. We have seen our favorite supper club open for the last time because it couldn’t survive on carryout alone. This virus interrupted every aspect of our lives, our jobs, our leisure, and our church services. Easter, Thanksgiving, and even Christmas were all disrupted. Many of us had to transition to work from home, and those of us with school-age children had to help them as they had to attend school from home. Unfortunately for many rural Wisconsin families, they couldn’t do that successfully because they lacked access to the internet (or like me, adequate access—when both my son and I had to work on the internet simultaneously, it would freeze up and stop working).

My family, like yours, has experienced the devastation firsthand of what this virus can do. My 95-year-old mother has been in a nursing home since she broke her hip. Last year, the virus swept through her care facility. She and her roommate both contracted the virus, as did many others in the center. Fortunately, mom survived, but her roommate did not. Two of my aunts and one uncle contracted the virus, and the two who were vaccinated survived, but the one who wasn’t died. One of our neighbors and a family friend both contracted the virus, and both died. I watched and worried when my sister and her entire family contracted the virus. Fortunately, they all made it through.

As a result of this life experience, I researched the virus and the pros and cons of taking the vaccine. It was an easy decision for me to take the vaccine. It was a bit harder to decide which vaccine to take. Ultimately, I took the Pfizer vaccine and both doses. I experienced no side effects except being a bit tired after the second shot. My entire family has gotten vaccinated mostly with the Pfizer vaccine, but some have done the Johnson and Johnson because they wanted to get vaccinated immediately, and it was the only one available at the time.

As I share with you my very personal stories, I am hopeful that it will prompt you to do what I did and research reliable sources so that we don’t have to go through another winter without being able to get together with friends and family, go to church with our neighbors, and be able to work and go to school safely.