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Proud to Power, Proud to Serve program empowers employees to get involved

Feature story

​​​If there's anything good to say about the two-plus years that COVID-19 ruled our world, it might be that it brought us things like grocery pickup and delivery, virtual meetings, and better hand washing. For many it was also a time of creativity, reflection, and figuring out how to do things differently than before. We pivoted, we adjusted to a new normal, and we left ourselves on mute (or forgot to mute) an embarrassing number of times.

In the public affairs department at Energy Northwest, a joint operating agency of Washington state, is a communication team who engages day-today with many different audiences. The effects of canceled or postponed events and activities at that time left a hole in what was once a plentitude of face-to-face engagements in the community. And, while virtual and hybrid events were a great alternative solution, they just didn't have the same effect.

Somewhere in the midst of 2021, while reflecting, researching, and strategizing a new approach for getting back into the community, a new initiative began to surface and the framework for a community outreach program began to take shape. The goals were to increase opportunities for Energy Northwest to engage in the community, address the interests of a changing workforce, and have cool T-shirts.

In the fall of 2022, we launched Proud to Power, Proud to Serve to expand the opportunities for charitable service that Energy Northwest employees can provide to the community. The name of the program is a nod to our power generation (hydro, solar, wind, nuclear, and battery storage) and our commitment to public power and improving the quality of lives of those we serve.

Expanding outreach efforts

For decades, Energy Northwest employees have been actively supporting the local United Way and Head Start programs through charitable donations and financial contributions. Last year, employees generously raised $78,000 for the United Way of Benton & Franklin Counties and hand selected and delivered gifts to more than 350 children in the Benton Franklin Head Start program.

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Proud to Power, Proud to Serve volunteer event in April with the Friends of Disabled Veterans.

The Proud to Power, Proud to Serve program complements these existing charitable efforts through an extended offering of designated charities to give employees more avenues to make a positive impact on our local communities. Research indicated that an important factor in job satisfaction for younger generations is feeling good about the company they work for and being provided opportunities for service, not just donating money.

In its first year, employee participation in charitable service increased. Employees took on projects including donating grocery items, sorting and handing out food at a mobile food drive, sorting Christmas gifts for local families, and helping with projects at a veteran-owned ranch.

“As members of our community, Energy Northwest encourages employees to be involved and find opportunities to make our community a better place to live, work, and play," said Steve Lorence, Energy Northwest corporate support services general manager and Proud to Power, Proud to Serve senior sponsor.

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Energy Northwest employees Mark Sullivan and Bill Baker sport their Proud to Power, Proud to Serve T-shirts while sorting food at a Second Harvest Tri-Cities mobile food drive.

Under the new program, employees or departments interested in engaging with one of the six designated charities can discuss their ideas with their manager or supervisor and review the policy. Once approved by the senior sponsor, employees can record up to 10 hours of charitable work time within a calendar year, allowing them to contribute meaningfully to causes they are passionate about.

Designated charities that employees can participate in during approved work hours include Second Harvest Tri-Cities, Tri-City Union Gospel Mission, Friends of Disabled Veterans, Service Peace Warriors, Therapeutic Riding of Tri-Cities, and Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

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The Energy Northwest Public Affairs team fill in as Santa's helpers at a Marine Toys for Tots Proud to Power, Proud to Serve event in Kennewick, Washington.

While the Proud to Power, Proud to Serve program focuses on service activities, Energy Northwest also encourages employees to support other community service initiatives outside of work.

The Proud to Power, Proud to Serve program came to be through a collaborative effort involving the public affairs, human resources, legal services, and corporate finance departments.

“We do a lot in the community as individuals and an agency, so Proud to Power, Proud to Serve is an organized way to make our community a better place to live while providing greater visibility for Energy Northwest," said Susan Fillafer​ of Energy Northwest.

Public Affairs. “Being a part of a community makes us feel as though we are a part of something greater than ourselves—and volunteering just makes you feel good! Plus, there's data that shows employees are happier and more engaged when community involvement is a part of their work. It can also be a great team-building experience."

Proud to Power, Proud to Serve is one avenue for Energy Northwest employees to make a difference and feel good about the place they work—and it comes with a cool T-shirt.


This story was originally published in the September 2023 issue of Northwest Public Power Association's Bulletin magazine.

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