ICN Issue 10


The temps might be cooler, but this issue of ICN is coming in hot!

With nearly 60 pages of informative articles by ACA Connects leaders, counsel, and AMP23 vendor partners, this is one of our biggest issues yet.

Independent Communications News (ICN) is an all-digital magazine created by ACA Connects with content specifically curated for ACA Connects Members.

Scroll down for Community Champions voting!

2023 Community Champions Contest

Our ACA Connects Members are an important part of their communities. In addition to delivering reliable and affordable video and broadband services, they often lead initiatives that provide a helping hand to their neighbors and friends.

2023 Community Champions Award Winner

From volunteering at food banks, organizing clothing drives, and donating school supplies to local children, our Members and their employees are engaged and committed to the well-being of their customers in the areas where they live and work.

In 2022, ACA Connects announced a Community Champions contest to showcase the service projects that our Members lead in their local communities. We are excited to relaunch this contest for 2023 and are currently accepting nominations!

Members are encouraged to submit their company’s community service projects for this honor by completing the form on our website (see below).  Nominations will be taken through August 31 and will be included in the September issue of Independent Communications News.  All nominated projects will be listed on the Community Champions pages of the website for viewing.  Beginning in September 2023, visitors to the Community Champions page can vote for this year’s award winner. The winning project will receive a $2,500 donation from ACA Connects to continue their projects.

At ACA Connects, we are proud to represent such a wonderful group of companies who see the value of investing in their communities and lifting up their neighbors. We’re excited to see the innovative and unique projects our members have developed in an effort to give back!

Community Champions

Vote for the 2023 Community Champions Award

Our ACA Connects Members are an important part of their communities. In addition to delivering reliable and affordable video and broadband services, they often lead initiatives that provide a helping hand to their neighbors and friends.

From volunteering at food banks to organizing clothing drives to donating school supplies to local children, our Members and their employees are engaged and committed to the well-being of their customers in the areas where they live and work.

For 2023, we have 24 nominations. Please vote for the community service project you would like to receive the $2,500 award to continue their efforts. To view details on each project, scroll down further on this page. Voting will continue through October 31 at 5 p.m. ET,  and the winner will be announced in early November.

Community Champions

Voting closed on October 31 at 5 p.m. ET. The 2023 Community Champions Award Winner will be named in November and presented with a $2,500 check to continue their project.

Questions regarding Community Champions?
Please contact Stacey Leech at [email protected].


A Walk For Hunger

The Armstrong Breaking Bread initiative orchestrates the Walk for Hunger event annually, led by a high school senior from Seneca Valley High School as part of their senior project, in collaboration with our Community Marketing Manager. This walk aims to generate funds for community feeding programs. In the previous year, this single-day event amassed more than $8,000 in donations. The upcoming event, scheduled for September 10th, has set an ambitious fundraising target of $10,000. Over the span of five years, A Walk for Hunger has surpassed $25,000 in contributions, as per records from the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, benefiting families, children, and seniors within the communities we serve by providing over 75,000 meals.

Blue Ridge

Keystone Military Families - Stockings for Soldiers

Blue Ridge Communications has partnered with Keystone Military Families (KMF) for the past 13 years to support the annual Stockings for Soldiers initiative. KMF is a non-profit organization founded in 2002 by Kyle Lord, a proud military mother. Their mission is to provide caring support for our troops, our veterans, and their families through 100% public donations. Each year, Stockings for Soldiers aims to raise money for KMF to ship 8-10K holiday stockings filled with comfort items as well as holiday cards to those serving in our military around the world who will be unable to return home for the holidays. Spearheaded by Cindy Mellinger, Marketing and Community Relations Coordinator for Blue Ridge, from the early beginnings in 2010 the project continues to expand and grow each year contributing to our record-breaking results in 2022 with over 11K holiday stockings shipped to soldiers worldwide! Over the span of our long-standing partnership with KMF, Blue Ridge along with its employees and local community members have helped raise well over $200K in monetary donations which in turn helped brighten the holidays for approximately 100K active military personnel, veterans, and their families. This is just one of the many ways we at Blue Ridge continue to build trusted and valued connections with the communities we serve across Northeastern PA, and beyond!

