By Yvette Carter, Community Relations Director, Gainesville Regional Utilities
After living in Gainesville, Florida, for over 27 years, it’s easy for me to say that this city is truly unlike any other. From the historic downtown to the diverse heritage of East Gainesville, you can find all types of people living, working, and enjoying life together.
As a municipal, multi-service utility, GRU takes pride in the fact that we are owned by the people we serve. Our Community Relations department is committed to advancing the values of GRU and actively participating in the betterment of our community. Our department’s activities are guided by our mission, values and our community relations strategy, which helps us stay focused on being a good community partner while making a positive impact in the place where we live and do business.
One of my favorite programs at GRU is our annual Camp EmPower program. It’s a free, weeklong camp for Alachua County middle-schoolers that introduces them to the fields of conservation, energy supply, energy delivery, natural gas, water, wastewater and telecommunications through guided tours of GRU facilities.
Students can speak with GRU staff members and ask questions about possible career paths – all while learning about their own role as the next generation of GRU consumers and owners. The program clarifies the important work done by a utility company, and students have the opportunity to learn about something many in the community know little about.
Students are also taught interview skills, how to dress for success, and how to pursue education for specific career paths. The program aims to showcase the different careers students can pursue, whether they attain a high school diploma or a Ph.D.
The camp culminates in a graduation day where parents, friends, and GRU executive staff are invited to celebrate the students’ successes as they present what they learned in camp.
In addition to Camp EmPower, GRU has a plethora of community events, programs, sponsorships and other community investments. As an organization, GRU is committed to helping Gainesville live up to its greatest potential, and we do so by:
- Serving as an information resource and point of contact for customers, community groups, and elected officials
- Seeking opportunities to leverage GRU’s financial and human resources to make Gainesville a better place
- Leading and participating in the identification and resolution of issues of community concern
- Developing programs that meet the emerging needs of customers and communities
- Managing GRU’s participation in charitable campaigns and fundraisers
We know how vital it is as a municipal utility to support the people we serve. Our Brighter Tomorrow Scholarship Banquet is a scholarship program that supports local, underrepresented prospective engineering students, while our Employee Volunteer Network rewards utility employees who volunteer in the community. Investing in our community is crucial to our success. Each year, our Community Relations department puts in the care, time, and consideration needed to plan an entire years’ worth of community involvement.
We hope utility and community cooperation is a trend that will continue to grow across the industry. Through active participation, utilities gain the trust and respect of local communities, and are seen as an asset beyond just providing electricity to customers. When we give back is when we will progress together, and programs like Camp EmPower are vital to that progression. When we help each other is when we will all succeed.