Black Hills Energy of Rapid City, South Dakota
Black Hills Energy provides an essential service to its communities. Indeed, fueling homes with gas and powering them with electricity can be lifesaving in the coldest and hottest periods of Midwest weather. So, it’s of little surprise that when the pandemic hit, the company was compelled to help meet another essential human need: food.
Putting money where mouths are
Consider how many stomachs can be filled and hearts warmed with $375,000. That is how much Black Hills Energy donated in April 2020 to local organizations that address food insecurity. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Feeding South Dakota, the state’s largest food distribution nonprofit, says that since the pandemic began, it continues to prepare food for and serve 2.5 times the number of households it typically serves.
In fact, Rapid City, where Black Hills Energy is headquartered, has been noted for several years as having a particularly high-need population when it comes to food insecurity. That is why the company has been focusing its corporate charitable efforts to address the issue for more than three years.
Linn Evans, president and CEO of Black Hills Energy, said, “For us to be a strong company, we have to have strong communities. We can be no stronger than the communities we serve. So, we’re very highly engaged and very tied to community success.”
Keeping the lights on
Black Hills Energy also made a huge commitment to its community of customers at the very start of the pandemic.
“In very early March when people began to not work, we communicated to our customers that we will not disconnect you for non-payment and we will not charge you late payment fees,” said Evans. This was several weeks before the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, referred to as the CARES Act, prohibited companies from disconnecting service.
Black Hills Energy says about twice as many customers as is typical, had past due accounts as of late August. So, in July, Black Hills Energy donated $250,000 to support those needing energy assistance.
Evans added, “When COVID hit, we rallied around the fact that we are an essential service. COVID is going to be a lot harder to survive and endure if you don’t have electricity and gas. That was our rallying cry.”
While Black Hills Energy was looking after its customers, the company felt confident Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield was doing the same for them.
“Insurance became even more important,” said Evans. “We had to safely find ways of letting employees go into homes and make repairs — even when these homes were known or highly suspected of having COVID-19.”
Having access to Doctor On Demand and Wellmark's extensive in-network providers for COVID-19 testing helped the company keep its employees and their families as safe and well-taken care of as possible in an uncertain time.
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Thank you to Black Hill Energy for sharing their story with us.