Cultivating the Seeds of Safety

The 2018 National Farm Safety & Health Week will take place September 16 – 22, 2018. With harvest just around the corner, it is more important than ever to take preventative measures to stay safe.

Agriculture and specifically farming continue to rank as one of the most hazardous industries in the U.S. Over 400 farmers and farm workers die from work related injuries and many of those are related to tractor over turns. Effective farm safety management is key to having a safe and bountiful harvest. Follow these safety tips:

• Develop a “safety first” attitude. Follow safe work practices at all times.

• Be physically and mentally fit before operating equipment. Fatigue, stress and worry can distract you from safely operating equipment. Take frequent breaks.

• Pay attention to all safety information. Read the operator’s manual and heed warning decals. Inspect the equipment and correct any hazards prior to operating the equipment.

• Identify hazardous areas on equipment and make sure you stay away from moving parts. Beware of pinch points, shear points, wrap points, pull-in areas, thrown objects, crush points, stored energy hazards and freewheeling parts.

• Make sure everyone who operates the equipment has the appropriate training.

• Shut down the equipment, turn off the engine, remove key and wait for moving parts to stop before dismounting.

• Keep bystanders and others away from equipment operation area. Do not allow “extra riders”, especially children.

• Make sure PTO shields and safety locks are operational.

• Prominently display “Slow Moving Vehicle” signage and check that lights are functioning properly.

• Always have a fire extinguisher readily available and easily accessible.


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People to Know: Bill Hoffschneider

• Quick Wit
• Neat Handwriting
• Engaging Smile

Bill began his cooperative career as an apprentice lineman in 1985. While still in high school, his drafting teacher at Rantoul High School, saw a talent in Bill and encouraged him to use his drafting skills. Bill’s first job was working for the Village of Rantoul at the power plant. A close family friend worked for Illini Electric and encouraged Bill to join the cooperative. For 33 years he’s been serving members and providing his expertise to assist in the delivery and management of safe, reliable electricity. Bill is one of two remaining Illini Electric employees who were part of the 1987 merger that joined together Eastern Illinois Power and Illini Electric.

Bill’s coworkers really like working with him. They describe him as knowledgeable and dedicated. They enjoy his great sense of humor and they are a bit envious of his creativity. If you need a document completed with neat handwriting, take it to Bill. Handwriting is more than just a form of communication. For Bill, it is part of his identity along with his quick wit and engaging smile.

In his current role, Bill is an engineering technician/serviceman. On most days, he’s busy meeting with electrical or building contractors to make sure new builds, upgrades and renovations are completed to specifications. Bill has a great deal of interaction with members daily. They have come to rely on Bill for accurate, complete and insightful answers to their questions. His job often involves talking to township road commissioners and community leaders throughout the Eastern Illini territory. Implementing the annual EIEC work plan for pole rebuilds involves Bill staking out all the lines, so crews can do installation and upgrades.

Bill’s favorite part of his job is talking to members. He likes meeting new people and building business relationships. He’s found out over the years that asking the right questions and engaging in dialogue works best and builds long lasting rapport. The most challenging part of his position is having to have hard conversations explaining and justifying policies and procedures. Safety is a top priority with Bill and his decision making begins with making sure members and employees are always safe. Bill wants members to be aware of the power lines around their homes and property. He’s seen farming equipment become more expansive over the years and it is so important to stay safe around electrical poles and lines.

Bill feels blessed to work at Eastern Illini. He is truly appreciative that the board of directors and senior leadership are committed to safety and to providing the tools, equipment and training needed to work effectively and efficiently.

Bill was fortunate enough to be able to help with the cleanup after Hurricane Katrina. He was dispatched with a crew that provided assistance in Picayune, MS. Bill worked long hours cleaning up downed trees and restoring power. The people of Picayune were extremely appreciative. Even though devastation was widespread, their spirit and attitude remained positive. Bill had the opportunity to assist Sonny and Elaine Smith while in Picayune and Elaine prepared some delicious home cooked meals that were enjoyed by the linemen. To this day, Eastern Illini still receives a Christmas card from Sonny and Elaine.

Each year around Thanksgiving, Bill and his wife Renee, make their annual trek to Gatlinburg, TN where they enjoy the scenic views, majestic mountains and tranquil log cabin accommodations. They relax, listen to blue grass music and enjoy all that the Great Smokey Mountains have to offer.

In his spare time, Bill keeps busy farming his in-laws farmground and helping out neighbors during harvest time. He is a member of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Gifford where he currently serves as a trustee and is the 2018 Chairman of the Church Council.

