People to Know: Melinda Kinney


Member care is about how you help your members with their needs and assist them in solving problems.

Melinda Kinney has been taking good care of Eastern Illini members for 17 years and she recently has been promoted to a new position at EIEC taking care of employees as Human Resources/Payroll Assistant.

Her years of experience have taught her a great deal about business and working with people. She strives to troubleshoot problems before they happen and uses her expertise to resolve situations before they escalate. Her extensive knowledge about electric service terminology, billing practices and cooperative policies and procedures provide powerful insights that benefit members.

Melinda has made a career at Eastern Illini because she enjoys the family-like work environment. Everyone knows everyone, and we work together to help members. She wants members to know that being part of a cooperative and being member-owned does make a difference. Every member has a vote and they can vocalize their comments and concerns with the board of directors and vote at annual meetings.

During her career, Melinda has seen the greatest change in technology and how members interact with EIEC. In 2001, she processed paper payments, opened bills and handled checks. When power bills were due each month, member care representatives’ work load transitioned from answering calls to opening envelopes. These days, members communicate with the cooperative in whatever way works best for them – email, online, phone call or face-to-face. Melinda predicts that technology will continue to progress, and members will be interacting with Eastern Illini in new and innovative ways in the future.

One of the more challenging aspects of Melinda’s work as a member care representative had to do with members who struggled to make ends meet. She often suggested they contact external resources that may be able to provide financial assistance. She also offered energy audits from the Eastern Illini energy specialist who provided energy efficiency recommendations.

Melinda lives in Paxton with her husband, Randy. She has two children, Josh (Laura) and Rachel (Chris) and two grandchildren, Marilyn and Lantz. In her spare time, Melinda enjoys spending time with her
grandchildren and traveling. One of her most recent adventures was an unforgettable, high-flying journey on a zip line. She says it was thrilling, but she prefers keeping her feet in the white sands of the beaches in Destin, Florida.

Melinda likes vacations that are relaxing. She recommends a trip to Beaver Island, Michigan via the ferry as it is a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of a busy life. Her bucket list includes a trip to Alaska and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Melinda’s next adventure is a weekend trip to Grafton, Illinois to take in the autumn leaves, tour a winery, and spend quality time with her sisters.

uring the holiday season, Melinda can be found baking cinnamon rolls with family and friends. Near Christmas, they all gather at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and start the process of baking 24 dozen cinnamon rolls using a favorite family recipe. It is an all day event that takes all hands on deck.

This family tradition started in 2003 and creates not only 288 cinnamon rolls, but lasting memories, that draws her six siblings closer together. She jokes about the time the cooks got ahead of themselves and delivered a pan of frosted, uncooked cinnamon rolls to a neighbor who was surprised when she bit into the raw dough!

Melinda’s mom, Betty, the family matriarch, always taste tested the first cinnamon roll out of the oven. Betty passed away earlier this fall, so the custom of baking cinnamon rolls this Christmas will be bitter sweet, but in honor of her mother, the tradition will continue on for years to come.

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2019 Empowering Education Grant Program Announcement

Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative is proud to continue our Empowering Education Grant Program for the 2018/19 school year. As a reminder, Empowering Education grants award up to $500 to each and every school district within our service territory each year. It is designed to help fund projects that will inspire and benefit students and may otherwise go unfunded.

We ask that you promote the Empowering Education Grant Program to teachers, so they can take advantage of this funding source for their innovative projects. The deadline for applying is December 14, 2018. Grants will be awarded beginning in early 2019.

Here are a few more details we’d like to share with you.

  • The Empowering Education Grant Program does not necessarily need to be energy or electricity related.
  • The maximum amount of each grant is $500.
  • Any teacher who teaches grades K-12 at any public or private school located in Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative’s service territory may apply.
  • The application is available online at http://www.eiec.org/community/eeg-application/
  • In the application process, we are looking for a description of the project along with details about how the project will creatively impact students.
  • One grant will be awarded to each school district in our service territory. If funding allows, though, we may be able to award multiple grants to deserving districts.

We’d also like to highlight some of our other education opportunities. For high schools, we will work with staff and/or science classes to perform energy audits for your school, to help identify areas for potential energy savings. For younger grades, we offer electrical safety presentations and STEM-certified electricity circuit instructional guides.

