OPEI aims to be a powerful force for good

OPEI president Kris Kiser on going above and beyond to do good
OPEI’s TurfMutt education program grew out of a desire to help kids nurture healthy relationships with the outdoors.

At GIE+EXPO in October 2018, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute sponsored an adoption event with the Kentucky Humane Society. A dozen dogs went to new homes and KHS received a $10,000 check courtesy of OPEI and GIE+EXPO.

For OPEI President Kris Kiser, it’s just another way to contribute to his pet cause. “I’ve been actively engaged with animal rescue and rehab for decades now, and it’s something my family is very much involved in,” Kiser said.

[Related: When a booming business makes giving back harder]

In fact, OPEI’s TurfMutt education program was inspired by Kiser’s own pup, Lucky, and grew out of a desire to help kids nurture healthy relationships with the outdoors.

“When we created TurfMutt about a decade ago,” he said, “it was [about] how do we communicate to students at the time about the benefits of the outdoors, stewardship, wise water use, right plant-right place, pollinators—how do we promote the living landscape?”

OPEI created a cartoon superhero kids could relate to—a dog. As his superhero alter ego, Lucky got to visit classrooms and spread information about the outdoors in a way that was palatable for kids. As the celebrity around Lucky grew, Kiser wanted to use it to help other dogs.

“If any dog can be a TurfMutt, every dog can be a TurfMutt,” he said.

Giving back doesn’t stop with dogs, though. OPEI has a long-standing campaign, Powering Good, that highlights the good works its members do.

“When trees come down in a hurricane or tornado before the ambulances or fire trucks can get there, if the chainsaws don’t get there, the equipment doesn’t get there,” he said. “Powering Good grew out of that initially. We’re the power that makes things happen.”

Kiser saw the impact power equipment had on his own mother. “She uses a little electric leaf blower. It’s an ancient little thing, but it lets her clear her porch and her patio and her stairs. She couldn’t use a rake and she doesn’t want to have help.”

He continued, “Our equipment, whether it’s a chainsaw or a generator or a blower or a mower, it lets anybody—any age, any size, man, woman, young, old, heavy, light—do the work. It’s empowering people.”

Kiser himself tries to power good in his own community.

“As you might think, I have all the toys,” he said. When snow hits his little cul de sac, he and his neighbors are often the last neighborhood to be plowed, so he plows his drive and his neighbors’, making sure they have a path to the street. “You’re doing something good and it’s easy,” he said, because “the machine does all the work.”

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