Bill and his wife Renee, have three daughters: Jennifer, Holly and Hope and five grandchildren. He also has a big old Bloodhound named Red who weighs over 100 lbs. and keeps him company.

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Jason Barickman receives Illinois Electric Cooperatives’ Public Service Award

 At the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives’ annual meeting, held Thursday, July 26, State Senator Jason Barickman, R-53rd District, received the 2018 Illinois Electric Cooperatives’ Public Service Award. The award was made in recognition of Senator Barickman’s dedicated public service to all citizens of the state of Illinois and for outstanding contributions to the rural electrification program.

Senator Barickman has served in the Illinois Senate since 2013, and he serves as the Assistant Republican Leader. He previously represented the 105th District in the Illinois House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013.

“Senator Jason Barickman has been a friend to Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative for some time.” said Mike Wilson, vice president of member & community relations of Eastern Illini Electric. “He is always willing to work with us with on issues important to electric cooperatives, and he is a valued partner in our efforts to help improve the quality of life in rural east central Illinois.”

Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative is a member of Touchstone Energy — an alliance of 750 local, consumer-owned electric utilities around the country. Eastern Illini is a member-owned rural electric cooperative based in Paxton, Ill. that supplies electricity to approximately 13,500 meters over 4,500 miles of line in parts of Champaign, Douglas, Edgar, Ford, Iroquois, Livingston, McLean, Moultrie, Piatt and Vermilion. Eastern Illini is member driven and community focused providing connections to powerful solutions.

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Eastern Illini is Hiring


Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, an electric distribution cooperative in Paxton, Illinois, is seeking qualified candidates for a full-time member care representative (MCR).  The MCR communicates, assists and furnishes information regarding programs, products, rates, regulations, policies and practices to members of the Cooperative.  The MCR establishes and maintains member records.

Qualified candidates must have six years of successful progressively responsible experience dealing and working with the public in a customer service related environment.  A two year college degree with emphasis in communications or business related field is preferred.  Qualified candidates must possess an effective working knowledge of computer data processing software for maintaining billing and consumer records; strong communication skills; good analytical skills; the ability to coordinate multiple work assignments; and demonstrate a positive attitude.

Pre-employment background check, physical and drug screen are required.

Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative offers a competitive salary with excellent benefits.   Applications are available at www.eiec.coop.  Send completed application to Human Resources, Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative, PO Box 96, Paxton, Illinois 60957 or human.resources@eiec.coop.  Deadline for applicants is October 5, 2018.   Eastern Illini is an equal opportunity employer.



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Message From The President: Dog Days of Summer

message from the presidentThe calendar has turned to August and crops are rapidly maturing. Some refer to the early to mid-August hot and humid weather as the dog days of summer (what did dogs do to deserve this comparison). Students will soon be returning to school and will start participating in related activities.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Jerry Haile, and his wife Cindy. Jerry recently retired from EIEC after nearly 30 years of service! Jerry held various positions during his tenure (the last of which was an area serviceman), all of which involved daily contact with members. Thank you, Jerry, for your loyalty, dedication, and hard work on behalf of members over many years, and for your friendship. Jerry’s efforts moved the cooperative forward in many areas. We wish them good health and the best in retirement.

At the June EIEC Board meeting, your Directors voted to both allocate and pay out another round of capital credits to members. These capital credits represent members’ contribution to equity in EIEC. This equity provides funding to help operate, maintain, and upgrade cooperative facilities, while helping to reduce borrowing costs. Member economic participation is one of the seven cooperative principles that contribute to a unique business model.

The amount of your equity contribution for the prior year is shown annually on the August bill statement. Take a moment and look for your 2017 calendar year allocation on your August statement. In the cooperative not-for-profit business model, current allocated margins (such as 2017 above) are returned to the members in a future period, typically within 25 – 30 years, based on your board of directors’ assessment of the financial condition of your cooperative at that time.

This coming November, EIEC will return nearly $1.6 million in capital credits in cash to members from amounts that were previously allocated and capital credits will have been returned to the members for years up to and including 1991. We are progressing toward achieving a 25-year payback cycle by 2020.

EIEC and its predecessor co-ops have paid back more than $17.5 million to members since our formation over 80 years ago. If you have questions about the capital credit process or anything else, please give us a call at 800-854-5102. We are happy to assist.

Halfway through the year, EIEC energy sales to members are ahead of budget by nearly 8 percent, and expenses to date are below budget as well. We will keep you informed of Board decisions on various options that may be considered to utilize any surplus margins, should this trend continue.

Thank you for allowing EIEC to be your local and trusted energy provider.

Please stay cool and safe!

