For this episode of Community Conversations, we spoke with Lori Spence from NOVEC Helps, the non-profit arm of NOVEC in Prince William County.
Q: Tell us a little bit about, just basically, NOVEC in general.
A: NOVEC is your local cooperative – Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative. We are different than the other power companies, we’re not investor-owned. We’re a cooperative with almost 170,000 consumers. And we’re different because we help each other, you know, we need our customers, they need us – we work together. We’re non-profit.
Q: Tell me about NOVEC Helps.
A: NOVEC Helps is an entity with inside NOVEC. We’re a community outreach program. It’s hands helping our community. We wanna give back. We were started in 2008. You know, the economy was a lot worse back then, and since we are a cooperative, we wanna help each other help our consumers. We’re passionate about our work, so we thought ‘What can we do to give back to the community?’ So we started NOVEC Helps – Hands Engaged in Public Service – and we are a fundraiser.
We ask the community to give us their needs. Anything that is a 501c3, we will donate to if it’s your cause. We have a request form online. We are a 501c3 and we do so many causes, we have fundraisers, we have ways you can raise money for us, with us. We don’t always ask for money – we’re looking for time, for talent. It’s 100% volunteer, there’s not one paid position in NOVEC Helps, and we raise money for the community.
The things we’ve done recently: we’ve done the Wreaths Across America, we’ve donated money for Quantico, we’ve worked with SPARKS, which helps schools in Prince William County, we’ve helped with the Zombie Walk, we’ve worked with SERVE and ACTS – Empty Bowls with SERVE. We just had an event there. October 3 was a huge event for us – it was our first time that we did – it was a volunteer day. And we worked with Project Mend-A-House here locally in Prince William County, where we had over 90 volunteers and employees. And like I said, it’s strictly all volunteer.
We went to a local trailer park and we refurbished some of the trailers – like the skirting around it, some issues that people were having – you know, the things people can’t afford to do themselves. It’s basic needs.
Q: So does now NOVEC help fund that or is this just through the volunteers, or do the volunteers have to raise the money to help with projects like that? How does that work?
A: We do both. We have two major fundraisers. In the spring we have a golf tournament, and later on I’ll talk about our upcoming fundraiser, which is a Texas Hold’Em poker tournament. And we raise money through the year. And it’s great because our consumers or anybody watching can also help raise money and it doesn’t really cost them anything. It’s that time of year, it’s time for shopping, if you go on to Amazon – I think it’s smile.Amazon.com – and you can register there, and you can actually pick NOVEC and 0.5% of your purchase they will automatically donate to NOVEC.
Right, you know, and if our consumers want to help, all year long in any of our offices we collect eye glasses for the Lions Club, we collect small electronics – people are always getting rid of their old phones, iPads – bring them to us, we’ll take them. You know, because then we recycle. We do a lot of our own recycling – aluminum. We have a great program. We work with an organization called Vets on Track in Stafford County. And what’s so wonderful about them is they help veterans rehabilitate, get into housing, and if you are spring cleaning, you’re moving out, you want to clean out, anything you have, any furniture, call them and they come and get it. That’s the beauty of it. So you can help like that. You can directly donate to us.
Q: As far as NOVEC customers, is there an easy way for customers, like if they’re paying their bill, is there something like they can add a dollar or $5 or $50? Is there any way like that, that NOVEC customers can donate to your program?
A: Not right now on your bill, but they can actually go to our website NOVECHelps.org, or you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter. Actually NOVEC, our home page, links to NOVEC Helps and you can make a Paypal donation through there.
Q: So it’s very easy to find you?
A: Very easy. Very easy. We’re all over.
Q: So tell me about the poker tournament that you’ve got coming up.
A: It’s next Saturday, October 28 at the Prince William County Police Association Hall off of Independence Avenue off of 234. Registration starts at 5:30 [p.m.] and the game begins at 6:30 [p.m.]. It’s a $60 buy in, and we have some really great prizes. The first prize is a $500 Visa gift card, and we have other things like brunch on a cruise, different gift certificates, restaurant certificates, movie theater passes. But mostly it’s a lot of fun and comradery.
It’s really easy to get to – the Prince William County Police Association Hall is on Independence Avenue right off of 234. You know, they’re there, they’re helping us out. Anybody that’s 18 or older can play. As I said it starts at 6:30 [p.m.] – you don’t have to be great at it – I don’t know a thing about poker. Or about how to play Texas Hold’Em. But it doesn’t matter because there’s such good comradery and friendship – if you don’t know how to play, somebody at the table’s going to help you. If you do know how to play you can use your expertise to help somebody else. And it’s just – we have food and drinks – it’s just a great, fun way to help raise money and re-fund our pot so we can give it back to our community.
Q: So basically all of the money that’s raised is going to go back into the community somehow?
A: Every bit of it.
Check back for the next episode of Community Conversations.