Buckeye Broadband

FreeNet & School FreeNet

Buckeye Broadband created a FREE Ad-Supported Internet!

FreeNet is the first-to-market, ad-supported Internet product available to residential customers in the Buckeye Broadband service area. FreeNet is intended to create a fully connected community, helping to provide access to the Internet.

As an ad-supported Internet product, FreeNet provides basic speeds and unlimited data at no cost, as long as the subscriber views a 30-second ad every 30 minutes of use. FreeNet provides access to subscribers’ favorite online activities like email, social media, web surfing, and can even support one video stream for access to entertainment or news.

To keep the service active, subscribers simply sign in to FreeNet service every 30 days. FreeNet also features no risk assessment, no modem fee, and no deposit.

When Covid hit in 2020, we shifted the service to “School FreeNet,” and removed all ads from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., so that children could log in to virtual classes with no interruption.

Buckeye Broadband

Playhouse Project for Lucas County Children's Services

Buckeye Broadband hosted a Playhouse Project with Habitat for Humanity in September, 2022 (and will again in September, 2023). Our service project was building and decorating five playhouses to be given away that evening to foster families for Lucas County Children’s Services (LCCS). Planning for each house began two months prior, designing themes, purchasing materials and toys/furniture to fill the houses with.

On build day, we had over 65 volunteers begin building at 9 a.m., and by 4 p.m., we presented five beautiful playhouses for the families. Each house was built by a different department, with different themes for each. LCCS was onsite to help build as well.

Our tech ops department went as far as to build a swing set onto their house, and then showed up at one of the other recipient’s houses that weekend to repair/rebuild their broken swing set. When the foster children and families arrived, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. When loading the new houses onto the trucks the children did not want to stop playing. We are currently planning our next on-campus build again for September of 2023!

Conway Corp

Student Market Food Drive

Conway Corp. employees are helping to stock the shelves for the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas Student Market. During the summer months and other school breaks, many students face higher food insecurity and we want to help with that. CAPCA hosts a student market with food items that will be easier for students to prepare. Students may visit the market every two weeks and may receive 14 Breakfast, 14 Lunch, 28 Snack, and 5 Drink items. Food availability is dependent upon donations and that is where our employees are making a difference. In addition to food drives, employees will spend time in the market with students. Last year, CAPCA provided more than 70,000 meals and snacks to hungry children during the summer months. We are proud to be part of this project to keep children in our community from going to bed hungry!

Hawaiian Telcom

Mālama Hours

The Mālama Hours program encourages volunteerism for employees at Hawaiian Telcom. Employees are encouraged to participate in community service work during work hours. It builds camaraderie during the workspace and a sense of community responsibility and belonging. Launched in 2019, Mālama Hours helps various schools and non-profits such as Hawaii Food Bank, HUGS, Special Olympics Hawaii, American Heart Association to name a few.

2019: 7,700 Mālama Hours logged
2020: 1,160 Mālama Hours logged
2021: 929 Mālama Hours logged
2022: 3,204 Mālama Hours logged 

Home Telecom

Home Telecom Miracle League Field

In Berkeley County, South Carolina, some 4,400 kids have had to sit on the sidelines watching their siblings and friends play.

That is, until the arrival of the Moncks Corner Home Telecom Miracle Field. For the kids who otherwise would have been shut out of baseball, Moncks Corner Home Telecom Miracle Field lives up to its name.

As its name suggests, Home Telecom is the hometown telecom provider for Moncks Corner. With an investment of $250,000, Home Telecom was instrumental in the creation of the million-dollar facility. Read more at



ImOn Communications

United Way Day of Caring

ImOn Communications has formed many traditions over the last 16 years, but Day of Caring has always been a standout favorite among our employees. 

