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Stories Recipes Events People Places Things Local NewsJanuary 2020WiregrassElectricCooperativeA ‘Higher’ CallingLocal ministry supportsfamilies, elderly

ALABAMA LIVING is delivered tosome 420,000 Alabama families andbusinesses, which are members of22 not-for-profit, consumer-owned,locally directed and taxpaying electriccooperatives. AREA cooperativemember subscriptions are 3 ayear; non-member subscriptions, 6. Alabama Living (USPS 029920) is published monthly by theAlabama Rural Electric Associationof Cooperatives. Periodicals postagepaid at Montgomery, Alabama, and atadditional mailing office.11VOL. 69 NO. XX JANUARY 2020POSTMASTER send forms 3579 to:Alabama Living, P.O. Box 244014Montgomery, Alabama 36124-4014.ALABAMA RURAL ELECTRIC ASSOCIATIONAREA PresidentFred BraswellEditorLenore VickreyManaging EditorAllison LawCreative DirectorMark StephensonArt DirectorDanny WestonAdvertising DirectorJacob JohnsonGraphic Designer/Ad CoordinatorBrooke EcholsGraphic DesignerChyna Miller12NATIONAL ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVE:National Country Market611 South Congress Ave., Suite 504Austin, Texas w.alabamaliving.coopUSPS 029-920 ISSN 1047-0311Printed inAmericafromAmericanmaterialsAlabama LivingA helping hand851XXXXXXXsLifted Higher Ministries provides loving helpto the people of the Wiregrass.XXX XXXXXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXXXXXX XXXX.Capital creditsBe sure you don’t have unclaimed capitalcredits.D E PA R T M E N T SADVERTISING & EDITORIAL OFFICES:340 TechnaCenter DriveMontgomery, Alabama 36117-60311-800-410-2737E-mail: [email protected] WANT TO HEAR FROM [email protected] Living340 TechnaCenter DriveMontgomery, AL 36117AlOnlineLook for this logoto see morecontent online!Get our FREEmonthly email newsletter!Sign up at alabamaliving.coop9 Spotlight26 Worth the drive29 Around Alabama36 Gardens40 Outdoors41 Fish & Game Forecast46 Cook of the month54 SnapshotsONLINE: alabamaliving.coopON THE COVER:Brandee Lukas and her familystarted Lifted Higher Ministriesto help fulfill a "higher calling"and bridge gaps in the servicesprovided in the foster care system.See story, Page 6.JANUARY 2020 3

Strengthening ourcommunities in 2020Board of TrusteesDonna ParrishDistrict 2PresidentTracy ReederDistrict 5Vice PresidentDebra E. BaxleyDistrict 1SecretaryJohn Clark Jr.District 3Danny McNeilDistrict 4Kip JusticeDistrict 6Donald Ray WilksDistrict 7Greg McCulloughDistrict 8David WinsteadDistrict 94 JANUARY 2020Les Moreland, CEO Wiregrass Electric CooperativeThe beginning of a new year is a time ofexcitement, planning and possibilities. It’s alsoa time to reflect on what you accomplishedthe year before. At Wiregrass Electric Cooperative, we had a very successful 2019. For yetanother year, we fulfilled our commitment toreturn capital credits to members, returningmore than 1 million. That’s one of the manytraits that make being a cooperative memberspecial, and we are proud to do that each andevery year.We continued our efforts in 2019 to bringbroadband to the Wiregrass, which consisted of proving through our speed test studythat our area lacked the broadband access itneeds. Those results were presented in Washington, D.C., and went a long way to helpingour broadband partner, Troy Cable, receive a 575,115 grant to continue building essentialcommunications infrastructure for our members.We continued our efforts to offer moreopportunities for our youth through YouthTour and Operation Round Up scholarships.We also succeeded in receiving all eligibleHurricane Michael-related FEMA reimbursement, which ensured that our members won’tsee any negative financial impacts from thatstorm.This is just a small sample of all we accomplished in 2019, but 2019 is done, and it’s timeto look to 2020.One of our greatest commitments as a cooperative is to improve the communities weserve. We will have a continued commitmentto that in 2020.One of the many ways we work to better ourcommunity is through our Silent Heroes of theWiregrass program. We are so proud of thisprogram and thankful to our partner, WTVY,and our members, who agree to have theirbills rounded up each month to make the program possible.In this issue of Alabama Living, you willread about Brandee and Adam Lukas ofLifted Higher Ministries, our December SilentHero winner. They, like all of our winners,have done great work in the Wiregrass, andmost of it has gone unnoticed. Thanks to ourOperation Round Up program, we were ableto recognize them and further their cause bydonating 1,000 to their ministry. That moneywas put to great use during the holidays bybuying presents for the elderly. The SilentHeroes program helps so many in ourcommunity, and we will continue this in 2020.We also will continue to sponsor studentsto attend the Montgomery and Washington,D.C., Youth Tours. This is a life-changing tripfor these students, and we are looking forwardto seeing who will represent our cooperativethis year. We have had great students in thepast, and I expect this year to be the same.Our cooperative also made another bigcommitment to the Wiregrass United Way.In 2019, WEC has donated 19,415.04 to thisworthy organization. This amount includesalmost 12,000 from our employee contributions and WEC corporate contributions. Inaddition, WEC also donates annually fromthe community grant program at CoBank.Last September, WEC made a 7,500 donationto the United Way with the money from thatgrant.Our cooperative is so grateful to the UnitedWay for all of its efforts to improve our community and to our WEC employees who volunteer their time to work with the WiregrassUnited Way. We strive to help make our Wiregrass community a better place to call home.Our efforts in broadband will continue in2020 because we believe that is one of the mosteffective ways we can improve. We made greatprogress in 2019, but more work still needs tobe done. We have said it before, and we willsay it again: Our goal is to bring broadband toevery WEC member, and we won’t stop working until that happens.Everything listed in this column is something our cooperative does to improve thecommunity. We put such an emphasis oncommunity development because we want toimprove the lives of our members who live inthese communities. Simply put, we do this foryou — our members.Improving your life has been our goal formore than 80 years, and we plan to continuethat in 2020. Going the extra mile at WECis what we do, because “Just Enough, Isn’tEnough.” That’s “The Wiregrass Way.” nwww.alabamaliving.coop

