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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.

As Spokane County’s community action agency, SNAP is best known for its Heating Assistance program, which Avista supports in many important ways. But SNAP’s services go way beyond that.

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.
Published: 1/18/2012  9:06 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 17 , 2012
Avista employees at MLK Day Unity March in Spokane

Photo by Brandi Smith
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.
Published: 1/17/2012  8:55 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 04 , 2012
Employees work fast and give generously to bring Christmas to a customer in need
Donated tree
An Avista employee cut down a Christmas
tree from their own property to give to the
customer, along with donated lights and
holiday decorations.
Donated gift basket
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.
Published: 1/4/2012  1:39 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 07 , 2011
Project Warm-Up
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.

Post by Ana Matthews

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.

Project Warm-Up work
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.
Published: 12/7/2011  2:27 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 22 , 2011
Tom's Turkey Drive donation
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.

Post by Laurine Jue
Tom Sherry
Tom Sherry
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.
Published: 11/22/2011  3:59 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 11 , 2011
Memorial slide show
Local Avista crews helped erect the flag pole, bring power to site
Post, audio and photos by Dan Kolbet
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).
Audio player
Published: 11/11/2011  4:15 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 07 , 2011
red cart slide show
Avista employees rescue stranded shopping cart, remove rusted blight from Spokane River
Post by Dan Kolbet

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.

*Editors note: 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.
Published: 11/7/2011  3:13 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 18 , 2011
Cold weather is on the way – there’s no getting around it. So, before it hits with all its fury, it’s a good time to reach out and provide information about bill assistance and energy efficiency. Two Avista Energy Fairs are scheduled this fall to do just that – Lewiston/Clarkston on October 22 and Spokane on November 3.

“We’ve done two fairs in Spokane and one in Coeur d’Alene over the past year and they have been well attended. We’re pleased that people are finding value in the energy efficiency demonstrations and weatherization materials they receive,” said Anne Marie Axworthy, Avista’s director of consumer affairs. “It’s great to take customer service opportunities like the Energy Fair out to where it’s convenient for our customers. Our hope is that the information about billing options, energy assistance and energy efficiency is helpful to those struggling to pay their bills and also of benefit for anyone who wants to better manage their energy use.”

Avista employees and community service providers will be on hand to answer questions about the following:
• Bill Assistance – Avista customer service representatives will answer billing questions, provide information about payment options and refer customers to energy assistance programs. And they will demonstrate how to use Avista’s free online Bill Analyzer to get more information about managing your energy bill.
• Energy Efficiency – See low-cost and no-cost efficiency demonstrations to help keep your home warm like rope caulking, door sweeps and window plastic. Free samples will be handed out.
• Community Assistance – Avista and community service providers will be on hand to answer questions about energy assistance, weatherization, and other topics.

For the kids, and the kids at heart, Wattson, Avista’s energy watchdog, will guide attendees through his musical message of energy efficiency and safety. Employee volunteers will have craft projects and interactive activities available to keep little hands busy while taking a break from the information tables. Food and beverages, door prizes and a grand prize basket that includes a Housewarming Certificate will also be available to all participants.

What you need to know
Saturday, October 22: Walla Walla Community College, 1470 Bridge St., Clarkston, Wash. 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Thursday, November 3: West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St., Spokane, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Published: 10/18/2011  3:21 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 13 , 2011
Post by Dan Kolbet

Avista employees at UW Day of Action
On Sept. 21, 15 employees from Avista’s Human Resources department joined more than 200 employees from 22 local companies who volunteered their time for the Spokane County United Way annual Day of Action.

The Day of Action volunteers lent a helping hand to local organizations by painting, gardening, laying bark, building shelves, and distributing food from the 2nd Harvest Mobile Food bank.

The Spokane County United Way Day of Action and its volunteers are just another example of how Avista employees give back to the communities that we all live and work in.
Published: 10/13/2011  11:04 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 09 , 2011
Home owners and contractors are reminded to call 811 at least two days before digging

Post by Dan Kolbet
Gas crew fixing a broken line.
I bet these guys called before they dug. Learn from them!
#Call811 - that's it.
This week would really, really be the wrong week to dig into an underground utility line. OK, any day is bad, but this week would be exceptionally bad. Thursday is Aug. 11 – or 8/11. Sounds a bit like “811,” right? And of course you know you can call 811 for free two days before you plan to dig to locate underground utilities. Play it safe and call before you dig. It’s the law.

To help get the word out, Avista is partnering with local Home Depot stores on Thursday, Aug. 11, to raise awareness for 811, the one-call number for locating underground utilities. It’s the perfect day to remind homeowners and contractors to call 811 at least two days before digging. All are welcome to join Avista at Home Depot stores in Spokane, Spokane Valley and Phoenix, Ore.

Avista employees will be staffing booths where customers can learn more about the free 811 service and why it’s important to call before you dig. Customers can also enter to win a $25 Avista Housewarming Gift Certificate or other promotional items.

Striking underground utilities is dangerous and can be costly. In 2010 Avista’s underground natural gas and electric lines were hit by third-parties 480 times. Calling 811 at least two working days before excavating or digging begins allows sufficient time for a professional to mark the location of any buried wires, cables or natural gas pipes.

Event Information

Who:  Avista Utilities & Home Depot

What: 811 Call Before You Dig Awareness Events

Where:  Home Depot Stores
North Spokane  
9116 N. Newport Hwy
10-2 p.m.
Spokane Valley
5617 E. Sprague Ave.
10-2 p.m. 
Phoenix, Ore.
3345 N Phoenix Rd.
10-4 p.m.
Published: 8/9/2011  9:01 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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