Each year for the last decade, we have partnered with our local United Way chapter, United Way of East Central Iowa, to spend a day volunteering in the communities we serve. This day – known as Day of Caring – is dedicated entirely to meeting the needs of and improving quality of life for residents in our community. 

Our team has tackled a wide variety of community improvement projects throughout the years, from building wheelchair ramps for private residences to assembling science education kits for schools, packaging meals for food shelters, resurfacing a baseball diamond in a public park, and planting flowers around the neighborhood. No two years are the same, which is part of the fun!  

As ImOn has grown, so has our dedication to Day of Caring. In 2023, 50 employees (more than half of our Cedar Rapids staff) participated in Day of Caring to give back to the communities we live and work in.

Our employees’ commitment to our local United Way chapter doesn’t end there. Since 2018, ImOn has granted $372,557 to United Way of East Central Iowa – 97% of which was donated by our employees! 

ImOn Communications

The ImOn Difference

ImOn Communications is dedicated to connecting the communities we serve – and not just through our broadband services.  

We strive to uplift our communities through as many channels as possible, including sponsorships, monetary donations, service donations, in-kind advertising, and more. In 2022, we supported 85 different organizations across our three service areas. These efforts resulted in over a quarter of a million dollars contributed back into those communities ($289,441 to be exact!).  

We also believe in enabling our employees to support the organizations and causes that are meaningful to them. That’s why every ImOn employee receives 16 hours of paid volunteer time per year. With nearly 200 employees, this equates to 3,200 paid volunteer hours available companywide. In other words, we spend 133 days of the year giving back to our community!  

As we expand our service footprint and our staff in 2024, we look forward to growing these numbers. However, there’s one thing that won’t change as we grow: our commitment to taking care of our customers and our community outside of the services we provide.  

Madison Communications

Teacher of the Year

Madison Communications holds a yearly Teacher of the Year Awards Contest where we aim to honor the teachers in our service area. This is our 18th year that we have held the contest and we always receive very positive feedback.

Throughout the month of March each year, the contest begins with what we call the “Nomination Period.” During this period, we have an online form that an individual would fill out to tell us whom they are nominating and why they think that teacher deserves to be the next Teacher of the Year! During the “Nomination Period” this year, we received 215 teacher nominations in our service areas! The nominated teachers then will each get a custom nomination certificate with a summary of their nomination comments along with a Teacher of the Year Cookie!

Once the nomination certificates and cookies have been distributed to each school, the “Voting Period” begins April 1 and will continue throughout the remainder of the month. During this period, we have another online form where an individual can go to vote once per day. We sort out the duplicate votes to make sure that every teacher gets a fair chance in the contest. Finally, after the voting ends and the 3 winners have been calculated, we announce the news on May 1 to the public!

The 3 winners will each receive $500 for classroom use, a custom Teacher of the Year glass book trophy, and a classroom pizza party!


Massillon FunFest

Thousands of local families fill Downtown Massillon each year for FunFest, a lively, safe, educational, and enriching experience. The event has been organized for more than 28 years by MCTV, The Massillon Museum and the Downtown Massillon Association. Each year more than 100 local businesses and organizations offer free or nearly free activities to children and families that include games, art, dance, health screenings, music, science, school supplies, puppet shows, drum lines, inflatables, touch a truck, train rides, and petting zoos. The booth sponsors are able to tell the families about the services and opportunities that are available to them. Monetary donations from local organizations have helped provide exciting performances each year. Past highlights include clowns, drum lines, stilt walkers, magicians, clowns, jugglers, princesses. The city government, parks department, fire and safety, local churches, scouts, food banks, social services, school groups, dance troops and athletic teams participate as well as many businesses. Fun Fest is possible because the generous collaboration of the entire community.


