Work bringing electricity to remote villages in Guatemala, begun a year ago by Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, will be continued by a group of Arkansas linemen. The volunteers will leave March 26 to continue a mission to provide power to more than 450 rural residents of Guatemala, Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas president and chief executive officer Duane Highley announced in a press release.

The villages set for the work include Las Flores and La Haciendita. Electric cooperative crews will help build electric distribution lines and other infrastructure as well as train local line workers.

Arkansas electric cooperatives and ERMCO, a manufacturer of transformers, are donating materials, labor and funds to the project, Highley said.

The linemen are: Kenneth Byrd and Christopher Tedford of Arkansas Valley Electric of Ozark;

James Ray Hassebrock and Mark Wayne Tomiello of Carroll Electric Cooperative of Berryville;

Michael Counts and Craig Weisenbach of Clay County Electric of Corning;

Randy Evans of First Electric Cooperative of Jacksonville;

Shawn Dorflinger and Richard Freeland of Ouachita Electric Cooperative of Camden;

Don Pinkley and Joe Cooksey of Ozarks Electric of Fayetteville;

Steve Rooney of Petit Jean Electric Cooperative of Clinton;

Jimmy Dean Sharp and Todd Spakes of Southwest Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Texarkana.

Doug Evans, safety manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., will assist the crew during the trip.

Mel Coleman, CEO of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Salem and vice president of the NRECA board of directors, said the linemen would provide for educational and economic opportunities that would be impossible without electricity. "They will be heroes in the Guatemalan communities for many generations," Coleman said.

Coleman added that the work is in keeping with the original purpose of electric cooperatives. "The mission of the electric cooperatives back in the 1930s and 1940s was to provide electric service to those that otherwise would not be able to have electricity, and we are following the same playbook for our friends in Guatemala," he said.

Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas is made up of 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative.

The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to approximately 500,000 homes, farms and businesses in Arkansas and surrounding states.

"The Arkansas electric cooperatives linemen who worked in Guatemala last October made a tremendous difference in the lives of the residents of three remote villages," Highley said.

These dedicated men will improve the quality of life now and for future generations in the villages, Highley said. "I join Arkansas electric cooperative members from across the state in expressing my pride in the men for their selfless dedication to serving others," he said.