Ruralite readers from Alaska to California popped thousands of leftover corks into the mail to meet a stranger’s unique request, demonstrating the power of community storytelling and the reach of the monthly magazine in the process.
“I make birdhouses from repurposed wine corks. With boxed wine, screw-top bottles and rubber stoppers, natural cork is hard to come by. Thanks in advance for sending corks my way,” King wrote, listing her address in Bend, Oregon.
King didn’t realize Ruralite reaches more than 347,000 homes across the West.
“To be honest, I thought Ruralite was a Central Oregon thing,” she told Central Oregon Daily News, a television news program for KOHD/ABC and KBNZ/CBS in Central Oregon. “When I started getting corks from the North Pole and Arizona and Montana and California and Washington I went ‘Oh my gosh, it must be bigger than I thought!’”
“I opened my favorite utility co-op monthly magazine, and I found this on the Reader Exchange page,” Central Oregon Daily Anchor/Storyteller Allen Schauffler says. He gave 450 corks to King, who identified herself as “The Corky Lady.”
“This story shows a lot of people are willing to help, it shows there are many ways to define community, and it shows total strangers can connect over the strangest things… like corks,” Schauffler told his viewers.
“Many of us hold onto wine bottle corks thinking we will find time to make something wonderfully creative,” CEC Communications Coordinator Courtney Cobb says. “Our member had a use in mind, and was rewarded by the cooperative community. Ruralite is a magazine that helps bring connections to our members no matter their background or interests.”
A 2022 readership survey by American MainStreet Publications found Ruralite readers spend on average 34 minutes with each magazine, showing significant engagement with the content. The most popular stories are about energy topics (80%), closely followed by local stories (76%). Energy-efficiency tips, utility news and recipes are other popular topics.
“The survey found 77% of readers took action because of reading the magazine,” Pioneer SVP of Content Leon Espinoza shares. “These actions run the gamut; everything from cutting out and using recipes and sharing stories with others to making a home more energy efficient and attending utility meetings.”
Add mailing wine corks to a stranger in need to the list of interests, courtesy of Ruralite’s Reader Exchange.
“I like to think of our readers as a community, and the magazine is the conduit for that connection,” Editorial Director of Electric Magazines Mike Teegarden says. “They are warm people who relish the opportunity to help each other out. A few (hundred) miles and a little postage won't stop them from extending kindness to someone in need.”
Boxes and bags of corks from Ruralite readers are still arriving, filling King’s workout room. Each birdhouse takes 130 corks to build. With her now ample cork supply, she estimates she’ll be building birdhouses for months.
“It restored my faith in humanity,” King says. “People do care and they want to help.”
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Ruralite’s Reader Exchange
Corks top the list, but Ruralite’s readers ask and receive many types of support from readers across the west. Recent requests include birthday cards, vintage ornaments, songbooks, broken jewelry, buttons and seeds.
Not every story gets shared on TV, but Ruralite’s editorial team sometimes posts pictures and notes from thankful readers. A request for pillowcases to turn into dresses sparked a community outpouring of support last year. Several readers received more than 800 cards each to mark milestones, showing the simple impact of asking fellow readers to celebrate with them.
Ruralite's editorial team receives between 20 and 100 requests for the Reader Exchange each month, with many readers asking for help celebrating milestones. Only participating electric utility members are eligible for the free listing. To learn more about how to submit requests, check your issue of Ruralite.