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The college-coffee connection

Coffee is one of my favorite drinks. I can drink it any time during the day and any time
during the year. I love coffee from McDonald’s and I love coffee from Starbucks. I love coffee from my $19 coffee maker or from some fancy French press machine.

When I was younger, I wondered how my dad could drink so much coffee. His passion for coffee started
when he was working the night shift at the steel mill in Ashland. Coffee keeps students awake at
night to study and gives them a jolt in the morning to get them to class.

Coffee shops also become the social hub where lifelong friends are made. When I was attending the University of Kentucky, my engineering major had lots of classes that began at 8 a.m. That
required an early alarm and dedication to make it to class on time. With my designated parking spot just behind Memorial Coliseum, I had to walk 1 mile across campus to the classroom.

The middle of campus is exposed to the wind and on cold January mornings it cuts right through you. If I stopped in the student union for a cup of hot coffee, it would sustain me through the
first class and help warm me up after the cold walk across campus. By stopping every day for that cup of coffee, I started a habit that continues today. As I write this, I’m on cup No. 2.

The February edition of Kentucky Living, our annual college issue, provides information to help high school students and their parents make the best decision for their future. While the
main focus for choosing a college is typically on the programs offered, other amenities such as housing,extracurricular activities, food—and coffee—become an important part of the decision-making process.

The lessons learned in college last a lifetime, including one’s love of coffee.

Chris Perry, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives President and CEO.

Crews from six Kentucky co-ops assisting in Georgia after Zeta

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (October 30, 2020) – For the third time in six weeks, dozens of Kentucky electric cooperative line technicians are headed south to assist in power restoration. Hurricane Zeta knocked out power to nearly 2 million homes and business across five states.

Nearly 50 employees from six electric cooperatives in Kentucky are deploying to three sister co-ops in northern Georgia that requested their help.

Carroll EMC (Nolin RECC and South Kentucky RECC)
• The co-op’s infrastructure sustained extensive damage including broken poles and downed lines when wind gusts exceeding 60 mph met saturated ground. “We haven’t had damage like this since Hurricane Opal in 1995,” said Chief Operating Officer Jerome Johnston. “In many areas, it is like a completely new construction job.”

Amicalola EMC (Farmers RECC, Warren RECC and Kenergy)
• Extremely high winds and heavy rain crashed through the co-op’s service area early Thursday, knocking out power to more than 38,000 Amicalola EMC members. Outages are being reported in all ten counties served by the co-op. A substantial number of trees are down in every county, with a high number falling across power lines, bringing the lines and power poles down with them.

GreyStone Power (West Kentucky RECC and Nolin RECC)
• About 33,000 consumer-members are without service. “We are grateful for the help and look forward to having their knowledge, experience and commitment to the cooperative difference helping us out,” the co-op posted on social media.

Coordinated by Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, mutual aid crews from Kentucky co-ops are deployed to specific sister cooperatives who have requested their help. On daily conference calls, safety teams from each state assess optimal deployments.

In September, 87 crews from twelve Kentucky electric co-ops helped restore power to a co-op in southwest Alabama after Hurricane Sally. Earlier this month, 73 Kentucky co-op employees helped restore power in Louisiana after Hurricane Delta.

The top priority of each local Kentucky co-op is service to its own consumer-members. Before committing resources to mutual aid requests, each co-op ensures it has ample crews available for all local needs, including routine maintenance and emergencies.

“This has been an especially difficult hurricane season for our fellow cooperatives in the southeastern United States,” said Chris Perry, President and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “We are praying for them and for the safety of everyone assisting. By responding to natural disasters in other states, Kentucky co-op crews gain invaluable experience to ultimately help them respond to outages here at home.”

In addition, United Utility Supply Cooperative is responding to power restoration needs for co-ops affected by Zeta across the region. The Kentucky-based co-op has implemented its storm emergency plan, providing round-the-clock support to meet the material needs of co-ops.

Because the national network of transmission and distribution infrastructure owned by electric cooperatives is built to federal standards, line crews from any co-op in America can arrive on the scene ready to provide emergency support, secure in their knowledge of the system’s engineering.

Co-ops credit McConnell, Barr for coronavirus relief help

As Kentucky families and communities cope with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the electric cooperatives which serve them are expressing gratitude to the commonwealth’s congressional delegation for its advocacy and support of legislation that has provided relief.

“In particular, I want to highlight the eagerness and diligence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Congressman Andy Barr to connect with our rural communities to ensure that legislation in Washington addresses real needs back home,” says Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives.

Perry says the health and well-being of rural Kentuckians and the electric co-ops that serve them are inextricably linked, and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to be catastrophic. The sudden and extreme rise in Kentucky’s unemployment rate due to the pandemic lockdown of the state’s economy is not just a statistic to co-ops.

