It’s not difficult to imagine a typical day for Delaware Electric Cooperative employees. Linemen spend their days high in the air, carefully maneuvering their buckets near power lines, making changes that improve the electrical system. Office workers handle a variety of tasks, everything from monitoring energy loads to answering member calls to helping plan the construction of new substations. Barring major storms, most days are pretty typical. For several Co-op employees, though, what happens when they leave the office is far from routine.
Lineman Shane Payne and Dispatch Manager Josh Wharton spend their free time helping people in southern Delaware who, for one reason or another, find themselves in trouble. The two helped found the Good Ole Boy Foundation, a non-profit charity. In November of 2012, Payne and Wharton learned about a child suffering from brain cancer, whose doctors worried she would be celebrating her final Christmas the following month. Payne and Wharton sprung into action, planning a benefit to make the girl’s Christmas special.
“We wanted to see if we could collect some gifts for her, see if we could make this her best Christmas ever. We held a benefit on Dec. 15th, had five bands and 300 people there. That Christmas, we took off. We helped her family and 25 others. We just put it out on Facebook. We put it out there and all these people started responding,” said Wharton.
Encouraged by the outpouring of support from their Sussex County neighbors, Wharton said the volunteers decided to keep raising money for a variety of projects. The group applied for and received their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. They settled on the name “Good Ole Boy” because everyone involved is, as Payne said, “Either a blue collar worker or average joe. We’re not rich businessmen. We’re normal folks who want to make a difference.”
Five years after its founding, 20 dedicated volunteers are now constantly working with the Foundation to meet community needs. In 2014, the Good Ole Boy Foundation helped make a cancer-stricken 5-year-old’s dream to drive a tractor come true. Wharton and Payne organized a procession of 70 tractors and pieces of farm equipment to fulfill the boy’s wishes.
The team has built wheelchair ramps for the disabled, constructed a wheelchair- accessible clubhouse for a boy with muscular dystrophy and recently helped a local family after they lost everything when their house burned to the ground. Businesses and individuals have become strong supporters of the Foundation — volunteers frequently receive calls from people in need. According to Wharton, “We tell people all the time, we get all the credit, but we shouldn’t. It’s our community,
it’s not us. We’re the engine that drives what happens, to get the word out. Once we say we need help, the community shows up. It really is pretty amazing.”
The group focuses much of their efforts on helping children. Last Christmas, they provided Christmas presents to more than 200 families. “Kids are innocent. You hear of a sick kid or a kid without gifts at Christmas, it yanks at your heart strings. They don’t deserve that,” said Payne.
All of the money raised by the Foundation is spent on local families, and the many projects they support also serve as a teaching tool for children. The group wants kids to understand the importance of giving back to the community and helping those who are disadvantaged. For everyone involved, working to
improve the lives of those living in
southern Delaware is an incredibly rewarding experience.
“When your days are out, and you’re lying on your death bed, I don’t care if you’ve got $10 million in the bank. Is that going to make you happy? Or is knowing you’ve impacted people’s lives throughout your whole life, making their lives better, going to make you happy? That’s what’s going to make me happy. That’s why I do it. To me, that’s what life is about, helping others,” said Wharton.
To learn more about the Foundation or to request assistance, please visit