BE PREPARED TO HELP USBEAT THE PEAKJanuary can sometimes be a difficult month. The holiday season is over and the weatherturns cold in the Wiregrass. Those cold days can also lead to high energy bills. But yourcooperative is here to help, and we need you, too.When temperatures drop below freezing, high energy demand can put Wiregrass Electricin danger of exceeding its peak energy forecasts. When that happens, your energy bill canincrease.However, you can help WEC beat the peak and keep your energy bills low.Be sure to like and follow WEC on Facebook and Twitter. WEC uses these pages tocommunicate with members when there is a peak demand alert.What is peak demand?Cold temperatures can affect the price ofelectricity. WEC neither produces nor operatespower plants. Instead, it purchases electricitywholesale for its members from its generationand transmission partner, PowerSouth EnergyCooperative.Wholesale energy pricing depends on theconcept of peak demand, which refers to thetime of day of the greatest electricity demand.This is also when PowerSouth must supply themost power.The more energy needed during those peaktimes, such as an extremely cold day, the morelikely it is to increase prices for WEC and itsmembers.Members can do several things to help offsetenergy usage during those peaks, which usuallycome in the early morning hours during thewinter.How can members help?Here are a few guidelines to help us avoidexceeding our energy usage during the winterpeak hours of 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Keep your thermostat set to 68 degreesduring the winter months. Take showers at night to avoid heating waterduring peak times. Run your dishwasher and washing machinesduring off-peak hours. Limit the use of TVs, gaming consoles,computers and unnecessary lighting duringpeak hours. nWEC Service AreaContact InformationMailing address509 N. State Hwy 167P.O. Box 158, Hartford, AL 36344Phone1-800-239-4602Toll Free Outage “Hotline”1-888-4-MY-OUTAGE1-888-469-6882(24 hrs/day)Websitewww.wiregrass.coopFind us here:Find Wiregrass Electric Co-op on Twitter(@WEC2), Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.Payment OptionsBY MAILWiregrass Electric Cooperative Inc.Department 1340, P.O. Box 2153Birmingham, AL 35287-1340WEBSITEPayments may be made 24 hrs/day by Visa,MasterCard, Discover, American Express andE-Check on our website at www.wiregrass.coop.PHONE PAYMENTSPayments may be made any time by dialing1-800-239-4602.NIGHT DEPOSITORYAvailable at each office location.IN PERSONMon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Payment kiosks alsoavailable 24/7 in all offices.Hartford509 N. State Hwy. 167 Hartford, AL 36344Samson13148 W. State Hwy. 52 Samson, AL 36477Ashford1066 Ashford Highway Ashford, AL 36312Dothan6167 Fortner St. Dothan, AL 36305For questions regarding sanitation service,call Houston County Sanitation Departmentat 334-677-4781 or Dothan City Sanitation at334-615-3820.Alabama LivingJANUARY 2020 5