Ditch Cleanup Initiative

Metronet is deeply committed to community involvement. As ACA Connects Community Champions, we proudly showcase Minnesota Metronet’s dedication through our ditch cleanup initiative. One project involves annual participation in the “Adopt a Highway” program, where we assume responsibility for a 2-mile stretch of HWY 218 South of Owatonna, MN. Every year, the Metronet team gathers for a cleanup, contributing to environmental preservation. Field technicians Nels Barbknecht and Steve Larson led a group of volunteers on a Saturday morning to clear the highway’s ditches.

During the cleanup, the team encounters various wildlife, including Whitetail deer fawns and a family of wild turkeys. The turkey family remained hidden until our team approached, then took off, surprising the cleanup crew. While cleaning up, nearby residents expressed their appreciation, mentioning that this highway section is close to a landfill, leading to debris falling from incoming trucks and trailers.

Our ditch cleanup initiative saw participation from volunteers across various markets, including Rochester, Owatonna, Lakeville, and even volunteers from Kentucky. This cleanup effort not only gives back to the local community but also fosters team building and connection among our volunteers. Ultimately, our ditch cleanup Initiative shows the impact made when individuals unite for positive change.


Toys for Tots

When Metronet expanded to North Carolina in the fall of 2021, Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Pfeffer worked to establish Metronet’s commitment to the community in their first North Carolina market, Fayetteville. During the holiday season, local businesses with storefronts host toy drives to benefit Toys for Tots. With Metronet being in its infancy and without an established storefront to host its own drive, the company partnered with Toys for Tots to pick up the toys from all the locations around Fayetteville, which alleviated the nonprofit of a typical moving and storage expense of several hundred dollars.

As Metronet continued to expand its North Carolina footprint, these efforts were duplicated in additional cities. Metronet even received the 2023 Greenville, North Carolina Toys for Tots Commander’s Award in recognition of their significant contribution to collection efforts in 2021 and 2022. North Carolina Metronet associates look forward to continuing their annual holiday tradition: using Metronet trucks to drive around town for a day collecting toys for Toys for Tots and playing a part in giving Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the communities Metronet serves.


Metronet & Sleep in Heavenly Peace: Transforming Lives Together

In the heart of Brazos County, “Sleep in Heavenly Peace” is making a profound impact by providing free beds to children in need. As a local telecommunications provider, Metronet is dedicated to giving back to the community it serves; Upon hearing about this wonderful initiative, Metronet volunteered to partner with Sleep In Heavenly Peace to aid in building and delivering beds to children within the community.

Sleep heavily impacts children’s growth, cognition, and emotions. Quality sleep enhances learning, memory, and creativity. Beds are sanctuaries promoting rest and well-being, fostering routines for a healthy life. Sleep in Heavenly Peace recognizes the far-reaching implications of providing beds to children in need. In Brazos County, it is estimated that 7,015 kids lack beds. As of April 2023, more than 200 beds have been delivered year to date.

Sleep is pivotal for children’s social, emotional, and educational development. Beds symbolize safety and opportunity. By working together, Sleep in Heavenly Peace and Metronet illuminate a path toward a brighter future for children in Brazos County and beyond, emphasizing the importance of sleep, the comfort of a bed, and the incredible potential for positive transformation through compassionate and thoughtful partnerships.


Metronet Gives Back to GSGI

At Metronet, we pride ourselves not only in our quality of service and customer satisfaction—we strive to create lasting partnerships and provide resources to help the communities we serve, flourish.

Telecommunications is known for being a male dominated field, but at Metronet, we are committed to helping break that stigma. Throughout 2023, we have partnered with the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa (GSGI) to raise awareness and support their mission.

March 24, 2023: Our Ames storefront hosted a booth for Troop #10006, where all local Metronet customers were invited to visit and purchase cookies. At the end of the day, Metronet bought all remaining cases to help Troop #10006 hit their goals. The cases were then donated to Food at First, a local nonprofit that serves daily free meals to the community.

