MINOT, N.D. (KXNET) — October marks National Cooperative month, which is meant to recognize and share how cooperatives benefit their members and communities.

And this year’s theme is “Co-ops Build Economic Power.”

A cooperative is an association run by and for its members to meet common economic, social, and cultural needs.

And Verendrye Electric is both a co-op and a nonprofit.

“Our primary focus as a nonprofit is to provide service for our members. We don’t have a, we’re not driven to make a profit, so we’re driven to provide good service, reliable power, keep the rates as low as we low as we possibly can,” said Tom Rafferty, the member services manager of Verendrye Electric Cooperative.

In the early 20th century, many urban areas in the state had electricity, but many rural areas did not.

This began to change after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act, where co-ops could apply for loans to put up power lines.

“We were founded over 80 years ago when the rural areas did not have power. So they literally went door-to-door asking for 5 bucks and for people to sign on as members of the cooperative to bring power to themselves,” said Rafferty.

Cooperatives are important for many communities, especially rural areas.

They bring resources and services to communities and help strengthen rural populations.

“We have a rich history, not only electric cooperatives, there’s all kinds of other cooperatives. Credit unions, different farm/ag cooperatives. And North Dakota’s a big rural agricultural state, so it’s really important to our history and to the rural way of life. And not only rural, we’re also in the city too so we benefit both rural and urban members,” said Rafferty.

And a big initiative of many co-ops is to be involved in the communities they serve.

“There’s over 800 electric cooperatives in the United States and there’s hundreds of other kinds of cooperatives, so we all get together in October. So Verendrye, we like to give back to the community and have our members participate in that,” said Rafferty.

Rafferty says Verendrye serves around 12,000 accounts in seven counties and the company provides electricity to homes, farms, businesses, and the Minot Air Force Base.

As part of National Co-op month, Verendrye Electric is hosting a supply drive for the Souris Valley Animal Shelter, which is a member.

Supplies can be dropped off at the Minot or Velva offices.

Verendrye Electric has a list of wishlist supplies on its Facebook. Donations are being accepted from October 3 to 21.

The first 50 members to donate supplies, will get a free gift.

Verendrye will also have a gift card drawing sign-up at both offices.