“These numbers represent the struggles of our neighbors, our co-op consumer-members,” Perry says. “As Kentucky and our nation cope with this crisis, it is more important than ever to know that our elected representatives have our back and we have their ear.”

Leader McConnell, Rep. Barr and their respective staffs have stayed in regular contact with Kentucky co-ops, listening to the needs and concerns “on the ground” back home in Kentucky.

“These open lines of communication have helped them not only craft meaningful relief legislation,” Perry says. “but also advocate for co-ops and local consumer-members as all of us worked to determine the most appropriate application of federal relief.”

For instance, Perry credits quick action by the lawmakers to ensure the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration clarified the eligibility of Kentucky’s rural electric cooperatives for specific funding so that co-ops could best understand their options as they weathered substantial financial losses over the last few months.

“Since Congress established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), I have been working tirelessly to advocate for rural electric cooperatives eligibility for these critical forgivable loans,” said Congressman Barr. “Over the last several weeks, I have held calls with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and other high-ranking officials at the Treasury Department to advocate for rural electrical cooperatives. I am pleased that the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration clarified that rural electric cooperatives are now eligible for PPP loans.”

“The PPP is helping to save tens of millions of jobs as a centerpiece of the CARES Act I introduced,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Right here in Kentucky, more than 45,000 small businesses have received federal assistance to keep their lights on and their workers on payroll. I’m glad Kentucky’s electric cooperatives can tap into the PPP in their work to power our communities and maintain affordable prices through this crisis. As Senate Majority Leader, I’m constantly working with the Trump administration and my colleagues to deliver the aid Kentucky needs to beat this virus.”

Perry said that as future recovery efforts take shape, co-ops look forward to continuing to work with elected officials on proposals that ensure electric co-ops have the flexibility and financial relief they need to ensure the delivery of affordable, reliable electricity.

“From increasing federal assistance for utility payments to supporting high-quality broadband in rural America, the Commonwealth’s electric cooperatives stand ready to support bipartisan solutions for the communities we serve,” Perry said.


Youth Tour goes ‘virtual’

Coronavirus changes co-op plans

(March 27, 2020) – With the Frankfort Youth Tour of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, elected leaders are making sure that the 150 high school juniors selected for the leadership program are still receiving a virtual dose of civic engagement.
Video messages by Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams and Representative Samara Heavrin highlight the “Virtual Frankfort Youth Tour” released by Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. Other elected leaders are also invited to add their messages to the video.

“Now more than ever we need those of you who are eligible to register to vote, and we need poll workers” says Adams, whose message focused on rural voting. He credited his election in November to voters in rural counties saying: “My grandfather made me this wooden state of Kentucky after I won my race. Look how many counties are red, rural counties. Never forget every vote counts.”
Previously scheduled for March 17, the 2020 Frankfort Youth Tour was to also kick off this year’s Co-ops Vote initiative to encourage civic engagement by local consumer-members of Kentucky co-ops. Electric cooperatives serve 117 of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
“We are really sorry to miss the opportunity to take students to Frankfort. It’s not only an opportunity for our students to learn more about Kentucky’s government, but for those that go on to the Washington Youth Tour, it creates an even deeper connection between local and national leadership” says Sarah Fellows of Nolin RECC.
For nearly fifty years, Kentucky’s local electric cooperatives have sponsored youth tours of both Frankfort and Washington, D.C., selecting rising young leaders in their service territories to gain a personal understanding of American history, civic affairs, and their role as citizens and members of electric cooperatives.
“It saddens me that we had to cancel the Frankfort Tour, but it was the best decision,” says Vanessa Blagg of Jackson Purchase Energy. “Our students’ health and well-being are of the utmost important to us.”
“My mom told me the trip to Frankfort was cancelled,” says Gabe McFadyen, a Warren RECC student. “I’m bummed, but I understand.”
Heavrin, who was sponsored on the 2009 Washington Youth Tour by Warren RECC, says the experience opened her to career opportunities she didn’t know existed. After working on Capitol Hill and the Kentucky State Treasurer’s office, Heavrin was elected in November to represent Kentucky’s 18th House District, serving Grayson and Hardin Counties.
“I became the youngest woman ever to serve in the Kentucky General Assembly and I truly give that all up to my opportunity to be on the Washington Youth Tour,” Heavrin says. “I’m so thankful Kentucky Electric Cooperatives invested in me just like they are investing in you today. What an incredible opportunity you have to learn more about our government and a life as a public servant.”
In deciding to postpone the 2020 Frankfort Youth Tour, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives heeded the call of Governor Andy Beshear to avoid large social gatherings. Since then, Beshear has only intensified those public health directives.
“The safety and quality of life of our local co-op consumer-members are our priorities,” says Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “We hope to find an alternative date in the future to continue this important commitment to Kentucky’s future.”

