May 24 , 2012
One of the best strategies for pulling out of the longest, deepest recession of our time is to enable broad-based innovation and entrepreneurship. That’s why we’re partnering with Spokane Community College (SCC) to extend their unique entrepreneurship program
to other colleges throughout the region we serve. The Avista Business Entrepreneurship Network, in partnership with SCC and up to four other regional community colleges, will provide a continuum of education and ongoing support for budding entrepreneurs in Avista’s service territory. This network leverages the successful curriculum established by the Avista Center for Entrepreneurship at SCC in 2007. To date, three additional community colleges have agreed to participate in the network and create entrepreneurship programs modeled after SCC, including Rogue Community College (Medford, Ore.), North Idaho College (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho), and Walla Walla Community College-Clarkston (Wash.).
The partnership created by the Avista Business Entrepreneurship Network will engage more people, leverage more resources, and accelerate quicker outcomes for greater impact in business development and job creation. Much like our investments to assure reliable energy delivery for our customers, this network is an investment in our region’s future prosperity.
The Avista Center for Entrepreneurship at each participating college will receive an investment of $100,000 over three years to support the initial implementation of the program. These funds come from profits that Avista is allowed to earn and are not included in customer rates. Each college foundation will pledge matching dollars to help ensure the long-term financial sustainability of their respective program. SCC faculty will facilitate the curriculum development process with involvement from members of the Business Entrepreneurship Network.
In addition, Avista will create a micro-enterprise loan fund for students who successfully complete the program and create new businesses. Each college will also participate in recruiting a cadre of mentors, advisors and professional services providers who will provide ongoing business support. The SCC program is graduating its fifth class this June. The first classes in each of the other Avista Centers for Entrepreneurship are expected to begin in the fall of 2013.
Mar 23 , 2012
46 new trail lights a result of new natural gas pipeline serving Clarkston area
The lights on the left are a few of the 46 new lights
Avista installed on the Greenbelt Trail in Clarkston.
Avista recently installed the last of 46 safety lights along the Greenbelt Trail in Clarkston, Wash. The new lights turn on at dusk and help illuminate the popular recreation area. The project was born out of Avista’s new 2.8-mile natural gas pipeline extension in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley that will help reinforce gas service to Avista customers in the Clarkston area.
In order to install the new pipeline, Avista needed access to land managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. As in-kind consideration in lieu of fees for conducting this project, Avista agreed to install 46 lights along the trail from Chestnut Beach to Swallows Boat Ramp parking lot, at an approximate cost of $71,500.
“The new natural gas pipeline in Clarkston is great for the reliability of our service to customers in the area,” said Avista Regional Business Manager Mike Tatko. “But the Greenbelt Trail lighting project is another very visible benefit to Avista customers and all area residents who use the trail."
The natural gas pipeline project began in mid-July 2011 and was in service by December 2011, just in time to provide heat to homes and businesses during the colder winter months. The lighting work began in December 2011 and was completed on March 16, 2012.
Avista owns and will maintain the lights along the trail.
Feb 28 , 2012
Anne Marie Axworthy, director of Consumer Affairs and Avista
Foundation Executive Director Kristi Meyer, guide Avista’s
philanthropic activities, including the support of educational
programs that garnered the company the “Child Advocate of
the Year” honors from Providence Sacred Heart Children’s
Over 300 people came together in a banquet room in Spokane last week to have a little fun, eat a little candy and raise some serious money for the Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital to expand pediatric services. As part of that celebration, Avista was recognized as a “Child Advocate of the Year,” one of four honors given out that day and the first and only one given to a corporation in the history of the award.
In granting the award, Sacred Heart host Kathy Maurer said, “Avista Corporation, through the Avista Foundation, has been a community leader in supporting K-12 education, particularly in the fields of science, math and technology; and higher education, including scholarships. The Foundation provides college scholarships for engineering, IS and the crafts; increases the pipeline of kids seeking engineering and technical careers by increasing interest in math, science and technology; and provides opportunities for underserved kids to seek a college education.”