August 11, 2023: Metronet volunteers staffed the GSGI booth at the Iowa State Fair. We worked side by side with Troop Leaders and community volunteers, to serve ice cream and fund-raise for the GSGI.

October 2023: Metronet is sponsoring the Incredible Women in Science Expo in Des Moines. We will have demonstrations led by one of our female technicians and are hosting a seminar to encourage young leaders and instill the value of women STEM professions.


Plainfield YMCA Clean Up

As a member of the Metronet IL DSA team and Community Engagement Coordinator, Lindsay Kent dedicated an entire day to assisting the Plainfield, IL YMCA in revitalizing their outdoor space, preparing it for summer events. This Earth Day initiative aimed to contribute positively to the community, channeling volunteers’ efforts into enhancing the Plainfield YMCA’s outdoor area with clean yards, new flower beds, fresh mulch, and more. The primary objective was to give back to the community by offering time, skills, and energy to rejuvenate the park and refresh the flower beds.

In addition, our team allocated time to assemble first aid kits for the YMCA’s summer camps, further supporting their activities throughout the season. With over 100 volunteers participating annually, this Earth Day event has established itself as a significant community engagement occasion. Being part of this event allowed us to proudly represent Metronet and reaffirm our commitment to the communities we serve. We were delighted to play a role in this endeavor, emphasizing our dedication to environmental responsibility and community betterment.


Lafayette Streaming Seminar

Several of our Lafayette residents have expressed frustrations with the rising cost of cable TV. It’s getting too expensive, but they feel stuck and helpless because it’s what they know, and they fear streaming. This April, Metronet decided to host an event just for these folks. We opened our doors to anyone who wanted to learn more about streaming in a safe and comfortable environment.

We brought in our Product Manager, who was more than happy to sit down and take the time to start from square one and answer countless questions until everyone in the room felt comfortable with which platform had their favorite shows, what the remote looked and felt like, where to purchase the devices, and how to set it up. We raffled off several streaming devices, which the winners were able to take home with them that night. The feedback was unbelievable! People were so unsure walking in the door why a company would host an event like this, where they would actually be LOSING customers. Only a true Community Champion puts their customers first the way that Metronet does.


Metronet Leukemia Giveback

Metronet’s Community Engagement team puts together events on a regular basis for the community. During the months of May and June, our Community First initiative was Mental Health. During the process of working with Revel Fitness to host a complimentary Shine Dance Fitness class in June, Mary Glowner found out from instructor Sandy Rhodes that one of the members of her Shine Dance community had lost a son to Leukemia.

Immediately, Mary and Sandy snapped into action to figure out how they could pivot this mental health awareness into an event to support this family in their time of need. The original plan was for Metronet to cover the entry fees of the class, and we would be paying Sandy directly. But Sandy selflessly asked that we instead direct those funds toward the grieving family. Mary went to work to make it happen and took the extra step of getting approval for a check for the max donation of $500 Metronet to Mason’s family. His mother decided to donate the check directly to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Mason’s honor.


Earth Day 2023 Volunteer

In honor of Earth Day 2023, the Ohio Metronet team reaffirmed their dedication to environmental preservation by collaborating with the Beaver Creek Wetlands Association. Established in 1998, this 501(c)3 organization focuses on safeguarding and restoring wetlands and natural spaces in Greene County’s Beaver Creek watershed. Our initiative involved a litter cleanup along Little Beaver Creek and Hagenbuch Reserve, an area renowned for its native plants and Little Beaver Creek’s scenic allure.

During the event, we collected trash and debris from the creek and its surroundings, contributing to the rejuvenation of the wetlands and overall ecosystem. This hands-on approach holds paramount significance in addressing climate change, as reduced pollution aligns with our commitment to mitigating environmental impact. Proper waste disposal and recycling efforts further underscore the importance of conserving resources and curbing landfill waste’s detrimental effects on ecosystems.