We’re all in this together

We’re in the middle of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic now, but when the crisis has passed, I hope we can look back at this disaster to recognize its irony. I hope we can say that a virus that forced us to stay away from each other also brought us together.

It’s something that your local electric cooperative knows well, that when our communities are facing the greatest challenges are the times we also see the best of our neighbors and friends, a sense of civic duty and a resolve to do what it takes to not only overcome an obstacle but move forward as well. Kentucky’s electric cooperative program began as America was clawing its way out of the Great Depression. Since then, we have weathered many storms and tragedies, the sacrifice of our soldiers in war, natural disasters, the ravages of drug abuse, farming downturns and a changing economy that left many of our communities behind.

Our parents and grandparents found the will and the ways. Then, as now, we’re all in this together.

As this current crisis continues to unfold at a dizzying pace, Kentucky’s electric co-ops have taken measures to encourage the health and safety of local consumer-members and of co-op employees so that nothing threatens the uninterrupted service of safe, reliable and affordable electricity. 

I hope you see this special April Travel Issue of Kentucky Living as further testament to that uninterrupted flow of Kentucky energy. Though every individual Kentuckian, industry and business is affected by the economic stranglehold of this pandemic, our hope for the future is bolstered by acts of kindness and the promise of better days ahead.

I think about the beautiful and interesting tourism attractions and destinations highlighted in this month’s issue. Be sure to call ahead or check online to see whether the events and places featured here are affected by pandemic protocols. For those that have had to curtail operations, I encourage you to save this magazine all year long as a handy guide of places to go, enjoy and support in the future. Kentucky’s tourism treasures are going to need our help.

I have confidence we will support them. After all, we’re all in this together.


Frankfort Youth Tour postponed

Kentucky’s electric cooperatives heed Governor’s caution amid COVID-19 concerns

Frankfort, Ky. – Kentucky Electric Cooperatives Frankfort Youth Tour which annually sends 150 high school juniors from across Kentucky to the state capitol has been indefinitely postponed out of public health concerns amid COVID-19.

“The safety and quality of life of our local co-op consumer-members are our priorities,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “Based on the recommendation of Governor Beshear to avoid large social gatherings and in an effort to protect all Kentuckians, we made the decision to postpone the 2020 Frankfort Youth Tour. We hope to find an alternative date in the future to continue this important commitment to Kentucky’s future.”

Previously scheduled for Tuesday March 17, the Frankfort Youth Tour includes remarks from elected leaders, tours of the State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion and civic education at the Kentucky History Center and Museum. For nearly fifty years, Kentucky’s local electric cooperatives have sponsored youth tours of both Frankfort and Washington, D.C., selecting rising young leaders in their service territories to gain a personal understanding of American history, civic affairs and their role as citizens and members of electric cooperatives.

Rural act to fix tax law unintended consequence

Electric cooperative leaders from Kentucky are joining co-ops across America calling on Congress to fix an unintended consequence of changes to federal tax law, warning that co-ops risk losing their nonprofit status if a major ice storm or tornado strikes a state.

To maintain tax-exempt status, no more than 15% of a co-op’s annual gross income can come from sources other than co-op members. Under the new law, government grants are considered non-member income—increasing the risk that co-ops working to restore their systems after major storms or help their community will be forced to forfeit their tax-exempt status.

Other federal or state government funding that could fall into this category are grants for economic development, energy efficiency and rural broadband deployment. 

Without tax-exempt status, co-ops will be forced to return a significant portion of those funds to the government in taxes rather than using the monies for their intended purpose.

“These changes leave a cloud of uncertainty hanging over electric co-ops,” says Marty Littrel, president and CEO of Meade County RECC, one of 26 electric cooperatives in Kentucky. “This uncertainty puts co-ops and their communities in a difficult position as they work to plan for the future.”

The Rural Act is bipartisan legislation that would correct this mistake. Co-sponsors include Kentucky Congressmen Andy Barr and James Comer.

—Joe Arnold

When a heat pump is the right choice

There are several types of heat pumps—ductless mini-split heat pumps and central system air-source heat pumps are the most common.

The ductless mini-split heat pump system, a good solution in replacing inefficient older baseboard heaters, has a compressor outside that is connected with refrigerant lines to the blowers inside. A ductless system can serve up to four zones, so it can heat a small home or be combined with another heating system in a larger home. It’s a great option for a home that does not have a duct system, or if the existing duct system is inefficient or poorly designed.

The second option, the central system air-source heat pump, can be an efficient option if the existing duct system is in good shape. This system’s compressor is also outside, but in this case, it’s connected to the home’s duct system to distribute cold or warm air through the existing vents. 

