The Sounds of Triumph: Operation Roundup Marks Record Year of Giving

A non-verbal child laughing on the back of a horse, the woosh of water out of a fire hose, and the gurgle of full bellies. Each of these sounds was made possible in 2023, thanks to the generous donations made by members of East Central Electric Cooperative.

East Central’s Operation Roundup Board of Trustees granted over $231,000 to individuals and organizations in 2023, surpassing the previous annual record by close to $100,000. Since the foundation was created in 2006, the board has granted close to $2.5 million and given $327,500 in college scholarships.

All because co-op members chose to round up the change at the end of their electric bill. These are three stories among the 79 grant recipients in 2023.

The Right Path Riding Academy

A child sits on the back of a horse, holding the reins, while a volunteer leads the horse around cones in an indoor arena.

There is something magical about the connections that form between humans and horses. To quote American novelist Herman Melville, “No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses.” Equines perceive and respond to the most minimal changes in biochemistry, body language, and voice tone. These traits make them the perfect therapeutic companion for children with disabilities.

The Right Path Riding Academy in Drumright is one of the few PATH certified equestrian therapy centers in Oklahoma. Throughout the school year, children with physical and developmental disabilities are given the opportunity to connect with and guide a horse through different challenges.

“As our participants work with their horse, they are learning to build a trusting relationship. The horse, as a motivator, promotes an increase in social awareness and personal achievement,” Right Path Founder Leslie Kirkland said. “It is incredible to watch them grow in confidence and self-esteem as they are empowered to handle a 1,000-pound animal.”

Volunteer Coordinator Stacy Hagins told the story of a previously non-verbal kid who started laughing and eventually giving commands as he gained a connection with his animal.

Every session is offered to children and families free of charge. The program is wholly run on donations, including those made by the East Central Electric Cooperative Foundation. In 2023, Operation Roundup contributed to the purchase of an indoor arena fan, allowing The Right Path to hold their first summer program and accommodate the needs of children with heat sensitivities.

Fire fighters use a chemical spray to extinguish a flammable gas fire during a training session after dark. FAIC Volunteer Fire Department

Volunteer firefighters have full time jobs and full lives, yet they drop everything to rush to the scene and help neighbors in need. Their dedication also applies to spending a full Saturday in continuing education.

On Dec. 9, Fountainhead area volunteer firefighters B. Armstrong and R. Gutierrez participated in a Flammable Gas Emergency training in McIntosh County, which included some live burning situations.

On the department’s Facebook page they wrote, “Without our firefighters’ hard work this past year and without the donation of SCBAS and newer gear our guys and gals could not do this training! Thank you to the departments that have donated equipment, gear, and time to helping us grow!”

Included in their thank you was an acknowledgment to Operation Roundup for grants in 2023 that paid for new nozzles on the trucks used to fight brush fires, a thermal imaging camera, and lights to wear on helmets and gear.

Senior MomentsVolunteers at Senior Moments hold a check that will be used to purchase food.

Keeping a community together is hard work, and it’s the work being done by the volunteers of Senior Moments in Haskell, OK. On the first and third Thursday of each month, Senior Moments serves a hot lunch to senior citizens in the community. They routinely have fun games or special guests to provide important information during lunch. They typically serve 45 to 60 community members each month.

In 2023, Operation Roundup donated $2,000 to contribute to purchasing food for senior citizens to enjoy as they participate in community fellowship.