Labors of Love
TEP Volunteers Donate 500,000 Hours By Steve Rivera For Georgia Hale, it was just another day off, moving cinder blocks and adding a fresh coat of paint to the Tucson Urban League. Hale, manager of financial accounting at Tucson Electric Power, is an employee volunteer, which makes her a member of the utility’s Community Action Team – or CAT. She and other TEP volunteers were at the Urban League at the crack of dawn, helping to make the Tucson nonprofit a brighter, better place. “It’s pretty amazing what people can accomplish once they have a common goal,” Hale said. Just about every weekend of the year, members of CAT – which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary – hit the streets of Tucson, cleaning up, fixing up and building, all to make Tucson a better place to live. In two decades, CAT volunteers have donated more than half a million hours to Tucson and Eastern Arizona causes. Last year, more than 35,000 TEP volunteer hours benefitted more than 400 nonprofits. “It’s critical that TEP has those folks on site to help,” said Hale, who is vice chair of the Tucson Urban League board. “There are so many organizations that need help and volunteers with expertise are critical for organizations to be able to continue to serve their clients on a daily basis.” Employees are encouraged to donate their time to the causes closest to their hearts. One CAT volunteer might choose to pound nails for Habitat for Humanity, another might serve on an agency’s board of directors.
TEP volunteers – many from the ranks of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1116 – are truly volunteering, and are not paid for their community service. They say the payoff comes in helping the community to be safer and stronger. “When you have people getting together (to help), good things happen,” said Paul Bonavia, chairman and CEO of TEP, UNS Energy and UniSource Energy Services.
Spirit of TEP in Action Among the longtime programs supported by Tucson Electric Power’s Community Action Team: • Habitat for Humanity – Since 1996, TEP volunteers have worked with Habitat, including the first Building Freedom Day in 2002, celebrating the heroes of 9/11 and paying tribute to the victims. In 2007, volunteers led a beautification project, with 200 trees planted at the Corazon del Pueblo neighborhood, a Habitat for Humanity development of energy-efficient, low-income homes. The project was valued at $200,000 and was helped by $45,000 in grants lined up by TEP. • Community Food Bank – TEP helps through food drives and food box assembly and has donated nearly $500,000 in the past 20 years. • Tucson Nursery School – TEP volunteers have refurbished bathrooms, repaired the roof, built a playhouse, expanded the playground and installed trees, landscaping and irrigation at the school for children from low-income families.
It was his motto of the day when more than 150 TEP employees, their friends and family members volunteered their time to help with several local projects – including the one at the Tucson Urban League – during United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona’s Days of Caring. “It’s amazing the work they have invested in this organization,” Debbi Embry, president and CEO of the Tucson Urban League, said of TEP’s CATs. “Whether it’s by donating money or giving of their time, it’s been great. TEP is a community partner and they value what nonprofits do here in Tucson,” Embry said. “We make an impact on people’s lives, and we need corporations to get more involved.” Volunteers painted the lobby and the waiting room, created a children’s play area, rehabbed bathrooms to be family friendly and planted landscaping and gardens at Urban League. “No way this would have been done without them,” Embry said. “It’s a blessing from heaven.” Indeed. CAT volunteer Debbie Cummings likened volunteering to going to church, “where it just makes you feel good.” “It’s rewarding,” said Cummings, who has volunteered for the last five years. Cummings and a dozen others recently helped with the construction of a Habitat for Humanity house, painting and upgrading. “I think I learn a lot from all this – I get as much as I give,” she said. That’s what TEP officials hope happens in what they call “a culture of caring.” continued on page 32 >>> www.BizTucson.com
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