Goodcents – Building a Stronger Community

by | Nov 5, 2021 | Ruralite | 0 comments

Every month, thousands of Golden Valley Electric Association members significantly help their community without lifting a finger by participating in the Goodcents program.

Goodcents is a voluntary program for members to round up their monthly electric bill to the nearest dollar. For instance, a bill of $97.65 would be rounded up to $98, with the additional 35 cents going to the Goodcents Fund.

This small change adds up to thousands of dollars every year that go right back into the community. Members who participate in this program contribute about $6 per year – that’s an average of about 50 cents per month. The most a member can ever donate annually is 99 cents per month or $11.88 per year.

In 2021, the program is celebrates ten years of helping GVEA members and making a difference in their communities. The Goodcents Foundation is governed by a Board of Trustees made up of individuals from each of GVEA’s service areas along with a representative from the Board of Directors. The group meets four times a year to decide which non-profit applicants should receive Goodcents grants, and it is a labor of love.

“What other place can you contribute and give only 99 cents a month, but have this much impact on a community?” says Paula Newton, who chairs the Board of Trustees. “Your few cents a year goes to a greater, common good.”

“Everyone on the board has a common goal,” says Paula. “To help those we can.”

“Every time we meet, I walk out of those meetings and think, I feel good about what we could give to organizations that are really struggling to give something to their community – whether it’s food or trails to walk on.”

Most of the requests come from the Fairbanks area, but some are from outlying areas, also served by GVEA. Requests from those communities stick out in Paula’s mind, as they are often in dire need of the resources Goodcents can offer. She is grateful that the Goodcents program exists to help and is glad that the money raised is returned to Interior communities.

“This is not our money to keep,” she says. “It is our money to share.”

Those funds may help save lives in Nenana, where Goodcents grants helped purchase a snowbulance, a Skandic snowmachine and a trailer to haul rescue equipment for the Nenana Fire Department.

The snowbulance is a remote rescue unit pulled by a snowmachine that can ferry patients from the wilderness back to the highway and ultimately to safety. The Skandic snowmachine replaces an old snowmachine that had been scavenged for parts. That old machine also didn’t have enough horsepower to pull the snowbulance, says Nenana Fire Chief Joe Forness.

“Just for safety’s sake, we decided we needed a second snowmachine,” he says. “On a rescue, we should have a machine big enough to pull the snowbulance, break trail and haul three rescuers, the rider, rescuer and victim.”

The new trailer is big enough to haul two snow machines and the snowbulance.

At times Goodcents can’t provide the entire amount sought, but the program can provide a big chunk of the request so the needed item can be acquired.

“We got $6,000 of the $9,000 we asked for,” Joe says. “The fire department ponied up the other $3,000 and we purchased the trailer.”

The Nenana Fire Department has received several Goodcents grants over the years to fund the purchase of bandages and backboards, as the department upgrades and replaces old equipment.

A Goodcents grant can often lead to bigger and better projects. In 2016, Goodcents awarded a $7,500 grant to the Denali Education Center to spruce up the entrance to their community building, the Charles Sheldon Center, just outside Denali National Park.

“It did more than just make the entrance safe and nice looking,” says executive director Jodi Rodwell. “By getting that Goodcents grant it helped us leverage other funding we needed for a bigger project.”

Sometimes, she said, projects have lots of little parts.

The Denali Borough helped with a matching grant program, updating lighting, sound and audio-visual equipment inside the Sheldon Center.

“Meanwhile we were in discussions with Rasmuson Foundation for a grant to help with building a commercial kitchen facility to support programs in the Sheldon Center,” she says. A bathroom upgrade was included as well.

Because Rasmuson Foundation saw that the Denali Education Center project was also supported by Goodcents and the Denali Borough, they awarded the grant for the larger project.

“So to us, it meant more than just the project at hand,” Jodi says. “Because GVEA’s Goodcents program invested in that part, it helped with the bigger project.”

In Delta Junction, a small group of residents began taking steps in 2013 to develop a community trail system that would provide outdoor recreation, improve community wellness, protect access to public lands and enhance tourism.

According to Mindy Eggleston, president of the Delta Trails Association, GVEA’s Goodcents program played a vital role in helping to make some of those projects happen. That included underground electrical wiring for Delta’s first lit trail and matching money contributions for lighting and trail construction.

“It’s amazing,” Mindy says. “We have no tax base here. We’re not even in a borough or anything, so we’re kind of tricky. Getting things done is a little different here than in a lot of places.”

“Golden Valley was magical,” she says.

Now, there is a lighted community trail on 11 acres for walkers, runners, skiers, bicyclists. The community pays the annual $500 electric bill.

You can push a button and the lights remain on for one hour and 15 minutes. The trail is open 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Goodcents also helped Delta Trails Association with development of the Bluff Cabin Trail and a motorized trail, when matching funds were needed for a bigger grant. Goodcents was among a number of donors who made that match.

“Golden Valley has really been the rock that helps us push on through,” Mindy says.

Over the years, Goodcents has also helped the Fairbanks Senior Center. This year, that assistance reached a new level with the Meals on Wheels program.

Each year, GVEA employees are allotted eight hours to volunteer within the community.

“Concern for the community is one of the seven cooperative principles that guides Golden Valley’s mission,” says GVEA President and CEO, John Burns. “GVEA recognizes the benefit that providing service opportunities to our employees brings to GVEA, our employees, and most importantly, to the communities we serve.”

Recently, the cooperative partnered with Meals on Wheels, allowing employees use these hours to help with the program that delivers daily meals to homebound seniors.

The help is invaluable, says Darlene Supplee, executive director of the North Star Council on Aging’s Fairbanks Senior Center.

“We did 75,000 meals last year,” she says. “That’s a lot of moving pieces.”

In 2020, Meals on Wheels had six routes. Now, the number of homebound seniors has swelled and there are 15 routes. Finding enough drivers is an ongoing challenge.

With this new collaboration, GVEA employees can use their community service hours to take turns covering the designated route to deliver meals.

It all came about because a GVEA employee saw a need and convinced GVEA administrators that this collaboration would be good for the community.

“It’s amazing how one person touches another person, touches another,” says Darlene.

In addition to awarding a grant for a Meals on Wheels vehicle, Goodcents contributed to a bathroom remodel, and purchased tables and chairs.

And it all is due to the few cents that members contribute every month through the Goodcents program.

It is because of the generosity of our members that GVEA through out members is about to provide benefits go beyond providing electricity.


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Meadow Bailey


Ashley Bradish


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