For more information about the Empowering Education Grant Program, or any of other offerings, please contact Mike Wilson directly at 217-379-0461 or mike.wilson@eiec.coop.


We hope your teachers will take advantage of our Empowering Education Grant Program!

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Take the survey now for a chance to win one of 10 $25 bill credits!

Complete our survey for a chance to win one of 10 $25 bill credits!

Please take a few minutes to complete this survey. All surveys that are submitted will be eligible to win one the bill credit!

The survey is also on page 3 of the October PowerLines newsletter that was included in your electric bill. If you already filled out the paper version, there’s no need to do this online version, too. Thank you for taking time to provide feedback. Your input is greatly appreciated.


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Message from the President: EIEC: Part of a Larger Movement

October is national cooperative month. Did you know there are nearly 30,000 cooperatives in the U.S.? There are generally three types of cooperatives; producer, purchasing, and consumer. The 30,000 cooperatives include 350 million memberships! Cooperatives have come a long way since their founding in 1844 in England by the Rochdale pioneers.

Eastern Illini is an electric cooperative with over 11,000 members. We are one of nearly 900 cooperatives that provide electric service in 47 states. Nearly 13 percent of U.S. meters are members of electric cooperatives. U.S. electric cooperatives own and maintain 2.6 million miles of line, or 42 percent of the nations’ distribution lines, covering 56 percent of the geographic territory.

All cooperatives abide by seven cooperative principles. A few of these principles can be boiled down to local control and involvement, namely open and voluntary membership, democratic member control and concern for community. In a nation and world that seems to be becoming increasingly chaotic, it is comforting to know that your electric service provider has stability and staying power. After all, we have been in existence for over 80 years providing safe and reliable service.

As you know, EIEC has a large territory with a rather sparse population; however, within our footprint there are many communities and related organizations. We are increasing our efforts to reach out and improve our community focus. Kenney Davenport, a new employee, has been tasked with implementing this outreach. Many of our employees are EIEC members, and those not living within the EIEC territory all live within our larger geographic footprint. Regardless of where our employees live, their focus is you, our member. We want to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective electricity with customer service that exceeds your expectations.

You have a chance to provide local input this month. On page 3 of this newsletter is a brief survey. We conduct this survey each October to track service benchmarks and gather other information. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey on-line, or return it with your bill payment. We appreciate your input. We will use the results to further improve our service to you.

Enjoy the changing weather pattern to fall – my favorite season of the year. Please keep safety foremost in your daily activities, especially as the harvest season continues.

On behalf of our board of directors and employees, happy national cooperative month!

Bob Hunzinger

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Co-op Membership is Powerful

Membership in Eastern Illini is a powerful thing.

It means you have an energy source you can trust to look out for you and the community where you live and work. EIEC is owned by you, our members. You have a say in how the cooperative is run, because membership also equals ownership. Being locally owned, operated and democratically run means we focus on member’s needs and local priorities.

Each October, we take time to celebrate the power of cooperatives. It is a time for cooperatives to reflect on our shared principles and recognize the many ways cooperatives help to build stronger communities and a stronger economy.

EIEC is a large employer in east central Illinois, with a workforce of over 55 people. Through the real estate, sales and payroll taxes, Eastern Illini is a major contributor to the tax base of local governments, helping to support schools, police and fire protection and vital community infrastructure.
We also take part in community events and programs, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to benefit from the cooperative experience.

Members of Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative control the cooperative by electing fellow members to the democratically elected board of directors.

Eastern Illini strives to adhere to seven key cooperative principles, which combine to help build trust between the co-op, its members, and the community.

EIEC works for the sustainable development of the communities we serve. We do this through employee involvement in local organizations, through charitable contributions to community efforts, and through grants, scholarships and support for students and schools in the Eastern Illini service territory.

The history of electric cooperatives dates back to the 1930s when most of rural America did not have electricity. It was only through cooperatives that electricity was provided to the nation’s farmers, their families, and rural businesses.

By the 1930s nearly 90 percent of U.S. urban dwellers had electricity, but 90 percent of rural homes were without power. Electric co-ops changed the landscape of rural America.

As part of Roosevelt’s New Deal, and in the face of significant opposition, the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was created in 1935.

REA drafted the Electric Cooperative Corporation Act in 1937. By 1939, the REA had helped establish 417 rural electric cooperatives that served 288,000 households.

