HANCOCK COUNTY — Concern for the community is one of the seven principles for NineStar Connect, a cooperative based in Hancock County.

To honor this principle, NineStar had its annual Cooperative Service Day on Friday, where workers volunteer for non-profit organizations to participate in the Indiana Statewide Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives’ annual Community Service Day.

David Spencer, director of marketing and community engagement for NineStar, said they started participating in the event in 2015 when they went into the community and asked what kind of help was needed, such as work that has been put off due to lack of human or financial resources.

After receiving RFPs (Request For Proposal) from non-profit organizations across the county, they then pick a few to focus on and send teams of members to help get projects done.

“The unique thing that I notice in years of going around is it’s an opportunity for people to work in different areas who might not normally work with another person,” Spencer said. “Somebody from accounting might be working with a lineman and in their day to day they might not have a reason to interact with that person but on this day, with these projects, it gives them the opportunity to interact and get to know a coworker a little better.”

Sally Hunter, accountant for NineStar Connect and co-chair on the committee alongside Brian Dowden, said that 55 workers have volunteered to spend their Friday out in the field and being hands-on, whether that be painting a fence or digging up dirt. Spencer said that is almost a third of their employees.

“It’s nice to be on the clock, if you will, but then be away from the desk, away from the office and outside, you know, digging-in with your coworkers,” Hunter said.

NineStar workers started their day at 7:30 a.m., and crews headed out to their assigned organizations. Some members stayed in Greenfield to help with Pennsy Trails to clear trail trees and general cleanup on the west side of the trail.

The Hancock County Food Pantry received help at their new location and worked on painting and staining their new privacy fence, which Hunter said was huge project. Bentley Buddies also received help with painting and staining, but on a deck instead.

Heading east, members went to Shirley to help with Shirley Community Visionaries to the city park to do some general cleanup and plant trees. A team also went to Eastern Hancock Schools to help upgrade the press booth and rooftop safety railing.

Spencer said they even had a project in Henry County, where NineStar also has territory.

“It’s all about spreading the love and giving back,” Spencer said. “…We know when the community does well and thrives, we’re going to thrive and it’s kind of a virtuous circle.”

For the day, Spencer went to the different non-profit organizations to capture photos of the day of service while Hunter and Bowden delivered lunches to the teams across the county and made sure they had all the supplies they needed to be successful.

“We’ve (NineStar) been a part of the community since 1895 and were thrilled to still be here in a capacity to give back and improve the community … We just don’t work here, but we live and raise our families here and our member owners are friends and families,” Spencer said. “It’s a great opportunity to give back and we look forward to it every year.”