Welcome to FreeState, Earl
Hello, my friends! My name is Earl, Earl the Elephant. Many of you may have already seen me around a bit— you know, the big gray cute and cuddly face showing up on your news feeds, magazines, and flyers? That’s me! I know an elephant working among electricity and lineman may seem odd, but it does work. It all started a few months ago on my sixteenth birthday when I became a mature young elephant bull and I had to leave my family and herd behind to go off on my own as most male elephants do. (#Adulting am I right?) Anyway, I was born and raised in the rainforests of Nepal, India into a magnificent herd of elephants I am lucky enough to call family. I loved it. All of the memories and adventures we had, but the time had come where my herd had grown too large for all of us to survive efficiently so I ventured off on my own and eventually found my friends at FreeState Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Everything FreeState stands for and cares about was so similar to my herd back home in India I couldn’t believe it! Did you know FreeState has seven cooperative principles they are dedicated to upholding for their members? It’s true! Once I realized they had the same core values I was raised within my herd, I knew I couldn't leave. FreeState is my new family and I am the new face of all things FreeState! How exactly is FreeState and an elephant so similar?
Let me explain through each of the seven cooperative principles.
Voluntary and Open Membership
Cooperative membership is open to all! Anyone who gets service from FreeState is welcome to join our cooperative — just like in an elephant herd. Of course, most herds are formed by birth of family members, but non-related elephants sometimes want to join our herd and become a part of the family and we accept them as our own. Even when a baby becomes an orphan, older members will adopt and care for them as long as needed.
Democratic Member Control
While the eldest female in the herd is usually the head elephant, she depends heavily on the rest of the herd to maintain order. The head female helps guide younger elephants and protects them. Without the rest of the herd’s cooperation and help, she would fail. She takes on this role as leader to ensure the success of the herd. See how this reflects on cooperatives? Without our members, FreeState would cease to exist. We are here for our members.
Member’s Economic Participation
Obviously, elephants don’t use monetary means to creating a life for ourselves, but we do contribute similar acts of collaboration and contribution. FreeState members contribute through capital to keep the cooperative running efficiently. The cooperative works to keep consumer costs low, and if there is money left over we return it back to the members in the form of capital credits. How cool is that? Look at our worlds coming together to help others.
Autonomy and Independence
FreeState works with other cooperatives and provides member communications (The Outlet) through our statewide office, Kansas Electric Cooperative, Inc. They are an independent and self-governing cooperative always looking out for their members. My family was the same way. While there are times my herd would seek assistance from other herds, the eldest female was always the leader who guided the rest of us into the right direction. Both just want their families to be successful and protected.
Education, Training, and Information
My favorite part of FreeState— Youth Tour! Oh, the joy in helping young minds learn and explore. Cooperatives have always been committed to providing opportunities to develop leadership skills for a lifetime, and FreeState is no different. Between community events, Government in Action Youth Tour, Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp, and more, we love inspiring the next generation of leaders. Once again, another similarity they have to my family back in Asia as elephants are born with little to no survival instincts. It’s up to the older members to teach them and help them along with patience and understanding.
Cooperation among cooperatives
Back home, most herds are made up of related family members who will stay with the herd for the remainder of our life. However, there are times we have too many elephants in the herd and our environment can’t keep up. This means some of us have to leave and start herds of our own. This doesn’t mean we don’t stay in touch, though! Our rumbles and trumpets can be heard and recognized by our families in other herds from miles away. We may be a separate herd, just as FreeState is it’s own cooperative, but our related herds are always there to say hello or warn us of near danger, just like our sister cooperatives across Kansas and the United States.
Concern for community
Remember all of those cute videos circulating your news feeds on the baby elephant stuck in the mud, and several other elephants came to help the little guy out? It’s because of the bonds we form with each other and the concern we have for the other members of our family. Just like my family here at FreeState has for their members and the communities they serve. FreeState works hard to ensure they help out whenever they are needed. This is my favorite part about joining the FreeState family because it reminds me of home with the love and passion they show their members through soap drives, community events, fundraisers, and, my favorite, youth programs!
Stay tuned. I’ll be back, and I’m excited to share my next FreeState adventure with you.