January 1940: Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Hayes enjoy electricity in East Lynn, Illinois A few years ago a picture like this would be impossible except in a very few farm homes. Today, about 40 percent of farm homes are electrified due to the efforts of farm leaders such as Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Hayes, East Lynn, shown above. The same picture could now be taken in many farm homes. Comfort, a radio, good lights, and other conveniences that electricity provides are now available for many farmers. Mr. Hayes is secretary of the Eastern Illinois Power Cooperative which February 20, 1940, will hold its annual meeting in Paxton. The electric cooperative Mr. Hayes reports, began operating at a profit last month. There are 500 farmers in the territory being serviced by the company’s lines who could very easily be connected.

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Heat Pump Myths Debunked

As the weather starts to turn colder and we cover up with a blanket while watching television and encourage our  children to put on a sweater rather than turn up the heat, thoughts turn to ways to manage the temperature in our homes. While energy expenses can be trimmed by tweaking efficiencies, you can take it a step farther and install a heat pump, which is a highly efficient device that can provide both heating and cooling comfort.

Heat pumps move heat from one place to another. Air source heat pumps are electric appliances that provide  heating and cooling by moving heat into a home for heating and out of a home for cooling. They do not create heat like other heating systems. Although heat pumps have been around for years, there seems to be quite a few
misconceptions and myths.

MYTH: Heat pumps don’t work well in Illinois, because it gets too cold in the winter. In climates, like Illinois, heat pumps shine because their heat source comes from the earth’s constant temperature instead of the outside air temperature. True, the efficiency does decline as the temperature goes down. Heat pump efficiency is impressive and always better than most other heating system.

MYTH: Heat pumps seem to run all the time. If your heat pump is properly sized and set at a comfortable  temperature for your home, it will run continuously until it meets the needs you set at the thermostat, that’s how it works. The colder the temperature, the more your heat pump will run. A heat pump is than an alternative source that must create heat first before it can move it into your home. A heat pump doesn’t make heat, it just moves it from one place to another.

MYTH: Heat pumps are noisy. Back in the days, when heat pumps were just emerging on the market, they were bulky, unattractive and quite noisy. Today, heat pumps integrate the latest technologies in terms of noise  reduction and energy efficiency enhancements. A heat pump is about as noisy as a refrigerator. The noise is the fan pulling air through the system.

MYTH: Heat pumps are expensive to purchase and install. Although there are upfront costs associated with a heat pump and installation, a heat pump can actually save you money on your energy bill by up to 30 percent on heating costs when compared to a gas furnace and year-round comfort. Unlike gas furnaces, a high-efficiency
electric heat pump can provide a continuous flow of heat and even temperatures for your entire home.

Prices vary based on the size of your home and the type of heat pump you are installing. You will want to conduct a heat loss and heat gain survey on your home prior to installing a heat pump. In the evaluation process the following will be considered: the size and age of your home, insulation, duct work, and the number, size and location of all windows.

The Eastern Illini website provides an easy to use heating cost analysis tool that gives you a rough estimate as to how “tight” or efficient your home is. Take a moment to evaluate your home at: https://www.eiec.org/efficiency/hca/

As old man winter comes knocking on your door, now might be a  good time to consider the advantages of a heat pump for your home

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People to Know: Tim Frick

Going the extra mile for members

Tim Frick began his cooperative career on December 26, 1985. He remembers the day well, because he received a ham as a belated Christmas present from Illini Electric and was quite surprised that his new employer gave him a gift on his first day of work. Tim recalls many memorable moments as he reflects on a career spanning most 33 years.

He was originally hired to deliver water heaters and work on the dual heat program. The water heaters were  Sepco and Tim estimates he probably delivered over 1,000 of them! That’s quite a feat since each water heater weighed over 400 pounds. He still hears from members today that those water heaters were made to last. The calls now from members regarding the water heaters have to do with how the heck do they get them out of heir basements! Tim smiles and reminds himself that 30 some years ago his job with the cooperative involved hands on, physical work that used his muscles and manpower. Today, his responsibilities entail talking with members about their electric use, consulting with members about building energy efficient new homes, and haring information on ways members can make their existing homes more energy efficient.