“This is a wonderful honor for Avista and for the employees who are the arms and legs and talent of our company in the communities we serve,” said Anne Marie Axworthy, director of Consumer Affairs and president of the Avista Foundation. “We’re all committed to working with organizations that support opportunities for children to have dreams, and, importantly, to help make them come true as they grow into contributing members of society.”
Jan 18 , 2012
Highlighting community agencies in our service territory
Avista is proud to partner with many community agencies throughout our service territory that provide services for those most in need. We thought you might like to get better acquainted with our partners, so each quarter we will highlight one agency and the valuable work they are doing to serve our neighbors.
Did you know?
SNAP helps create businesses – and jobs – in Spokane
SNAP Financial Access provides small business loans and business education for low- to moderate-income residents.
Lai Len became an entrepreneur just a year after arriving in Spokane from a refugee camp in Malaysia. He enrolled in SNAP Financial Access’s Individual Development Account program and in a year saved enough money to buy a janitorial franchise. “I used to work three jobs,” he said. “I only have to work two now.”
SNAP connects people in crisis or transition
SNAP’s Community Voice Mail program provides a free, 24-hour voicemail number that helps people connect with jobs, housing and other vital resources.
With only the clothes on his back and a past that included jail time and a chunk of unpaid debt, Jerry turned to SNAP. In addition to helping Jerry with housing, heating assistance and money management, SNAP provided him with Community Voice Mail until he could afford a phone of his own. “I was amazed at the amount of programs within SNAP,” he said. “I felt like they provided the light at the end of the tunnel.”
SNAP provides housing to hundreds of families and teaches them how to keep it
SNAP helped Katie through a
difficult time in her life.
SNAP offers homeless prevention assistance, shelter housing and transitional housing, with a goal to help people become stable and self-sufficient.
Katie was five months pregnant, without a job, taking a full load of college classes, and in need of a safe, secure place to live. She called SNAP, and with help from one of our caseworkers, Katie set goals for her future, took classes in budgeting and learned about renters’ rights. About a month before her son was born, Katie qualified for a beautiful two-bedroom apartment. She continued to work with SNAP and eventually took over the lease. “I will never be homeless again,” Katie said, “because SNAP gave me the tools to be successful for the rest of my life.”
SNAP does a lot for low-income residents of Spokane County. Last year, the organization helped nearly 50,000 people through more than 30 community-based programs. If you or someone you know is in need, give SNAP a call at 456-7111 or visit SNAP online.
Jan 17 , 2012
A few dozen employees turned out for the Unity March in downtown Spokane on Monday, Jan. 16 in honor of diversity and to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The event was well attended with thousands of people from diverse backgrounds gathering to show their support. Avista contributed to the community event by not only showing our support in numbers, but by sponsoring the keynote speaker, Rev. Stephen J. Thurston, president of the National Baptist Convention of America.
Jan 04 , 2012
Employees work fast and give generously to bring Christmas to a customer in need
An Avista employee cut down a Christmas
tree from their own property to give to the
customer, along with donated lights and
Within 24 hours, the Customer Service
department raised more than $400 from
employee donations, which were delivered
in this gift basket.
As a single father who had struggled for a long time after his divorce, Avista Customer Service Representative Steven Schmitt was greatly impacted recently after taking a call from a single dad of two, who was struggling to pay the bills. There was no Christmas in sight for this family – not even a tree. But Schmitt and his co-workers didn’t just stand by and watch Christmas slip away - they sprang into action and brought Christmas to the customer.
The customer explained to Schmitt, that over the last six months, he had lost everything: his home, car, wife and job. He was having a hard time “catching his breath.” He had started a new job and just needed a little extra time to catch up.
