A Lineworker’s Story

Kelly Snow, United Power, Colorado

“You alright?” Jordan Snow, Kelly Snow’s 29-year old son asked him soon after he returned from a volunteer electrification project in Guatemala.

“I’m good,” Snow responded before quickly admitting, “Actually, no. I’m not.”

For Snow, the trip was more than he could have hoped for. But for a while, he was also overcome with guilt.

“The guilt set in when I walked to the fridge to get some ice and a glass of water. Such a simple thing we all do when it’s hot,” he remembered. “That’s impossible where we were in Guatemala. But once I got over the guilt, there’s so much about the experience that gave me a whole new perspective on life.” 

In 2018, Snow was part of a two-state volunteer mission that traveled to Guatemala to bring first-time electricity access to 490 people in Pie del Cerro and Tierra Blanca Salinas, two villages located in the western part of the country. Snow, a veteran lineworker from United Power in Brighton, Colorado, traveled with 14 other lineworkers from 13 electric co-ops from Colorado and Oklahoma.

The inspiring photos and stories from returning volunteer lineworkers are a testament to how they always strive to help others, and how they embrace Cooperative Principal 7: Concern for Community. For Snow, 53, it was no different.

“In 2019, there are still parts of this world that we can help so much more than we do,” he said. “To be able to do my share of volunteering at every opportunity as my years in this career are getting shorter, means the world to me.”

Snow saw the important, larger role America’s electric co-ops have in helping communities like these to not just turn on the lights, but keep them on.

“I’ve told my co-op board that I would very much like to see this work continue,” Snow said. “It’s important and I really appreciate y’all doing this type of work and allowing us, as linemen, the opportunity to give that little bit more, to get less fortunate people to a starting point.”

Snow didn’t hesitate to submit his application to the Colorado Rural Electric Association to be part of this electrification project. His journey began when Snow read the volunteer application to his family.

“My wife said why wouldn’t you apply for it?” Snow remembered. “We’ve been married for 30 years, and she knows me. I enjoy teaching, helping people, and it’s in my nature. It’s important to give what I can.”

Snow grew up at the foot of the Blue Mountains in Pendleton, Oregon, and rode the bus each day for an hour to go to school. He remembers the power going out often, and he feels that his childhood more or less prepared him for this experience. Seeing the village kids react to the first time the lights came on reminded him of a similar experience when he was 5 years old.

“My lineman uncle came down from Canada to visit us. He climbed a pole that was on a hill and ran power down the pole,” Snow remembered. “Our house was at the bottom of that hill, and we couldn’t get any reception for our TV. So we lugged our TV up that hill to plug it in and I watched TV for the first time! Seeing those kids when the lights came on, it threw me back to that time.”

Snow will be helping more kids see light for the first time later this year – this time in the eastern part of Guatemala. Colorado is teaming up with Oklahoma once again, and the project will be coordinated and managed by the NRECA International team. This time, he will travel with the same deep desire to help, and maybe he will have more illuminating conversations with his son when he returns.

“We’ve had our battles, but I told him: ‘Listen bud: I always will be here for you and love you, but you need to do something like this when you have the opportunity. You will see first-hand that there are a lot of people in this world that have it tougher than you,’” Snow said. “I showed him the photos, the videos, and he started to see and realize. He is much more appreciative now about doing the simplest things, like going fishing. I see the change in him and that makes me proud.”

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