May 30, 2024

Local utility support stands out in Public Power Month of Giving

Member Utilities

A brat fry. Quintessential to towns across Wisconsin. The smell of charcoal smoke and the sizzle of pork. Seasoned amateur chefs watching as the meat browns and grill marks appear, waiting for the perfect moment to remove it from the heat.

For staff at Oconto Falls Municipal Utilities, the summertime event means more than a shared meal on a sunny day. It serves a purpose that drives everyone there: To help the community thrive. Because the people who stop by aren’t just buying the time-honored sausage made popular through German ancestors. They are contributing to a cause aimed to help children in their local school district.

The Public Power Day of Giving Brat Fry, set for June 6 at the local Iverson’s Piggly Wiggly, will be making money for a local nonprofit organization focused on student success.

The locally owned, not-for-profit electric, water, and sewer utility is donating all proceeds from those brat stand sales to the Oconto County School Supply Drive, an organization with the goal of creating equal circumstances for student success. The drive began in January 2020. Since then, volunteers continue to register Oconto County school district students. Participants are given a free backpack filled with school supplies for the year.

Oconto Falls Municipal Utilities is not alone in its work to better the community it serves. It is one of the 51 municipally owned electric utilities that make up joint action agency WPPI Energy, many of which donate and volunteer. Member utilities feel strongly about contributing to community causes that help residents. June marks the “Public Power Month of Giving,” fitting for the time when grilling season is fully underway.

Each utility, much like the community it serves, is unique in its work to give back. Some organize food drives. Others plan public space clean up days or host fundraisers.

“Our members look at what their communities need and work with local residents,” said Kelly Davis, WPPI Energy senior marketing manager. “This month really highlights their efforts throughout the year to provide support with different service-based projects.”

Some of the work they do is less direct, but still powerful. Utilities provide scholarship funding to help students progress toward their chosen professions, invest in downtown beautification projects, support other local fundraisers, sponsor special events, lend a hand toward seasonal decoration and more. The 51 member utilities choose where to dedicate funding and their volunteer time depending on community needs that arise.

“A strength of public power is that locally owned electric utilities are there to meet the needs of their customers,” Davis said. “They can work within their communities to help with whatever may come.”

“Public power” is the term used to describe the 2,000 local, not-for-profit utilities powering towns and cities across the nation. Through partnership with local economic development organizations, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations, these utilities ensure their community is a better place to live, work and play.


Pictured: Oconto Falls Municipal Utilities staff prepare for the 2023 brat fry.