Bob Hunzinger

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Enhancing Electric Resiliency

According to a recent reliability report, 67% of electrical outage minutes were weather related, with contributing factors of lightning (6%), weather (31%), and vegetation (30%), typically due to wind, ice, or snow encountering power lines, poles and transformers.

Resiliency of the grid is an important concept being discussed in the electric industry today. This concept recently made headlines in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which caused extraordinary damage to Puerto Rico’s electric grid resulting in the longest sustained outage in U.S. history. Lack of resilience became the go-to phrase to describe Puerto Rico’s grid. Here in Illinois, what does grid resiliency mean for you?

Resiliency is many things – it’s reliability in your electric service, it’s our ability to efficiently restore your power, it’s being able to meet the demands of new technology and it’s how we serve you with various generation sources without skipping a beat. Ultimately, resilience is how we deliver on our promise to improve your quality of life.

When it comes to having a resilient electric grid, it begins with a system that is designed and built to withstand high winds, powerful storms, cybersecurity threats and other disruptions that could result in outages. A resilient grid is also flexible and adaptable by allowing different types of generation – such as wind, solar, coal and hydro – to seamlessly work together to provide you with safe and reliable power. The way our systems react to advancements in technology – from demand response investments to serving the needs of electric vehicles – all factor into the resilience of our grid.

Resiliency is a 24/7, 365-days-a-year task. Whether it’s the power lines, substations or generation facilities on our grid, it takes proactive maintenance to keep them running smoothly.

With thousands of consumers without power for months, the lack of resiliency in Puerto Rico’s power grid wasn’t solely caused by hurricane damage; it was the result of years of neglect in taking care of their system and preparing for a worst-case scenario.

In a similar way to how we maintain our vehicles with regular oil changes, inspections and tire rotations, a grid must also be properly maintained.

Maintaining our 4,520 miles of line takes hard working, dedicated employees who make safety and reliability a priority every day. Employees provide service to over 13,500 meters in a ten county area of East Central Illinois. Throughout the year, our employees regularly conduct pole and line inspections. Our ultimate goal is to find a problem before it becomes one. If we find a pole that has damage, we replace that pole. Doing so ensures that the pole is as strong – or as resilient – as it can be.

We strive to prevent problems and our goal is to always restore power as quickly as possible. Our aim is to have a system that can survive even the most devastating situations.

Living in Illinois, we know that power outages can occur, especially during spring and summer storm seasons. We have confidence in the resiliency of our system to recover from the situation with minor disruption.

In the dictionary, resilience is defined as “the ability to bounce back, recover quickly and go back into shape or position after being stretched.”

When it comes to providing our members with resilient service, this is what we work toward – day in and day out!


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Eight Tips for Eating Well

– Eat lots of fruit and vegetables.
– Eat more fish.
– Cut down on saturated fat and sugar.
– Try to eat less salt, less than 6 grams/day.
– Get active.
– Maintain a healthy weight.
– Drink plenty of water.
– Don’t skip breakfast.


Instead of focusing on what to remove from your meals, try adding a few new habits to make your meals healthier!

Add more vegetables the easy and tasty way. Grab the microwavable steam bags from the freezer section and top with your favorite herbs or a sprinkle of cheese. If you don’t enjoy soft vegetables, consider hard vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots or sweet potatoes. Wash, cut into bite-size pieces, toss in a little olive oil, salt, garlic and herbs then roast at in the oven at 425 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes for crunchy-tender veggies.

Sautéed veggies, like mushrooms, peppers, onions and other favorites, add flavor to your eggs and provide nutrients to power your day. If you like avocado, add it to your sandwich for a dose of healthy fats and good cholesterol. Not a fan of vegetables at all? Consider hiding your veggies in pasta sauce or meatballs. It’s easy to search on-line for “hidden vegetable recipes” that will be sure to please even the pickiest eater.

Instead of refined flour pasta, try whole grain or legume-based pastas, like chickpea or black bean. These pastas are higher in fiber, which can help you feel fuller longer. You can even mix them half and half with traditional pasta. Add more protein and fiber to your diet by trying quinoa instead of rice. Though the calorie counts are similar, quinoa has more protein and fiber than brown rice. When sautéing, replace butter or coconut oil with olive oil to trade saturated fats for healthier fats.

A great way to beat the mid-afternoon sugar craving is to keep apples, tangerines, berries or another favorite fruit on-hand to satisfy your need for sugar; eat fruit with peanut or almond butter for extra protein and fat to keep you feeling full after your snack.

If you‘re craving chocolate, try a vanilla or chocolate Greek yogurt and add some dark chocolate chips, nuts and berries. You’ll feel like you’re indulging while giving your body important nutrients.

