Building Bridges

Whether it was a photo op with friends and family, a bike ride on the trail, or an afternoon walk to enjoy the outdoors—the bridge at Frazier Park near the Bentwood Golf Course was a well-worn attraction in Ulysses, Kansas. So when the bridge burned down, the community was saddened by the sudden loss.

Setting anchor point
From left to right: Zane May, Journeyman Lineman, Mark Giesaking and Nate Giliespie, Crew Foreman, lift a section of 40-foot distribution pole into its waiting anchor point.

Scout MAX GIESAKING, from Ulysses High School, fondly remembers biking over that old bridge, so when he had to organize a community service project to complete his Eagle Scout certification, he knew rebuilding the bridge would be a great opportunity to not only earn his certification but also bring back a staple of the community.

“I wanted to see if I could rebuild it somehow because it held quite an importance in the community,” said Max. “A lot of pictures were taken there, and it had a lot of practical use as well, as a bike trail and walking path.”

After getting approval from the City of Ulysses to rebuild the bridge, Max needed to gather supplies and rally support to complete the project. When originally built, Pioneer Electric donated distribution poles for the foundation of the bridge, so Max once again reached out to the cooperative. Pioneer Electric gladly volunteered a four-man construction crew and donated two 60-foot transmission poles, two 40-foot distribution poles and a yard of rock.

“It was obviously the right thing to do,”said Ross Riley, Pioneer Electric Operations Supervisor. “Giving back to our members is one of the Seven Cooperative Principles—Concern for Community. This project not only helped a Scout achieve his goal, but it also helped the community replace a burnt down bridge, so it is good for everyone all around.”

Max and Pioneer Electric employees spent a morning laying the groundwork and building the foundation to complete the new bridge. His father, Mark Giesaking, provided creative advice to help the volunteers overcome the unexpected challenges nature posed. “He was definitely quite a bit of help,” said Max. “I was somewhat short on time toward the end and couldn’t get any work done because of all the rain we were getting, so he came up with an idea to pump the water out so we could get started.”

Giesaking sets bridge anchors
Max Giesaking, a Ulysses High School Student, holds one end of the string while his father, Mark, helps at the other end.

In addition to helping complete the bridge rebuilding, Mark also spent time helping Max’s twin brother, Levi, complete his Eagle Scout project, refurbishing crosses at the local cemetery.

Beyond the assistance of Pioneer Electric, Max received help from Connect Ulysses, a local organization with the goal of connecting all of the various paths and trails throughout the area.

It took Max more than 140 hours of fundraising, planning and construction, to complete the project, along with the help of 16 other volunteers.

“I am very grateful for everything Pioneer Electric did,” said Max. “I came here and asked if the cooperative would be able to help, and they said yes. Not only that, Pioneer Electric said they would provide the materials and volunteer their time for free, which really helped me in regards to fundraising.”

Because of Max’s efforts, the bridge at Frazier Park again serves as a place to be active outside, but it’s so much more; the bridge serves as a long-time fixture in the community where members can connect with neighbors, friends and family. Pioneer Electric thanks Giesaking and the many volunteers who dedicated time to rebuilding the bridge.

Celebrating Co-op Month

Graphic of a fall landscape with the headline "Join us in Celebrating Co-op Month

Our identity as a cooperative is important to us. It’s why we take time each year to celebrate the communities, employees and members who have helped shape the way we provide energy services to southwest Kansas. This October, we invite you, our member, to help us share the cooperative spirit throughout our communities. Whether it’s by attending co-op events, supporting our local businesses or letting your voice be heard, your contribution will empower the cooperative for years to come. Join us in celebrating National Cooperative Month the following events:

Senior Center Lunches:

The bill is on us! Join us for a free meal at the following locations!

  • Oct. 17 noon, Rolla
  • Oct. 18 at 11:30 a.m., Hugoton
  • Oct. 19 at noon, Satanta
  • Oct. 25 at noon, Richfield
  • Oct. 26 at noon, Ulysses

Chamber Coffee:

Oct. 27 at 10 a.m.

