Our Community Impact; Our Cooperative Cares

December 28, 2020

Our employees don’t just work here. They live here and care about this community as your neighbors and friends. It’s the cooperative way.

‘Concern for Community’ is one of the seven cooperative principles and something we take very seriously at Stearns Electric Association. Giving back to the communities we serve and that support us is important not only to the Co-op, but to our employees also.

Over half of our employees volunteer their own time throughout our communities. In 2019 alone, Stearns Electric employees volunteered over 2,500 hours! Employees volunteer for a variety of organizations and causes, which include youth enrichment and coaching, emergency services, faith-based programs, education, health and wellness, and more. By participating in these various activities, employees give back in communities all across our service territory and in each of the nine districts the Cooperative serves.


Throughout the year, we’ve showcased six of our employees in our Work Here. Live Here. Serve Here. Campaign, highlighting the ways in which they selflessly serve our communities:

  • Wayne Senst, Line Worker – Sauk Centre Fire Department
  • Deb Hoeschen, Executive Assistant – Melrose Women of Today
  • Jake Dooner, Line Superintendent – Youth Sports Coach
  • Justin Spanier, Facilities and Grounds Custodian – Holdingford Future Farmers of America (FFA) and Holdingford Fire Department
  • Judy Terres-Madsen, Member Services Representative – WW Health and Wellness
  • Matt O’Shea, Vice President of Engineering and Operations – Retired Army National Guard and Youth Sports Coach

Although the reasons why these employees started volunteering varies, the reasons why they stay involved rings true among them. It’s all about the people.

These individuals continue volunteering because they are able to give back to their local community and impact lives in ways that they themselves were impacted.

“I was involved in FFA as a student and now I’m able to show today’s students that there are different options and opportunities for them by being involved in the program,” Spanier explained.

O’Shea and Dooner shared similar experiences, both having impactful coaches in their lives when they were younger. As adults, they also experienced time away from their kids while either deployed or away for work. Now that they have the flexibility to coach their own kids, they understand the importance of their roles.

“I’ve been able to build relationships with the team of kids I’ve coached for years and know that I’ve made a positive impact on their lives,” O’Shea detailed. “I get many ‘thank yous’ from the parents, many of whom aren’t able to help coach,” Dooner added. “I used to be away from home a lot myself and now I’m grateful to give back and hopefully have a similar impact on the kids that my coaches had on me growing up.”

Employees also love doing things that they enjoy, while also fulfilling their passion for helping others. “My passion is in helping people and being able to make real differences in their lives,” Terres-Madsen said. “I enjoy sharing my passion for wellness while adding human connection to the generosity.”

Our communities have benefitted greatly from the service of many of our employees. The intrinsic rewards our employees receive, and the awareness to the community that their volunteering provides, helps get even more community members involved.

“People appreciate and respect us for our work with the fire department,” Senst said. “And in return, they are more willing to help at community events and support us through our fundraisers and other activities.”

“Community members see you involved and even if they aren’t able to volunteer their time, they are more willing to donate to a cause and help in their own way,” Hoeschen added.


We have amazing employees who not only volunteer in their own time, but during work hours also. Stearns Electric recognizes the importance of giving back to our local communities. We also understand that life is busy, and sometimes employees can’t allot the personal time that they would like to volunteer. In 2019, Stearns Electric created the ‘My Co-op Cares’ program to provide employees the opportunity to volunteer during normal business hours throughout the year.

The ‘My Co-op Cares’ program offers three events during the year, in partnership with local organizations, where employees volunteer during the work day. Employees don’t know where they’ll be volunteering when they sign up, so it’s truly just for the heart of giving back. These events have had a great impact throughout our local communities, and a direct impact on our employees, too.

“It’s heartwarming to know that we’re making a difference,” Terres-Madsen said. “Hearing the joy expressed from both the organizations we serve, as well as Stearns Electric employees who participate, make our ‘My Co-op Cares’ program an overall success.”

As we wrap up our campaign for the year, you can be assured that the Co-op’s concern for, and commitment to, our communities will never change. We work here. We live here. We serve here.

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