Throughout his career, Tim has gone the extra mile for members. He consulted with a member in Watseka to find a work around for installing the meters needed for the dual heat program. The member was very  appreciative of Tim’s extra effort and wrote letters to management touting Tim’s willingness to help. Tim just sees it as part of his job and the cooperative way of doing business. Tim meets all kinds of people as an Energy Specialist for Eastern Illini. Sometimes he deals with members who are upset with their electric use and that can be challenging. A few years back, Eastern Illini conducted a survey and randomly gave away $100 bills to members who completed the survey. Tim delivered the money to the winners. At one home, when Tim told the member she had won $100, she was elated and became very excited. She told him, if she didn’t have a bad knee, she’d run out the door and hug him!

“I appreciate the many tools and techniques EIEC has provided to employees over the years,” says Tim. “I hope members know that as a not-for-profit cooperative, EIEC is very conscious of the financial aspects of the business and does an excellent job providing safe and reliable energy at an affordable cost.”

Tim wants members to know that their suggestions and feedback are always welcomed and appreciated. Tim feels Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative is a phenomenal place to work.

Tim resides near Longview with his wife of 41 years, Susan. He has two daughters, Amy and Lori and six grandchildren ranging in age from 5 to 14. His free time is often spent attending sporting events in which his grandchildren are participating. He is also an avid Illini and Cardinals fan. Until fall 2017, Tim farmed 650 acres of corn and soybeans. He decided to get out of the farming business and that has freed him up to spend more time camping. Tim and his family really enjoy camping. They began with tent camping, progressed to pop-up campers, then a travel trailer and now pull a 5th wheel to their campsite.

Tim enjoys traveling and one of his all-time favorite trips was to Alaska. He rode a train through the interior of Alaska taking in the spectacular wildlife and enjoying the breathtaking scenery. He then boarded a cruise-ship to experience another perspective of Alaska. The glaciers were amazing and a day trip on a catamaran provided magnificent glimpses of whales spouting from their blow holes and breaching (jumping out of the water). He hopes to return to Alaska someday and again soak in Alaska’s midnight sun and scenic views.

In the meantime, Tim will continue to spend his days as an Eastern Illini Energy Specialist going the extra mile for members. To set up an appointment for an energy audit, give Tim a call at 217-202-6394 or send him an email at tim.frick@eiec.coop. Tim is always ready to meet with members and offer assistance regarding electricity, energy efficiency and even provide some creative ideas about how to get a 400 pound water heater out of the basement!

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2019 IEC Scholarships Available

Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative President/CEO, Bob Hunzinger, has announced that the Illinois electric cooperatives in 2019 will award eleven academic scholarships to high school seniors through a memorial scholarship fund designed to financially assist deserving students in the “electric cooperative family.”   In addition, a twelfth scholarship – to assist with costs in attending an electric lineworker school – will also be offered.

The total of twelve scholarships of $2,000 each will be awarded in 2019 through the Thomas H. Moore Illinois Electric Cooperatives (IEC) Memorial Scholarship Program.

Six scholarships will be awarded to high school seniors who are the sons or daughters of an Illinois electric cooperative member receiving service from the cooperative. A seventh scholarship, the Earl W. Struck Memorial Scholarship, will be awarded to a student who is the son or daughter of an Illinois electric cooperative employee or director. Four additional scholarships are reserved for students enrolling full-time at a two-year Illinois community college who are the sons or daughters of Illinois electric cooperative members, employees or directors.

The twelfth annual scholarship, the “LaVern and Nola McEntire Lineworker’s Scholarship,” is a $2,000 scholarship that will help pay for costs to attend the lineworker’s school conducted by the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives in conjunction with Lincoln Land Community College, Springfield, Ill. Sons and daughters of co-op members; relatives of co-op employees or directors; is enrolled in the Lincoln Land Lineworker’s school; or individuals who have served or are serving in the armed forces or National Guard are all eligible to apply for the lineworker’s scholarship.

“We hope to assist electric cooperative youth while honoring past rural electric leaders with these scholarships,” says Hunzinger. “Eastern Illini and the other Illinois electric cooperatives are always seeking ways to make a difference in our communities. One of the best ways we can do that is by helping our youth through programs like this one.  In addition, we are very pleased to offer the electric lineworker’s scholarship.  It will benefit not only electric cooperative youth but also those fine men and women who have served their country through their military service and may now be wanting to become a trained lineworker.”

For more information regarding the scholarships, contact Debbie Laird at 217-379-0447. Information has also been shared with area high school guidance counselors.

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