Catch up with friends over a cup of coffee and a spread of sweet and savory treats at the Grant County Chamber Coffee at 10 a.m. in the Pioneer Electric Lobby in Ulysses.

The Co-op Difference: The Seven Cooperative Principles

Each October, we celebrate the cooperative difference during National Cooperative Month. But the question still bubbles up, “What exactly is the cooperative difference?” On the outside, Pioneer Electric may just seem like another utility. We build line, distribute electricity and in return you make a payment for your usage. However upon further inspection, your cooperative is much more. It is a collection of members and cooperative employees working together for one common goal. To empower our communities in southwest Kansas. To accomplish this, Pioneer Electric must follow seven principles in order to be recognized as a cooperative. In the end, the cooperative difference is nothing more than a matter of principles.

Open membership

Pioneer Electric is proud to provide an equal opportunity for membership to all. Each person who signs up for electric service is treated with the full respect as a new cooperative member-owner. They receive the same benefits, same quality of service and are granted a voice in how they choose to be represented on our board.

Democratic control and total independence

As a cooperative member, you hold the power to shape your cooperative. Every year, members vote for who they want to represent their districts at our annual meeting. Each member is given one vote, which they can then cast either in person or through proxy.

In addition, Pioneer Electric actively seeks your feedback through surveys, our annual meeting and other outreach opportunities. It is then actively shared with your elected board of trustees, and together they shape the rules and regulations that define Pioneer Electric. This allows the cooperative to act autonomously to meet members’ needs and not take influence from outside organizations.

Membership benefits

Every Pioneer Electric member is provided with a toolkit of services to ensure they receive the most out of their membership. Services including paperless billing, automatic payments and the SmartHub mobile app are available to help members customize their cooperative experience.

Being a Pioneer Electric member also gives you access to numerous discounts through the Co-op Connections program. This program allows members to receive great savings at a variety of local businesses. It’s completely free, requires no subscription and is usable nationwide for additional discounts. Visit connections.coop for a full listings of discounts.

Finally, your contribution to your cooperative is partially returned back to you in the form of capital credits at the end of each year. Being a not-for-profit organization, any capital generated by Pioneer Electric is distributed back to our members.

Education

Being a member-owner, it is vital for you to stay informed on the well-being of your cooperative. Whether it’s through face-to-face interaction at our annual meeting, articles in this publication or posting on our website and social media pages, open communication is accessible to all members. It gives you the knowledge of how your cooperative is performing and informs you of its accomplishments throughout the years.

Education doesn’t end at informing our current membership. It extends to actively searching for opportunities to reach the next generation co-op members. Accessible electricity has become so seamlessly integrated into the lives of our youth, that it is our goal that they harness it to its full potential. Opportunities like Safety Fest, poster contests and other youth programs gives us the opportunity to plant the seeds of safe electrical usage. It is a chance to remind this generation of the importance of conservation, safety and the power of a cooperative membership.

Cooperation and community

What truly sets your cooperative apart from other businesses is its concern for the community. Pioneer Electric was developed not to make money, but to provide the people of southwest Kansas with safe, dependable electricity and work to improve the lives of our member-owners. After all, we’re not just employees at your cooperative we are your friends, family members and neighbors too.

Pioneer Electric is proud to provide financial support through programs developed by your elected board of trustees. The H.U.G.S. (Helping Us Give to Society) program has supported numerous local projects over the years. Also, member contributions in our round-up program (Pioneer Electric Area Round-up) has helped give a helping hand to individuals in our service territory to recover from unexpected tragedies. Pioneer Electric is also proud to support local youth by providing scholarships to further their education, in hopes that they will bring these skills back with them and grow our communities.

Supporting our members also includes active community involvement, by holding tailgate parties, stopping for lunch at our area senior centers, supporting our local fairs and more. It’s through working together with the communities we serve, that Pioneer Electric is what it is today. Your contributions to your co-op have acted as a constant force providing inspiration for us to do our very best. We are your electric cooperative, and we promise to never forget that.