George Carter, Chair
“I’ve been to Guatemala five times for rural electric expansion. I am amazed by one simple fact: we are changing lives. That’s the impact of what we do – change lives. It’s incredibly moving to me that our efforts can have that type of impact.”
Though George Carter serves as president and CEO of an Ohio-based electric cooperative, Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative, Inc., he’s an active and enthusiastic supporter of Project Indiana.
Headquartered in Paulding, Ohio, Carter’s co-op serves 13,000 member-owners in northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana.
Carter has worked in the electric cooperative industry since 1988. He’s been at the helm of Paulding Putnam EC since 2005. Prior to that, he was CEO and general manager at Harrison Rural Electrification Association Inc. in Clarksburg, West Virginia, and director of finance and administration at Cloverland Electric Cooperative in Dafter, Michigan. With his expertise in rate design and strategic planning, Carter is well-equipped to help fledgling electric co-ops in Guatemala become established and successful in serving their communities.
“We as Americans have so much to be thankful for. Through Project Indiana, we can make the world a better place for those who aren’t as fortunate as we are.”
Bartholomew County REMC Director and former Indiana Electric Cooperatives President Ron Arnholt brings over 30 years of electric cooperative experience with him to the Project Indiana board. A lifelong resident of Columbus, Indiana, who started helping out on the family grain farm when he was a teenager, Arnholt is accustomed to facing new challenges. He is looking forward to helping those in developing countries embrace brighter futures through Project Indiana.
Arnholt has held numerous leadership roles in the electric cooperative industry, including secretary-treasurer of the Bartholomew County REMC board and executive committee member; he has also served as secretary-treasurer, vice president and president of the Indiana Electric Cooperatives board. He is happy to continue to play a key role with Indiana Electric Cooperatives through his involvement with the Project Indiana board.
“Since I started work with Project Indiana in 2017, I have been able to see the differences that have been made in the lives of not just the Guatemala families, but everyone has helped with the electrification projects. The impact we make is something that words cannot describe, nor do justice. Our impact is endless.”
Jamie Bell has a very personal reason for serving on Project Indiana board. He has seen firsthand how the initiative is making the world a better place. Bell has served on two of the line crews (in 2017 and 2019) that brought electric power to remote villages in Guatemala. In 2019, he served as trip coordinator as the Indiana linemen energized the village of San Jacinto in record time.
“Electricity gives (villagers) a powerful tool to better themselves — to make them want to stay there. With it, they’ll have better health, better schools, just an all-around better way of life,” Bell said. He looks forward to doing even more to help others in need.
Bell is construction engineer at NineStar Connect, an electric and telecommunications cooperative headquartered in Greenfield, Indiana, and is an active member of his local community.
“The ‘cooperative way’ is all about working together to achieve our goals. Project Indiana is a great example of how we can take the cooperative business model and expand its scope to literally change the world. Even more exciting: everyone can get involved.”
Helping others is a huge part of who Jeff Cardwell is. His passion for community service was cultivated through his work with the People Helping People Network, Habitat for Humanity and the Fuller Center for Housing. He went on his first mission trip – to El Salvador in June 2000 — and by the end of that year he, along with four others, created “World in Need,” a non-profit organization to serve those in need. Three weeks later, a devastating earthquake hit El Salvador and World in Need was able to provide more than $2 million in emergency relief supplies to those impacted by the earthquake.
Since then, Cardwell’s philanthropic efforts have continued through the People Helping People Network and speaking to a United Nations Global Summit in Thailand about the new concept of worldwide “voluntourism.” Previously, he served in former Gov. Mike Pence’s cabinet as the executive director of the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives and as a senior advisor to the governor. Cardwell also served as the former chairman of the Indiana Republican Party. He currently serves as the president and CEO of Cardwell Do-It Best Home Center, another cooperative-based business, and Madison Capital, LLC.
“Having an opportunity to change the lives of those who are truly in need is exciting. Working for — and working and establishing relationships with — the global communities and villages that Project Indiana serves is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
The two greatest attributes Matt Deaton says he brings to the Project Indiana board are his “blue collar mindset” and his passion to lead transformational change.
No stranger to hard, hands-on work, Deaton helped pay for his college education by shoveling coal in an underground coal mine.
After earning an engineering degree, he honed his talents as a civilian engineer with the U.S. Army, and also worked in commercial building construction and powder metal manufacturing. In January 2015, Deaton joined the cooperative world as general manager/CEO at Orange County REMC in Orleans, Indiana.