“For some reason, this phone call really struck something in me,” Schmitt said. “I remember a time where, if it hadn’t been for the help of family and friends, I was almost the one telling my son he wasn’t going to get a Christmas. No parent should ever have to tell a child that.”
Schmitt wanted to give this customer something he himself was given in a time of need, a warm and bright Christmas for his children.
Schmitt and others in Customer Service were able to work with the customer on a payment arrangement for his energy bill and get the customer in contact with SNAP and some Project Share funds to get the his past due amount paid. SNAP also set him up for an appointment in January for further energy assistance.
That took care of the bill, but there was still no Christmas for his family.
“I wanted them to have a Christmas and knew we had to act fast,” Schmitt recalls. “I sent an email to all my coworkers in Customer Service, explaining the situation and asked if they could help somehow. I work for a wonderful, generous company where the employees are second to none.”
Within 24 hours, the Customer Service department raised more than $400 from employee donations. Schmitt used the funds to buy a bus pass, some gift certificates to local stores and a housewarming gift certificate to help with some of the bill. All the items were put together in a gift basket that included some Avista fleece blankets and water bottles.
An Avista employee even cut down a Christmas tree from their own property to give to the customer, along with donated lights and holiday decorations. Schmitt and a co-worker delivered the gift basket, Christmas tree and decorations to the family the Tuesday before Christmas. It was nothing less than an emotional and enlightening experience for everyone involved. There were a few grateful tears shed during the visit.
According to Schmitt, the customer was extremely grateful, and sent his deepest thanks and gratitude for all the caring hearts at Avista Utilities.
“I am proud to say that I work with an amazing group of people,” Schmitt said. “I thank everyone for their compassion and generosity this holiday season. We were able to make this a happy holiday for a father and his two children.”
If you are in need, we want to hear from you
Avista offers services for customers
such as comfort level billing, payment arrangements and Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Services (CARES), which provide assistance to special-needs customers through referrals to area agencies and churches for help with housing, utilities, medical assistance and other needs. We want to hear from you before you get behind on your bill – just give us a call. You can even make payment arrangements online.
Dec 07 , 2011
Avista employees support Project Warm-Up and recently helped prepare 6,500 items for distribution to agencies that will
get them to people in need.
Project Warm-Up is a program of RSVP of Spokane County, which is sponsored by the YMCA of the Inland Northwest that is celebrating its 25th year in 2011.
Avista employees sort, bag and tag Project Warm-Up items
in one of the company's warehouses.
Each year, Project Warm-Up provides thousands of Spokane individuals, through 53 local non-profit agencies, with items to stay warm during the bitter winter months. Throughout the year, 220 volunteers knit, crochet, “knifty” knit and quilt items. Since the program’s inception, approximately 94,000 items have been provided to individuals in need.
Teri Wallace, the Program Coordinator, shared that the youngest volunteer is eight years old and the oldest is 94. The majority of volunteers are housebound and Project Warm-Up is their way of being able to give back to the community from their home. Knowing they are helping someone in need gives the volunteers a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Other volunteers are people who live in retirement apartment complexes or assisted living facilities, are high school aged individuals who are fulfilling a community service requirement or even younger who just think it is fun.
Project Warm-up is one of the many community programs that Avista employees enthusiastically give their time and energy to support. This year, Avista employees successfully prepared 6,500 items for distribution to agencies that will get them to people in need. Over a four-day period in November, Avista employees loaded, sorted, counted, and unloaded all of the items that had been stored in one of our facilities all year.
In addition to the preparation and storage of the items, Avista also supports Project Warm-Up by providing monetary contributions to purchase the yarn the volunteers use to make thousands of beautiful warm scarves, hats, booties, youth outfits, and blankets.
Over the last 25 years, it’s wonderful to think of how much Project Warm-Up items have meant to those who create them, and to those who enjoy their warmth.
Nov 22 , 2011
KREM-2's Tom Sherry, accepts a check from Avista employees and the Avista Foundation for
Tom's Turkey Drive. Presenting the check are Avista's Scott Morris and Dennis Vermillion.