Brandee Lukas and Lifted HigherMinistries recently used the 1,000donation from Operation Round Upto purchase Christmas presents forelderly in the Wiregrass.PROVIDING EXTRA HELPLifted Higher Ministries earns Silent Heroes award from WEC in DecemberWhen Brandee and Adam Lukasbecame foster parents years ago, it begana journey that transformed their lives —and the lives of many others — in unexpected ways.“Through having our first foster childin the home years back, we saw areas inthe foster care system that could haveused some extra help,” Brandee Lukassays. “God was showing us areas where hewanted to be present.”The couple formed Lifted Higher Ministries, which in two years has assisted about300 people in various ways. Those effortsare why Wiregrass Electric Cooperative’sOperation Round Up Charitable Foundation and WTVY News 4 in Dothanselected them as the December SilentHeroes of the Wiregrass winner. Operation Round Up also presented the organization with 1,000 as part of the program.That donation was put to great use asLukas and Evergreen Presbyterian Churchin Dothan purchased Christmas presentsfor the elderly in the Wiregrass.“Brandee and her husband, you seetheir hearts are in the right place,” says6 JANUARY 2020Brad Kimbro, Wiregrass Electric’s chiefoperating officer. “They want to make apositive difference in our community. Thatis what the Operation Round Up Foundation is all about.”“This cause is very near and dear tome because I truly believe everything inour society starts with families. If we canfix that, then everything is good,” saysSpencer Bienvenu, WTVY News 4 vicepresident and general manager. “They areexactly what we’re looking for in this program.”To view the Silent Heroes presentationvisit WEC’s Facebook page.Learning from experienceAfter becoming foster parents themselves a few years ago, the Lukases noticedsome gaps in services that governmentalorganizations could not address.“The system would offer parentingclasses, and these parents would attendthree or four of those classes,” BrandeeLukas says. “Without their kids in theircustody, though, they didn’t really get toapply those lessons.”The Lukases began to provide transportation to and from supervised visits forbiological parents whose children werein the foster care system. They also organized some of the supervised visits, whichthe Lukases conducted at area churches soparents and children could interact morecomfortably.The time spent on those visits and trips— some of which could take a couple ofhours — allowed the Lukases to forgedeep relationships with biological parents. They aimed to teach parents “how tocreate good patterns” in their lives, Lukassays. In turn, those patterns would allowbirth parents to provide more stable environments for their children in the future.“We come alongside to do life withthem, to love on them, and to be therewith them to get them reunified with theirchildren,” Lukas says.Creating structureEventually, the Lukases decided tohandle those tasks through a nonprofitorganization, and Brandee Lukas is thedirector. In January 2018, they began thewww.alabamaliving.coop

process of creating Lifted Higher Ministries, and local Department of HumanResources offices and other organizationsreached out for their services once it wasestablished the following month.As of mid-September, Lifted Higherhad helped 252 people in HoustonCounty, 26 in Henry County and threein Dale County — although that numberincreased greatly after Lifted Higher provided Christmas gifts to more than 40seniors in December.That recent project reflects how muchLifted Higher has grown in just two years.Expanding beyond reconnecting families,Lifted Higher now aids the elderly in several ways, including home improvementprojects if needed.“We had one elderly client who wasgoing to be evicted from her home,” Lukassays. “She had lived there for 20 years,but she had severe arthritis. She couldn’ttake care of the home. She wasn’t passingthe government housing inspections, sowe came in with a team. We organized,cleaned and went to town on her place.The inspection was the next day, and shepassed.”All of the services Lifted Higher provides come at a cost, which is why Lukascherished the Silent Heroes gift.“This is amazing. I am just so humbledthat Wiregrass Electric thought of us, andit’s such a blessing for us,” she says. “Wedo Christmas presents for the elderlyfor Dale County and Houston Countythrough DHR. It couldn’t come at a bettertime. Words can’t explain how thankfulwe are.”Rounding up hopeWiregrass Electric members makeBrandee and Adam Lukas beganLifted Higher Ministries to bridgethe gap in foster care services.Alabama LivingCarolyn Merrill, left, and RileyPhillips help wrap gifts.Pictured from left are WTVY anchor Reginald Jones, Brandee Lukas, WECCOO Brad Kimbro and WTVY Vice President and General Manager SpencerBienvenue at the taping of Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass.JANUARY 2020 7

