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Editorial: Thanks is hardly enough

by Josh Kramer

Thanks is hardly enough.

That’s the thought I couldn’t shake as I reflected on the first responder stories in this North Dakota Living issue. Too often, we assume when there is an emergency, someone will come. More times than not, they do.

What would our communities be without folks like Mona Thompson or Tom Moravec, who you’ll meet in these pages, or the thousands of first responders who answer the call every day? These are the people who run toward the fire, not away from it. These community members make it possible for each of us to live where we do. They are heroes willing to respond to an emergency at a moment’s notice, not knowing if they will be aiding or caring for a stranger, a friend, or even a family member.

First responders deserve more than our thanks. They deserve our support, our respect, our appreciation, our encouragement, proper funding and equipment, and they deserve to be cared for, too.
We ask a lot from our first responders, especially the volunteers.

In North Dakota, nearly 80 percent of first responders are volunteers. The pool of first responders and resources to support them get stretched thin, especially in our rural communities.
As cooperatives, we remain committed to doing our part.

Look to your local cooperative, and you’ll probably find employees serving their communities as volunteer first responders or helping with projects or events that support emergency services in your community.

In addition, our cooperatives provide financial support through charitable giving and programs like Operation Round Up, where participating co-op member-owners elect to “round up” their monthly electric bills to the nearest dollar. This extra change gets placed in a charitable trust and then donated to qualified applicants selected by the co-op. Thanks to the generosity of co-op members, North Dakota’s electric cooperatives have donated nearly $9 million to support local causes, including rural fire and emergency services, children’s groups, community improvement projects and persons in need. In 2019 alone, the program provided $607,000 in assistance to communities and members served by North Dakota’s electric cooperatives.

Our cooperatives also created the Rural Development Finance Corporation (RDFC), which provides grants and loans to help finance community-based projects and nonprofit entities that enhance community vitality. Through RDFC, cooperatives have provided financial support for several ambulances, emergency service centers, fire trucks and fire halls to communities across North Dakota – living the example of the seventh cooperative principle, concern for community.

Like cooperatives, first responders live that principle, too. Their concern for community drives their desire to serve, to care and to respond. It is why they run toward the fire.

On behalf of North Dakota’s electric cooperatives, we thank you. And knowing our thanks is hardly enough, we are happy to continue supporting those first responders who volunteer to answer the call. n

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at