Cooperative’s Operation Round Up tops $1 million in grants

Published 9:07 am Friday, December 23, 2022

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Freeborn Mower Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round Up topped the $1 million mark in November.

“It’s a unique program where our members round up their electric bills to the next nearest whole dollar,” said Dawn Schroeder, communications specialist for Freeborn Mower Electric Cooperative. “It’s the members that participate in the program. That money is held separately from their accounts, and it’s available for grants to be funded back to community organizations that are nonprofit and charitable that are located in Freeborn and Mower counties.”

Grant recipients are required to apply quarterly for funding.

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Freeborn Mower Electric Cooperative has been part of the Operation Round Up program for 19 years, and according to Schroeder most cooperatives around the nation participate in the program.

The program is an opt-out, meaning members are automatically enrolled.

“It’s typically around $6 per year, so it’s tax-deductible,” she said. “They just need to let us know, they can call us, go online. They can definitely opt out.”

According to Schroeder, approximately three-fourths of their roughly 18,000 members participate.

But with $6 (or less) on average pooled, last year about $81,560 was donated to 149 organizations in Freeborn and Mower counties. Schroeder called the program a “huge success.”

“Because we are nonprofit, because we’re member-owned, we don’t do a lot of donating and things like that,” she said. “So this is a way for us to administer money and give back to the community.”

Schroeder said the number of grant recipients ranged quarterly from 30 to 80 nonprofits and included Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, different American Legion clubs, schools, 4-H clubs and other nonprofit and charitable organizations.

“One of our core principles being part of a cooperative is concern for community,” she said. “This is one way that we can give back … It’s just a huge success.”

Applicants can apply for up to $500 each quarter, though volunteer fire departments and emergency medical technicians can receive up to $2,500.

Rita Korman, co-director for the Alden Area Food Shelf, first started applying for grants from Operation Round Up five years ago.

“Freeborn Mower Electric has spread the word that they have grants for nonprofits, and they explained how the funds were raised,” she said.

And as a nonprofit, Korman was always looking for monetary input, food donations and anything else for the food shelf in order to help boost supplies.

“It looked like a good fit for us,” she said.

According to Korman, all money received from grants goes towards supplementing the food they receive through Channel One.

She described the program as fantastic, and said it was a unique way to raise money that in turn stayed local.

“It’s an incredible program that we’re very proud of and we thank our membership, we thank our trustees for all the time and the effort that everybody puts into it,” she said.

Ryan Gehling, a volunteer at the Grand Meadows Volunteer Fire Department, first applied for a grant in 2016.

“We’re always in need of replacing some equipment on our fire department,” he said.

And they’ve been applying for grants annually ever since to replace equipment.

“Emergency equipment needs to be replaced every so many years, it gets outdated or some of our stuff gets worn out,” he said. “Some of our stuff we don’t have money budgeted for, so it’s nice to be able to apply for grants.”

This year, their grant application was for a new carbon monoxide detector.

“I would like to thank them,” he said. “For every year we apply for a grant, and every year we get their grant. It’s much appreciated that they’ve got that program.”

He also thanked the members of the cooperative who participated.

According to Schroeder, the program has been around for 19 years.

The CEO at that time joined it to help specifically an Alzheimer’s organization, she said.

For more information on application requirements, deadlines and eligibility to apply, visit Members can also call 507-373-6421.