The volunteer endeavor stands as a distinctive means by which Metronet reciprocates its commitment to the community we serve, exemplifying our dedication to environmental stewardship.

Ritter Communications

Bicycle Donation to Kindergarten Classes

Ritter Communications made a $6,000 donation to All Kids Bike, bringing bicycles and the Learn-to-Ride curriculum to kindergarten students in Newport and Brinkley, Ark.

All Kids Bike is an initiative to teach every child in America how to ride a bike in their kindergarten physical education class. The program encourages students to spend time outside and explore their neighborhoods while promoting an active, healthy lifestyle.

During an all-employee meeting, Ritter employees assembled the 48 bikes donated to students at Newport Elementary School and C.B. Partee Elementary School. Students received their bikes during individual school assemblies on Wednesday, March 29, and Thursday, March 30.

Ritter CEO Alan Morse said, “We are proud to make this contribution and bring students in Newport and Brinkley the opportunity to be physically active and engage with other kids in their local communities.”


Shentel Volunteer Program

The Shentel Volunteer Program gives our employees the opportunity to give back to the community where they live. Every Shentel employee has 8 hours of paid time to go out, connect, build relationships and give back to their respective communities. Shentel has partnered with Habitat for Humanity and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to help provide volunteer opportunities in the areas we serve. This program was launched in February 2023 and has received very positive feedback and participation since its inception.


Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Sleep in Heavenly Peace is a group of volunteers dedicated to building, assembling, and delivering top-notch bunk beds to children and families in need. Their motto is NO KID SLEEPS ON THE FLOOR IN OUR TOWN! On April 15, 2023, Sparklight sponsored a build-a-bed project for the children of the Poplar Bluff, Mo, area. We had more than 30 employees and family members that gathered to use their Angel Day to build twenty-four beds for children in our area.

TDS Telecom

Be Safe Online

During the 2022-23 school year, TDS rolled out Be Safe Online, an Internet safety program in Washington County, Utah. The program was held at 21 elementary schools and reached more than 10,000 students. TDS Associate Manager of Field Marketing Wendi Bulkley coordinated Be Safe Online at each school and assisted in developing educational materials for both students and their families.

Schools hosted a weekful of activities and concluded with a high-energy, music-filled all-school assembly. Student handouts included Internet safety tips and ideas to encourage family conversations about online safety. TDS provided students a free T-shirt with Internet safety tips on it. During the all-school assembly, Wendi and Utah Tech University students taught the school children a safety rap song to help them remember safety principles. TDS also partnered with Empowering Young Minds.

“The Utah Tech students brought so much enthusiasm to Be Safe Online,” said Wendi. “These school children look up to these college students. Because they are so tech savvy, they do a great job teaching how important it is to be safe online.”

Because of several requests from the schools, TDS plans to bring the program back to third grade classrooms in the fall. The program was featured in the St. George News.

WOW! Internet, TV & Phone

Ready for Takeoff: Supporting Local STEM Initiatives

Spirit of Service is central to WOW!’s culture and identity and is reflected in its interactions with customers, coworkers, and in the communities it serves. As WOW! began offering its broadband services in its Central Florida Greenfield market last year, the team identified opportunities to contribute to a bright future for local students at two schools through support of STEM education initiatives.

In Sanford, Florida, WOW! made a $45,000 donation to the Goldsboro Elementary Magnet School Kids Space Center to update the technology and simulation software for the students. The Space Center is a vital community resource, providing STEM education opportunities for students to explore space through various simulations and experiments. The money will be used to update its mission control center, experiment bays, lunar landing testing technology, and simulation software.

In addition to the donation, a representative from WOW! joined the local Crooms Academy of Information Technology’s Business Advisory Council to support and mentor high school students, connect them to the business community and prepare them for successful careers after high school.

Both contributions to the community are intended to help the local students flourish and further showcase WOW!’s ongoing commitment to the residents and families of Sanford.

2022 Community Champions Award Winner