A third option is a ground-source, or geothermal heat pump, which uses a system that taps into heat that’s naturally underground year-round. Geothermal systems are typically a more expensive investment up front, but they are the most energy efficient and cost effective of all the options.

Pumping up advantages

Heat pumps usually are much more efficient than electric resistance systems and can be a solid solution in a variety of circumstances, from a manufactured home or construction addition to a replacement for a broken or inefficient heating and cooling system. They’re also becoming more popular for central heating in new construction.

If you currently are using electric resistance, heating oil or propane gas, a heat pump can reduce heating costs up to 75%. It also can cut cooling costs. A ductless mini-split heat pump offers heating and cooling flexibility because it can serve multiple zones or be used with another system. 

Safety also is a factor. Heat pumps eliminate the need to burn fuels inside your home and exhaust combustion gases. There’s no risk of carbon monoxide or gas leaks that can come from flaws in a system that runs on natural gas, propane, fuel oil or wood.

PAT KEEGAN and BRAD THIESSEN write on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Kentucky co-ops on mission in off-year election

Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are urging local consumer-members in Kentucky’s rural areas to make sure that they are registered to vote and that their registration is up to date ahead of the November 5 statewide election.

Co-ops across the country are joining National Voter Registration Day efforts to create broad awareness of voter registration opportunities to reach tens of thousands of voters who may not register otherwise. The registration efforts are in addition to the Co-ops Vote initiative Kentucky co-ops launched in 2016.

Kentuckians can easily register and update their registration with, the Commonwealth’s online voter portal. County clerks’ offices throughout Kentucky will accept online and paper applications until 4 p.m. local time on the deadline. Mail-in voter registration applications must be postmarked by October 7, 2019.


To be eligible to vote, Kentuckians must:


  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • Be a Kentucky resident for at least 29 days before Election Day.
  • Be at least 18 years old on or before the General Election.
  • Not be a convicted felon, or if convicted of a felony offense, must have obtained a restoration of civil rights.
  • Not have been adjudged “mentally incompetent.”
  • Not claim the right to vote anywhere outside Kentucky.
  • Young people who are 17 years old but will be 18 years old on or before the November 5, 2019 General Election are eligible to register as well.


Voters who have recently moved need to update their voter registration information by no later than October 7, 2019.

Voters may check their current registration status and where they vote at For questions, contact your county clerk or the State Board of Elections at (502) 573-7100.

Ahead of next year’s presidential election, Kentucky is among three states holding elections for governor. National political observers are carefully watching the 2019 contests in Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana for any signs of what they may say about the 2020 national race.

Yet for Kentucky’s electric cooperatives, the off-year election is more than just a barometer of a larger national picture. On November 5, Kentucky voters will elect the commonwealth’s constitutional officers for the next four-year term, and co-ops are again stressing the importance of voting to rural citizens.

“They might call it an ‘off-year election,’ but we are on mission to remind rural voters that they need to stand up for local communities and issues,” says Chris Perry, president of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “That’s why Kentucky co-ops enthusiastically support the Co-ops Vote program.”

In addition to advocating for issues that affect the ability of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives to deliver safe, reliable and affordable electricity, co-ops are also leading the drive for more voter participation in the rural areas they serve.

In the most recent gubernatorial election in 2015, Kentucky’s statewide voter turnout was only 30.6 percent. Sixty-six of Kentucky’s 120 counties failed to reach 30% voter turnout, mostly in rural areas.

In 2015, three rural Kentucky counties failed to reach even 20% voter turnout.

The following year, the Co-ops Vote campaign began, aiming to reverse the downward trend in rural voting. In the 2016 presidential election, rural voter turnout in Kentucky accounted for an increase of about 85,000 voters between 2012 and 2016.

Despite the increase in the number of voters in 2016, Kentucky’s voter turnout as a percentage of registered voters slightly decreased, down one percentage point compared to 2012, from about 60 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2016.

Kentucky’s off-year elections typically draw far fewer voters to the polls. In 2011, the voter turnout was a measly 28.6%, and in 2007, 37.8% of registered voters cast ballots.

“If rural Kentuckians want elected leaders to pay attention to their concerns, voting is the most effective method,” says Chris Perry, president of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “I encourage all Kentuckians to join me in making the commitment to vote.”

Anyone who can vote, no matter where you live or whether you are a co-op member, can participate in the non-partisan Co-ops Vote and take advantage of its voter resources. Just visit and take the pledge to vote in this year’s elections. Once you’ve registered, you’ll have access to information on registering to vote, where to vote, and background on all the candidates.

“The communities and rural areas served by co-ops are facing challenges that require attention and respect,” Perry says. “It’s easy to attack rural electric cooperatives. We are paying attention to see who gives co-ops and their members a fair shake in Frankfort.”