Drink more water. Increasing your water intake can help curb cravings, boost your energy and support every single system in your body, including your immune system. By drinking more water, you’ll likely think clearer, digest food easier and your joints and muscles will feel better.

Eating well takes just a few new habits that will enhance your health and well being.



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Summer Energy Savings

Summertime means vacations are in full swing. If you  are planning an extended vacation – one wee or more, there are several simple steps you can take to save energy.

Turn down the temperature on your water heater. Water heating accounts for as much as 20 percent of annual energy costs. No sense heating the water if you are not home to use it. Instead of the recommended setting of 120 degrees F, lower the temperature 10-20 degrees or turn the control knob to “vacation mode.”

Set your thermostat (programmable or manual) at a higher temperature than usual. Again, no sense cooling your home if you’re not there. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends setting your air conditioning system thermostat at 85 degrees so the AC will occasionally turn on to remove the humidity. Turning up your thermostat to 85 degrees could lower your bill by 35 percent a week. If you have pets, 85 degrees will still be cool enough to keep them comfortable while you are away.

Some smaller things to lower bills include shutting the blinds and curtains to keep the sun from heating up your home. Turn off power strips and unplug small appliances.

Make sure all lights are turned off. For lights on a security timer, use energy-efficient LED lights. The timer will ensure that your lights will be on for a short amount of time versus using energy all day.

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Keep Calm and Drive a John Deere

Smitten with John Deere’s iconic green and yellow colors, you’ll find Jeff Blackford, an Eastern Illini serviceman, on a John Deere tractor, repairing and restoring John Deere tractors, collecting John Deere tractors and driving John Deere tractors in local tractor pulls. Some say that Jeff bleeds green.

There are many similarities between John Deere and Jeff. The saying goes, Nothing Runs Like a Deere, and that sums up Jeff as well. He’s extremely reliable and can always be depended on. He comes through for members every day without fail. His job responsibilities cover a wide array of tasks. Outages are always his number one priority. He also gives precedence to on-going maintenance of poles, lines, meters and electric systems in his territory which spans from Mahomet to Potomac. You’ll find him outside of Gifford one day fixing a security light and in Osman the next, doing a JULIE locate.

One great example of Jeff’s dependability happened December 24, 2017, when most people were spending time with their families drinking eggnog, opening presents and eating Christmas cookies. Jeff was called out to an auto accident when a driver’s vehicle slid on ice and hit a utility pole. Not just any utility pole, but a three breaker, double dead-end pole an hour from headquarters. After addressing the injuries of the driver and securing the safety of the area, Jeff went about restoring power in the ice, cold and snow. He worked as quickly as possible, because members in the area were out of power. Jeff met the challenge of restoring power head on and the lights were on for Christmas.

Jeff began working at Eastern Illini as summer help in 1989. He became an EIEC employee in October 1992 and has spent his 25-year career assisting members. He wants members to know employees at EIEC pride themselves on being responsive. Everyone at Eastern Illini has the goal of restoring power as quickly as possible. Jeff also wants members who farm to know that today’s agricultural equipment is expansive and it’s important to be cognizant of power lines when moving equipment. This past fall, Jeff was called to a location when tillage equipment became entangled with power lines. The farmer waited in his tractor until Jeff arrived and was able to cut power and the farmer could safely exit.

When Eastern Illini decided to restore the antique digger truck a few years ago, Jeff used his many talents to assist with that monumental undertaking. The repainting of the truck took place in his father’s shop on the family farm.

When he’s not assisting members, Jeff himself farms near Rankin. He raises corn, soybeans and goats. When he’s not in the field farming, he tinkers on his John Deere Model A tractor that has been passed down from his grandfather, Raymond Blackford. The Model A is just one of Jeff’s many treasured tractors. He won’t divulge exactly how many tractors he owns, but let’s just say he could probably host his own tractor show.

Jeff is the son of EIEC members Dean and Phyllis Blackford. Jeff and his dad are very involved in the I & I Tractor Club. Jeff has three children who have followed in his footsteps and are passionate about agriculture. His daughter Kirsten teaches ag at PBL High School and his other children Katie and Andy are pursuing agricultural degrees as well.

There is a song by Don Walser that sums up Jeff Blackford’s love of John Deere tractors. The lyrics are: “Well, I work an old John Deere tractor every day, plowin’, plantin’ crops and cuttin’ hay. Well, the good Lord knows that I wouldn’t want it any other way. The good Lord gave this country boy a place to run and play and work his old John Deere tractor every day.”

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