Operation Pocket Change (OPC)
Operation Pocket Change is a round-up program that assists worthy local organizations as well as fellow members who’ve fallen on hard times. Participating co-op members agree to round up their monthly electric bills to the next whole dollar amount. Let’s say your bill is $85.73. It would be rounded up to $86, with twenty-seven cents going to Operation Pocket Change. The extra “pocket” change then flows into a special fund managed by a board of volunteer members who have a strong concern for their community and possess a desire to see that help is provided fairly throughout the co-op’s service area.
Grants to groups, organizations or charities are limited to $10,000 annually but average less than $3,500. These are generally used to assist charitable organizations designed to benefit MEC service area individuals in educational and humanitarian needs. They are used for special purposes (project or piece of equipment, etc.) only, and are not used to support an organization’s regular budget expenses or other recurring expenses. Examples include firefighting equipment for volunteer fire departments, lifesaving equipment for ambulance or rescue squads, youth programs, youth recreation facilities, community food/clothing programs for the needy, community projects and service organizations.
Grants to individuals are limited to $2,500. These are generally used for special critical need situations, such as medical and natural disaster (flood, fire, tornado, etc.) situations. Examples include handicap facilities, such as a wheel chair ramp, hearing aids for an elderly invalid, and other assistance such as food, shelter, clothing and health care to needy families.
Also, 25 percent of the contributions are designated for scholarships to help deserving students in need of financial assistance toward attending college. Over the last eleven years, one hundred and eighty-four (184) $2,000 college scholarships have been awarded.
Some charities keep a portion of their collections to cover operating costs, but with Operation Pocket Change 100% of the money collected is distributed. None of the money collected is used to pay for electric bills owed to Mountain Electric or to finance the operations of the cooperative. Specifically, religious and political organizations or causes are ineligible for grants.
The program launched in June 2002 and has given community groups and folks in need more than $1.3 million over the first eleven years of operation (through February 2014). In addition to this, $382 thousand dollars of college scholarships have been awarded. Currently over 26,000 consumers (80%) participate in the program. About 250 electric co-ops nationwide currently run round up programs similar to MEC’s Operation Pocket Change. All told, consumers at these co-ops have raised more than $100 million since the idea was started by South Carolina’s Palmetto Electric Cooperative in 1989.
All it takes is a phone call to your local MEC to participate in the program. You may also cancel at any time. Annual contributions are tax deductible and are shown on your January MEC invoice to provide a tax record document. If you desire more information or are interested in participating in the program, please call your local MEC office.
OPC’s contributions are administered by an independent board of directors, which is comprised of eight volunteer cooperative members, one from each of the cooperative’s eight districts. There is a set of OPC Bylaws that govern the actions of the OPC board.
To apply for OPC assistance, an individual or organization must complete and submit an OPC application. There are two OPC application forms available. One for individuals and the other for organizations. They can be downloaded here or picked up at any local MEC office. The OPC board usually meets on the 2nd Tuesday of each month to consider requests.
Operation Pocket Change Scholarship Applications
- OPC College Scholarship Application for High School Seniors/ First Year College Students
- OPC College Scholarship Application for 2nd to 4th Year College Students
The OPC Board Directors:
Joe H. Perry – President
Rebecca S. Mitchell – Vice President
828 733-5551 (H)
828 733-5444 (W)
Ann Mullins – Treasurer
423 727-6633 (W)
Jayne McNeil – Secretary
828 737-0718 (W)
828 733-0478 (H)
423 772-9426 (H)
423 725-2889 (H)
Robert Ray Wilson
423 727-5838 (H)
Dr. Sandra H. Fortune
423 727-7191 (H)