For Deaton, building strong communities is a responsibility worth pursuing — both globally and locally. He does that locally on the Washington Community Foundation board of directors and by coaching football, basketball and softball at the junior high and varsity levels. And, as one of Project Indiana’s newest directors, he’s committed to doing it globally as well — one person and one village at a time.
“The initiative is called ‘Project Indiana’ but it is so much more than that moniker suggests. It defies territorial borders; it dramatically alters lives of men, women and children of all ages and backgrounds; and it proves that when people work together, sustainable change IS possible.”
Brian Garrison, a partner at the law firm Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, has a core mission in life: making an impact. That’s what led him to earn his law degree after a stint teaching social studies in the Chicago public school systems — he wanted to do something about the education system’s inequalities. He’s on the United Way of Central Indiana board because he’s committed to working for positive change. And that’s why he’s serving on Project Indiana’s board. Garrison knows the best way to improve the lives of our Central American neighbors in need is to roll up our sleeves and get to work. He is particularly excited about how Project Indiana can improve the education system in Guatemala which will lead to brighter futures for upcoming generations.
Garrison, who specializes in labor and employment law, was selected an “Indiana Super Lawyer” in 2015-18 and was named one of Indianapolis Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” in 2017. He is a Penrod Society member and served on the Teach for America Indianapolis regional advisory board and regional alumni board. He has served on the KIPP Indy Public Schools board since 2011, and was its chair from 2013-2016.
“When you know you can change things for the better; when you see how you’ve already helped so many people — you don’t want to stop. I’m committed to Project Indiana because there’s so much more we need to do.”
Ron Holcomb may be chief executive officer at Linden, Indiana-based Tipmont REMC by day, but much of his free time is spent behind the camera lens. In fact, it was his interest in photographically chronicling the 2017 Project Indiana trip that led to his current role as chair of the Project Indiana board. Once he met the villagers, especially the children, who were so humble and hopeful of a brighter future, he knew had to help in any way he could. He’s confident the Project Indiana initiative can impact lives in ways no other program can.
Holcomb has been at Tipmont REMC since July 2013. Prior to that, he held key positions at various companies and utilities including vice president, business development, at Tantalus Systems; principal analyst at Columbia Telecommunications Corporation; president/CEO at PEC/Energize; senior consulting manager at Virchow Krause and Company; general manager at Lowell Light and Power and Cable Television; and project engineer at Clarksville (Tennessee) Department of Electricity.
“We all have the power to create change. Through Project Indiana, all of us can make the lives of generations of our Guatemalan neighbors so much better. Though the linemen who travel to Guatemala to bring electricity to the villages are the ones who ensure our mission is accomplished, everyone who contributes time, talent, money and supplies is playing an important role in this cause.”
Throughout his career, Eric Jung has developed and demonstrated a particular passion for two things: team development and leveraging technology to simplify processes. These skills are both driven by his commitment to solving problems. Jung, the president and CEO of Northeastern REMC, is bringing his solutionist mindset to Project Indiana as one of the board’s newest members. Before assuming the helm of Northeastern REMC, Jung managed the engineering department at Southeastern Illinois Electric Cooperative and spent eight years in the U.S. Army. He received both his Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering and his MBA degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.
“Throughout my career as a broadcast journalist, I’ve covered other humanitarian projects and stories of hope and lives changed. But the scope of Project Indiana and the level of commitment of everyone involved in this effort touched my soul. That’s why I will continue to do whatever I can to nurture this program.”
Former Indianapolis television news anchor Diane Willis first became involved with Indiana Electric Cooperatives’ philanthropic efforts in Guatemala when she accompanied the first line crew to the western part of the country in 2012. While there, she and a film crew from the Indianapolis PBS affiliate WFYI filmed the award-winning documentary, “Power to the People.”
The story, the people and the opportunity to make a difference resonated with Willis and she continues to play a huge role in the Project Indiana initiative. Willis, president of Lee Willis Communications, returned to Guatemala in 2015 with her husband and business partner, Clyde Lee, to continue to tell the story of how Project Indiana is changing lives. With over 50 combined years of award-winning journalistic experience, Willis and Lee have been instrumental in sharing the Project Indiana message with those throughout the country.
Willis formerly taught English and journalism and worked as a television news anchor in St. Louis and Boston before joining WRTV in Indianapolis in 1988. She and Lee anchored the 6 and 11 p.m. news there until 2001 when they founded Lee\Willis Communications.
IEC Staff Liaisons
Mandy Barth, Project Indiana Executive Director, Vice President of Communication, 317.487.2221, firstname.lastname@example.org