Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE) and TVA were founded on a mission to serve — through reliable and affordable energy, a safe and protected environment and thriving economic development.
Community energy provides our neighbors more than just reliable electricity. It’s here to help local veterans find jobs, make sure young students continue to build their reading skills, and ensure that children who need physical therapy receive care in a safe and clean environment. These are just a few examples of the services 21 nonprofits (and co-op members) in the MTE service area are able to continue to offer during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to financial assistance. Jay Sanders, MTE community relations coordinator, said they secured a grant through a TVA Community Care Fund, and both MTE and TVA contributed matching donations. MTE also supports its residents who have struggled to pay utility bills through programs that are partially funded by TVA’s Pandemic Relief Credit for local power companies (LPCs).
MTE and TVA have a history of joining forces to support the community in Middle Tennessee, and 2020 was a particularly busy year for the partnership. In March, the same month the World Health Organization declared the global pandemic, several deadly tornadoes blasted through the Middle Tennessee region, damaged homes and businesses and caused power outages. During this difficult time, MTE and TVA checked on co-op members and supported their line crews. According to Larry Rose, communications and marketing consultant for MTE, at one point, 600 people were on the ground helping, and they were able to restore power in less than a week. Rose said, “It was an incredible effort to get it done so quickly. Some of the TVA towers were twisted like pretzels.”
One individual in particular was also inspired to find a way to help the community heal after the tornadoes. DeAna Duncan, audio-visual production teacher at Green Hill High School in Mt. Juliet reached out to MTE and TVA for financial assistance with a multi-faceted art project that would give students a way to process how the natural disaster affected them. MTE and TVA supported her idea, and each contributed $2,500 to a science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) grant, and awarded Duncan $5,000.
She used the funds to repurpose a baby grand piano donated by the family of one of her former students. Sadly, they had lost their home in the tornado, but the instrument remained intact, although the exterior was roughed up by winds. Duncan taught students how to remove the piano’s interior and replace it with an A/V system. They custom designed it to play audio and video recordings of dance and choral performances and spoken stories by their peers that expressed how they were impacted by the tornadoes. Elementary and middle school students from Wilson County collaborated, too, and created a new surface design with images that captured their own responses to the storms. The project, titled, “And the Song Played On,” is intended to serve as a symbol of hope and healing for the community.
As Amy Byers, marketing/public relations coordinator for MTE, said, community energy “isn’t a new thing; MTE was created to make the lives of our members better.”
Helping some of the most vulnerable people in their service community will always be a priority at MTE, and the partnership with TVA and its programs makes many of these efforts possible.
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