By Allison Law
A year ago this month, electric utility lineman Chad Morris lost his life while working to restore power to members. For his family, as well as his extended Southern Pine EC family, the loss was unimaginable.
Morris’ death is a heartbreaking reminder that this industry can be dangerous and unforgiving. Despite a tremendous daily focus on safety by all of our cooperatives, serious injuries and death do happen. When they do, the Fallen Linemen Organization, a non-profit based in Louisiana, can step in to help families with unexpected costs.
As a way to give back to this organization – and as a way to honor the memory of their friend and colleague – Southern Pine EC reached out to neighboring rural electric cooperatives to create a charity softball tournament, which they called Home Runs for Heroes. The response was far more than the co-op had anticipated.
“It was overwhelming,” says Vince Johnson, Southern Pine general manager. Seven co-ops in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle responded and fielded teams (and brought along families and supporters) to the Brewton Area YMCA Sports Park on Sept. 24. Baldwin EMC, Black Warrior EMC, Covington EC, Pea River EC, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, Escambia River EC and Gulf Coast EC brought teams, and Southern Pine fielded two teams of their own.
“I think everybody can identify with the cause,” Johnson says. “It is a good cause. Unfortunately, some of the co-ops have had experience with this organization. It’s fortunate to have it, but it’s unfortunate to have to use it.”
The co-ops raised $20,000, all of which will be donated to the Fallen Linemen Organization. Several sponsors also supported the effort.
For Southern Pine, the organizational effort was much like an annual meeting – everyone participates in some way. The concession stand, T-shirt sales and home run token sales were all especially popular.
And the event was a family affair. Chad’s brother, Dave, warehouse/stores/purchasing manager for Covington EC, attended, as did several other family members, including Chad and Dave’s mom, Amy Morris.
“He loved life, he loved people, and he loved his family, especially his girls,” Amy Morris says, remembering her son. “And he enjoyed his work. … He enjoyed taking care of people.”
Johnson says the success of this inaugural event convinced everyone involved that the tournament will continue next year, and in the future could move around for other co-ops to host.
“We’ve created this living thing,” Johnson says. “Every dime they raise is for a good cause.”