possible gifts like the ones the Lukasesreceived through their participation inthe Operation Round Up program. Eachmonth, more than 85% of Wiregrass Electric’s customers opt to round their billsup to the nearest dollar to provide fundsfor the Operation Round Up CharitableFoundation, Kimbro says. “We appreciateour members’ participation in the Operation Round Up program. Our membersare helping change lives for the better inour Wiregrass area.”The foundation then provides scholarships and grants in an effort to improvethe Wiregrass community. The programgenerates about 120,000 annually, Kimbro notes.To support Lifted Higher Ministries,visit liftedhigherministries.org or maila check to P.O. Box 492, Headland, AL36345. The organization also acceptsdonations of car seats, toys, diapers, furniture, mattresses and other similar itemssince it provides those to biological parents who need them to establish a properresidence before reunifying with theirchildren.For more information, call or textLifted Higher Ministries at 248-3428488 or email [email protected] nClark Brezina and MagnusEck unload gifts to bewrapped at EvergreenPresbyterian Church.Magnus Eckhelps wrapgifts for theelderly atEvergreenPresbyterianChurch inDothan.LIFTED HIGHER MINISTRIES SERVICES 8 JANUARY 2020Parent Support Program — birth parent mentorshipBirth parents/children transportationBirthday meals for foster children and birth parentsMeal Blessing Program — meals for foster parents when new child arrivesHousing assistance for birth parentsHelping birth parents furnish a new residenceElderly assistance with transportation, groceries and other tasksFoster parent training seminars (Henry County)Educational events for foster children (Houston County)Partnering with various other organizations to provide assistance as neededwww.alabamaliving.coop

YAWSSARUGHEGORNIETW’THE NOUGH ISNJUST EAmber Knight and the rest of the WEC member care team goabove and beyond to ensure they make members’ cooperativeexperience a pleasant one. From providing a warm smile tooffering snacks in each office lobby to making phone calls tomembers who may see an increase on their monthly bill, WECmakes sure that it cares for its members.Going above and beyond is something WEC employeesproudly do each day because “just enough” isn’t enough.This is The Wiregrass Way.THE WAY WE CARE FOR OUR MEMBERS50 JANUARY 2020www.alabamaliving.coop

You may haveunclaimedcapital credits!Find out today onWEC’s websiteDoing business with Wiregrass Electric is different than otherplaces you do business with. WEC is a not-for-profit businessthat operates at cost. Revenues above the cost of doing business,known as margins, are allocated to our members annually inthe form of capital credits. If the financial condition of thecooperative will not be impaired, the WEC board of trusteescan elect to retire capital credits to members.WEC has retired nearly 12.4 million of capital credits tomembers in the history of the cooperative. This year, more than 1.096 million in margins was retired from the cooperative’sperformance in 1997. Credits began appearing on the monthlystatements of active members in September. Returns for nonactivemembers were mailed around Oct. 1.To view your current capital credit allocation per year visit wiregrass.coop. On the homepage, you can find a link to view this through WEC’s memberportal section.Sometimes, members don’t receive their capital credit checks because of an incorrect or out-of-dateaddress. If you think this might have happened to you, please visit ts/unclaimed.Here you can view a list to find out if you have unclaimed capital credits and how you can claim them. nApply for the 2020 Youth Tour today!Helping area students thrive is one way WEC demonstrates a dedication to its members and communities. TheYouth Tour program is a leading example of that commitment to the leaders of tomorrow.Each year, WEC selects 10 high school juniors, each adependent of a WEC member, for the Montgomery YouthTour March 10-12. Those students visit the state Capitolfor a firsthand look at our state’s history and the role theelectric cooperatives have played in that history. Studentsalso visit Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church,listen to motivational speakers and meet their local lawmakers. Each student also receives a 500 scholarship.From those 10 students, three are selected to attend theWashington, D.C., Youth Tour in June. Those studentsvisit our nation’s capital, museums and monuments. Also,they receive an additional 500 scholarship.Trip expenses for both the Montgomery and Washington, D.C., Youth Tour are paid by WEC.Time is running out but there is still time toapply. Applications must be submitted by Friday, Jan. 11. Applications can be found online abama LivingJANUARY 2020 51

509 N. State Hwy. 167 Hartford, AL 36344 Samson 13148 W. State Hwy. 52 Samson, AL 36477 Ashford 1066 Ashford Highway Ashford, AL 36312 Dothan 6167 Fortner St. Dothan, AL 36305 For questions regarding sanitation service, call Houston County Sanitation Department at 334-677-4781 or