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Avista mails gift cards to more than 3,000 customers

Avista Corp. gave more than 3,000 of its utility customers $150 grocery gift cards for heading into the Thanksgiving holiday without power more than a week after a major windstorm socked the Inland Northwest.

The Rosauers supermarket cards were a gift from Avista shareholder earnings, company spokeswoman Debbie Simock said.

Avista mailed 3,074 of the gift cards Friday, for a total cost of $461,100. It’s the first time the utility has made such a gesture following a power outage.

“We’ve never done anything like this before,” Simock said. “We were down to the very end, and knowing that some customers were going to be without power on Thanksgiving Day, it just seemed the right thing to acknowledge the fact they would be missing their holiday. We just wanted to thank them for their patience and show our appreciation for those who would be in that situation on Thanksgiving Day.”

Simock said Avista decided on the $150 amount because it would provide a typical Thanksgiving meal for a family of four. The company paid full price for the cards, and Rosauers cooperated by creating the thousands of cards quickly, she said.

Avista also contributed more than $94,000 to fund emergency community services during the storm, such as shelters, warming centers and food distribution.

Utility managers still are calculating costs of the storm’s damage, including how much it will pay for bringing in crews from other areas to help restore power to roughly 180,000 customers who lost service after the Nov. 17 storm. Contract and mutual aid crews from six states and British Columbia were brought in to help Avista crews. Repair crews worked through Thanksgiving and finished restoring service early Friday morning.

The storm is the worst natural disaster in Avista’s 126-year history, company officials have said.