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Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative lineworkers recognized for service in Bolivia

Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative
Roger Pace (right) and Mike Alexander (second from right) pull wire while working in Bolivia. Photo courtesy Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative.

Three Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative lineworkers were among a group of 15 to receive official commendation from the Virginia General Assembly for traveling 4,000 miles to bring power to five small villages in Bolivia.

At a Dec. 8 ceremony, Del. Margaret Ransone presented a resolution praising the work of United We Light: Project Bolivia to Craig Loving, a lineworker at Northern Neck Electric Cooperative.

Loving, one of the volunteers from eight cooperatives in Virginia and Maryland, accepted the resolution, approved by the legislature earlier this year, on behalf of his fellow lineworkers as part of the virtual event.

From SVEC, lineworkers Mike Alexander, of Winchester, Roger Pace, of Mount Jackson, and J.T. Jacobs, of Augusta County, traveled to Bolivia in 2019. Jacobs now works for the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, which sponsored the Bolivia project, its first overseas electrification project.

Additional support came from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s international arm, the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp. and the National Cooperative Services Corp.

In part, the resolution reads: “Whereas, United We Light: Project Bolivia provided a sense of hope and strengthened communities by helping to ensure that residents can choose to stay in their home villages; now, therefore, be it resolved by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, that the General Assembly hereby commend United We Light: Project Bolivia for its life-changing accomplishments in service to communities in rural Bolivia.”

In September, Alexander and Pace received the President’s Volunteer Service Award, which honors individuals whose service has had a positive impact on communities and inspires others around them to take action as well.

“It was an honor to get this [award],” Alexander said. “It was some of the worst conditions and some of the hardest we’ve ever worked, but we both loved it. We’d do it again in a heartbeat. It’s so rewarding to see the joy that we brought on those peoples’ faces.”

Ransone, who sponsored the resolution and whose district includes the Northern Neck, praised the selflessness of the United We Light crew members.

“When you left your homes to go into Bolivia and help those communities in great need, it was certainly an act of goodwill and kindness. It was a great honor for me, personally, to recognize you,” she said.

Del. Kirk Cox, who also attended the socially distanced ceremony at Northern Neck Electric Cooperative’s warehouse, said he was impressed that lineworkers endured three plane trips and a laborious bus ride to work at a 13,000-foot elevation and raise 13 miles of line by hand.

The lineworkers spent two-and-a-half weeks in the Oruro region of Bolivia in September 2019, working in inclement conditions and on rough terrain with modest equipment. They provided more than three dozen homes and dwellings with power for the first time, many with a single fixture and a CFL bulb.

“If you ever have the opportunity to travel somewhere and help people, whether it be for electricity or whatever else, do yourself a favor and take that opportunity,” Pace said.

Chartered in 1936, SVEC serves approximately 98,000 meters in the counties of Augusta, Clarke, Frederick, Highland, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah, and Warren and the City of Winchester in Virginia. Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative was the first electric cooperative chartered in Virginia. This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer. SVEC supports our armed services and veterans in employment opportunities.

augusta free press
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