On September 25, 1996, the Cherryland Electric Community Caring Fund filed its articles of incorporation and members began using their pocket change to make a difference in our communities. More than 10 years ago, the name was changed to Cherryland Cares.

Since its humble beginnings in 1996, Cherryland Cares has allowed members of Cherryland Electric Cooperative to round up their monthly electric bills to the nearest dollar. This pocket change is then governed by an independent board of directors and awarded to area non-profits and individuals in need of assistance during hard times on a quarterly basis.

Today, we have 4,050 members rounding up their bill each month. On average, they are donating $6 per year per member to the 501(c)3 non-profit entity. Over the last decade, these collective donations have amounted to $400,000 to entities like Father Fred, Goodwill, TART Trails, Benzie Area Christian Neighbors, Love INC, Leelanau County Cancer Foundation, Junior Achievement, Habitat For Humanity, TCAPS Step Program, Boots For Kids, Child and Family Services, Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing, and dozens of other worthwhile causes.

We would like to see even more contributions in the future. With more than 35,000 meters in service, we certainly have the potential to go far higher than 4,050 members. Pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters can have a tremendous impact when we all toss them into the same jar.

Some members are going beyond the simple rounding up. They are beginning to make monthly donations of $5 or $10 on top of the average 50 cent contribution. Others are making one-time donations to Cherryland Cares in amounts nearing $100.

It is as simple as calling our office at 231-486-9200 and telling a member service representative that you want to round your bill up for Cherryland Cares or that you want to make an even larger donation. Whatever you decide can simply be added to your next monthly bill.

At their December 18, 2017, board meeting, your board of directors made the decision to match every dollar donated to Cherryland Cares. Thus, moving forward, when you round up for $6 per year, add $5 per month or make a one-time donation, your generosity becomes $12, $10 or something much larger.

Your board is using what will be a small percentage of unclaimed capital credits to make this matching contribution. Unclaimed capital credits are margins (profits) owed to members no longer on our system and who left no forwarding address.

Tapping these funds for a charitable purpose like Cherryland Cares does not hit our operating expenses and therefore, will not affect our rates going forward. They will affect the equity we carry on our balance sheet only.

Your board and management feel strongly that using a tiny portion of these funds to benefit worthwhile organizations will show the commitment we have in the Cherryland Cares effort. When we encourage you all to contribute, you need to know that the organization is behind you completely as well.

Please seriously consider rounding up your bill or making a donation to Cherryland Cares today. Call 231-486-9200 during normal working hours as soon as possible. If we all care together, we can make an even greater impact on our communities in the decades to come.

Tony Anderson