Many of us are planning a last-minute run to the grocery store to pick up a few remaining ingredients for your favorite stuffing or grandma’s pumpkin pie. Yet for many families in our region, a Thanksgiving feast is simply not in the budget.
During these difficult times, the generosity of Avista’s employees never ceases to amaze me. This month’s focus of their giving was KREM-2’s Tom’s Turkey Drive. In a few short days, employees donated $7,820 and the Avista Foundation matched the amount for a grand total of $15,640. It’s a new record for Avista employees who have supported Tom’s Turkey Drive for several years. We presented the check to KREM-2’s Tom Sherry last week. Thanks to Avista employees, 1,042 families will sit down to a turkey dinner this Thanksgiving.
While Thanksgiving traditionally marks the beginning of the season of giving, Avista’s employees contribute their time, talent and treasure all year long – in so many ways. In 2010, Avista employees donated more than 44,000 community volunteer hours to over 600 organizations in the three states we serve. Every year, we contribute financially to United Way, March of Dimes, Project Share and many others. They donate backpacks and school supplies to students in Spokane’s schools, thousands of pounds of food to the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant and clothes to My Sister’s Closet. The list of opportunities to “give back” goes on and on.
So as we give thanks this holiday, I’d like to say, “Thank you” to Avista’s employees, whose big hearts are making a difference for the people in the communities where we live, work and play.
Nov 11 , 2011
Local Avista crews helped erect the flag pole, bring power to site
Over the past several years the Deer Park Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3067, with the assistance of Avista and several other groups has worked to build a memorial for Armed Forces personnel. The colorful new memorial, called the Veterans of Foreign Wars / Deer Park Memorial was unveiled today at Bluebird Park in Deer Park in front of a crowd of honored veterans, families and even young children with the day off from school.
Avista assisted the project by helping erect the flag pole and bringing overhead power to the location for lighting and other needs. Avista Utilities and Frank Binder, Deer Park District Manager, were thanked by Deer Park and VFW officials for their dedication to the project.
As today is Veterans Day, it’s certainly fitting to unveil this wonderful memorial.
On behalf of all Avista employees, we salute our United States Armed Forces. Thank you for your service.
Listen to VFW Commander Thomas Tradewell’s speech at the memorial dedication. A bugle-player performs Taps, as the audio ends. (The audio begins just a few sentences into Commander Tradewell's speech).
Nov 07 , 2011
Avista employees rescue stranded shopping cart, remove rusted blight from Spokane River
When Avista’s Ben McArthur saw an unsightly blight in the middle of the Spokane River, near the Hamilton Street Bridge, he didn’t ignore it like the thousands of others who passed by it every day. He and his co-workers took action. A red grocery store shopping cart had found its way onto a small island in the middle of the river. No one is sure exactly how it got there. Low water levels made it stand out.
McArthur and friends would have none of it. McArthur contacted fellow employee Celene Olgeirsson who just happens to be the President of the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club. As an experienced kayaker Olgeirsson had the right equipment and knowledge to do the heavy lifting in the water and ensure the safety of all involved.
McArthur and Olgeirsson, with the help of another Avista employee, Ray Burnham, spent a lunch hour near the end of October on the project. On a crisp, clear day, Olgeirsson glided out to the island and attached a rope to the cart, while those on shore pulled it in. The whole deal took only 45 minutes.
Avista employees do an annual volunteer river clean up near the Mission Campus and regularly find large discarded items on Avista’s adopted mile of the Centennial Trail – shopping carts, tires and furniture included. Rarely do items make it so far into the river.
McArthur returned the cart to store employees, who promised to properly dispose of the wreckage.
Kudos to McArthur, Olgeirsson and Burnham for bettering the Spokane River for the community.
River users should be sure to follow all posted safety warning and closure signs on the water and especially near hydroelectric facilities. For more information about safety in the river and near dams, click here.