Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) employees held two fund-raising events and recently donated $11,910 to four different organizations that focus on the environment: the American Chestnut Land Trust in Calvert County, the Port Tobacco River Conservancy in Charles County, the Alice Ferguson Foundation in Prince George’s County, and the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association in St. Mary’s County.

SMECO employees raised the money through the SMECO 75 Bike Ride held in June and the SMECO Annual Charity Golf Outing in September. The events are supported by a group of employee volunteers, vendors, and the SMECO executive team. The Co-op selects a different organization each year to benefit from the fundraising events.

In five years, SMECO employee fund-raisers have contributed $215,000 to local organizations. “Our employees support the organizations where they live and work, and we’re privileged to be able to make a substantial contribution to groups that help support and maintain healthy ecosystems here in Southern Maryland. The assistance we receive from our supply chain partners truly makes the golf outing a successful fund-raiser,” said Richard Jarboe, SMECO supply chain director.

SMECO hosted its sixth annual bike ride on Saturday, June 3, 2017. Natalie Cotton, SMECO’s community and public affairs director, commented, “Our employees not only make the annual SMECO 75 bike ride a successful fund-raiser, but they make it entertaining and memorable for those who participate.”

The American Chestnut Land Trust (ACLT) in Calvert County is dedicated to preserving the Chesapeake Bay watershed, with a focus on protecting the Parkers Creek and Governor’s Run watersheds. The ACLT will use the funds from SMECO to expand land conservation education and outreach to the broader Southern Maryland communities. Covering the area that stretches from Prince Frederick to Port Republic and then to the Bay, the Parkers Creek watershed hosts a variety of bird populations, reptiles and amphibians. “We’re helping residents get back to nature by maintaining miles and miles of trails for public access. And we’re working to ensure that the streams and creeks that flow to the Bay remain healthy. Whether we’re monitoring the water, studying bees, or assessing changes to the forest, we’re undertaking research that will help us prepare for problems that may come up in the future,” said Greg Bowen, Executive Director of ACLT. Bowen added, “The funds we receive from SMECO will help us institute a program to reach out to residents in other local watersheds and help them enact watershed monitoring and land conservation.”

The Port Tobacco River Conservancy (PTRC) in Charles County plans to expand its outreach to students and local residents who frequently don’t have the opportunity to experience the outdoors. “You don’t have to be a scientist or an environmentalist to enjoy and appreciate the value of a flourishing habitat,” said Julie Simpson, Vice President of PTRC. “When we provide children with the opportunity to see and touch the plants and animals that live along the river, it sparks a sense of discovery, and a new world opens up for them.” She added, “Students can then extend what they’ve learned to their own homes and neighborhoods. And maybe one day, they’ll build their own rain garden or coordinate a community cleanup day.”

“Years ago, there were enough oysters in the Chesapeake Bay to filter all of its waters in a matter of days. These days, we have to work harder to keep our waterways clean enough for oysters, fish, and wildlife to survive,” said Bob Lewis, Executive Director at the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association (SMRWA). The SMRWA in St. Mary’s County works to restore river bottom habitat and increase the biomass of oysters in the protected upper tidal reach of the river designated as a shellfish sanctuary. On land, SMRWA mitigates storm water runoff in order to minimize the amount of polluted water that reaches the river. “SMECO’s grant will allow us to expand our summer internship program, Future Bay Leaders, to more students who will learn to design and build lasting wildlife habitats and storm water control devices.” He added, “We are thankful for SMECO’s partnership and for their confidence in us.”

For more than 60 years, the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) has connected thousands of students with nature, sustainable agricultural practices, and the cultural heritage of their watersheds. “Nature is the best classroom,” said AFF President and CEO, Lori Arguelles. “We’re privileged to help build a bridge between the natural world and the built world, which is where we live and where we face some of the biggest issues of the day around water, waste and energy.” The AFF’s new Cafritz Environmental Center, one of just 15 fully certified Living Building ChallengeTM structures in the world, serves as a model that demonstrates how the built world can strive for a net-zero impact on the natural world. “We installed solar power at our facility to demonstrate how it can reduce our impact on the natural world, and we are grateful for SMECO’s assistance on that project and for contributing more than $47,642 to local environmental groups.”

The cooperative’s fundraising event, the SMECO 75 Bike Ride, is open to the public. Participants can choose among three routes of 29, 47, and 75 miles that start at the co-op’s headquarters in Hughesville and go as far as Colton’s Point in St. Mary’s County. “The SMECO 75 is a pleasant and scenic ride that attracts cyclists from all over the area, and this is a great event for experienced riders or newcomers,” Cotton said.

“We are already planning our seventh annual bike ride for June 2, 2018. Next year, our contributions will go to hospice organizations in Southern Maryland. Cyclists who want to participate in the SMECO 75 Bike Ride can register online at beginning January 1, 2018,” Cotton said, and, “We are especially grateful to business partners who participate in the event and provide donations to help raise funds for organizations in Southern Maryland. Major contributors include Adams, Jenkins and Cheatham, Booth and Associates, CGI, Cigna Health, CoBank, CW Wright Construction, ICF International, Infor, Gordon Feinblatt LLC, IP Datasystems, J.M. Tennyson Construction, Morgan Stanley, New River Electrical Corporation, Penn Line, Prudential, Sensus, Utilitec, and VFP and we thank them for their support.” Contributions, which may be tax deductible, can be made to the SMECO Charitable Foundation.