Banding Together

Operation Round Up donates to Ashford music program.

Officials from Houston County Schools and the Ashford Band Association receive a check for $10,090.94 from Wiregrass Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round Up Charitable Foundation in July. The money will be used to purchase new instruments and music.

Ashford High School’s “Sound of the Wiregrass” band marches to the beat of a different drum these days thanks to Wiregrass Electric Cooperative’s (WECs) Operation Round Up (ORU) Charitable Foundation.

ORU board members and other WEC officials presented the Ashford Band Association with a $10,090.94 check in late July, just before students began band camp. Ashford High School band director Josh Meyer says the program will replace some older instruments, including larger percussion pieces, with the donation.

“It’s huge for us. It’s basically doubled the amount we have raised to help buy instruments and rejuvenate what we already have,” he says. “Our percussion, especially our marching percussion, goes through a lot of wear and tear because we’re putting it on the trailer, we’re putting it in the stands, we are playing them in parades.”

In a typical year, the Ashford band program performs dozens of times in a variety of venues and events. Larger instruments — like percussion and low brass instruments — are often school-owned, and many last several years.

The instruments represent a valuable longterm investment, given the impact the program has on its participants, Meyer says.

“It takes care of their social and emotional well-being. It’s where some kids find a place to belong,” he says. “My favorite part about band is that you can’t cheat. It really teaches accountability, and I think that transfers — more than anything else — into the real world. You also have to be on time. You have to learn to be cooperative.”

Members of the Ashford High School “Sound of the Wiregrass” band practice drills during the summer.

For those reasons and more, the ORU board happily supported the Ashford Band Association’s request for assistance, says David Hall, the board’s president.

“Art and music programs add great value to our culture and community,” Hall says. “High school bands like Ashford energize crowds at football games and set the tone for the Christmas season with parades and concerts. Band members also learn great life lessons through participation in these programs, and a contribution to them represents a worthwhile investment in our future.”

The ORU Charitable Foundation operates on money collected when WEC members voluntarily round up their monthly bills to the nearest dollar. These few cents per month generate about $120,000 per year, which the ORU board uses to support a variety of causes.

“Operation Round Up reflects the hearts of our members and the mission of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative,” says Brad Kimbro, WEC’s chief operating officer. “Our members are always thoughtful and giving, and our cooperative exists to make life in the Wiregrass better. We thank all of the members who participate in this worthy cause.”