When there’s a need in the community, Tucson Electric Power and our employees step up. TEP strives to be a good corporate neighbor by lending our expertise, equipment and helping hands to support good causes. Here are six cool things that TEP does to enrich the communities we serve.

1. Managing Money 101 for Kids

Once a year, TEP employees trade in their calculators and spreadsheets for lesson plans and flash cards to teach students at Blenman Elementary in the Tucson Unified School District important lessons about money.

During the annual Junior Achievement (JA) Day in May, as many as 40 TEP employees visit K-5 grade classrooms to teach students age-appropriate, interactive lessons. TEP participated in JA Day for the fifth year last May.

“Kids learn about money when they’re doing math, but they don’t always apply it to real life,” said Julie McCollom, TEP Senior Financial Analyst. “We teach students about money, its value and how to use it. They learn about ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ and the importance of saving and giving.”

To show how money moves through the community, students are given a quarter that moves around the classroom and changes hands when it’s earned, spent or saved.  Lessons also touch on the economy, jobs and taxes.

“We hope to educate and inspire students to save and budget their money wisely so that they’ll be successful when they finish school and enter the workforce. We’re also teaching them entrepreneurial skills,” said McCollom. “When they see the possibilities for their future, their eyes light up.”

2. The Ultimate Gift

For nearly 20 years, TEP employees have rolled up their sleeves to give others the ultimate gift – the gift of life.

Since 2001, employees at TEP’s Headquarters and Irvington campus have donated more than 3,430 units of blood to the American Red Cross, potentially saving more than 10,290 lives.

The drives were started by the company’s Community Action Team, an employee-led group of volunteers, first at the Irvington campus in 2001, and then at the Headquarters in 2008, where the general public also can donate with a scheduled appointment.

Blaine deVesty, District Manager for the Tucson American Red Cross, said TEP’s blood drives are, literally, a life saver.

“All of the blood donated in Phoenix and Tucson comes to our regional Tucson facility, and our hospitals here have first priority for patient use,” deVesty said. “TEP continues to be a terrific and vital contributor for the American Red Cross and hospital patients here and nationwide.”

3. Keeping Winterhaven Shining Bright

When the Winterhaven Festival of Lights lost its longtime sponsor, TEP stepped up in 2017 with a five-year sponsorship to keep the 67-year tradition going strong for the 100,000-plus annual visitors who tour the neighborhood’s elaborate holiday displays.

While the event is free, the festival costs about $90,000 every year. TEP’s annual $40,000 sponsorship helps organizers pay for barricades, insurance, portable restrooms, trash removal, traffic control and security.

“We are so thankful for neighbors that secured this sponsorship, and for TEP for supporting one of the largest free community holiday events,” said Mariel Hall, Chairperson of the Winterhaven Festival of Lights and Winterhaven Public Events. “TEP also helps collect food and fundraise for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.”

As the sponsor, TEP also provides signage, 200 strands of new LED lights, and work crews who use bucket trucks to put up and take down lights atop the neighborhood’s tallest trees.

4. Battling an Invasive Threat

TEP is involved with several environmental groups in year-round efforts to remove buffelgrass, a highly-invasive and rapidly-spreading perennial grass that threatens the Sonoran Desert ecosystem and poses a significant fire hazard.

Buffelgrass was originally introduced in the southwest for cattle feed and erosion control.  Hardy and aggressive, the African grass crowds out wildlife and native plants – such as Arizona’s stately saguaro cactus – that compete for water and nutrients.

Dried clumps of buffelgrass act as highly-flammable “wicks” that can catch fire, burn at temperatures exceeding 1300 degrees Fahrenheit and spread quickly to threaten wildlife, vegetation, homes and utility lines.

Working in partnership with Sky Island Alliance, Tucson Clean & Beautiful and several other organizations, TEP employees volunteer at buffelgrass removal events. The company’s work crews also clear the grass from substations and right-of-ways, and TEP has included educational materials about buffelgrass control with customers’ monthly bills.

“It’s important to control buffelgrass because it’s such a pervasive threat to us and our customers, homes and businesses, wildlife and vegetation, and our infrastructure,” said Shannon Breslin, TEP’s Manager of Land Management.

5. Supporting the Stars and Stripes

Sometimes, just providing the right tools for the job makes an impossible task possible. Such was the case for Flags for the Flagless, a nonprofit organization that makes use of TEP’s bucket trucks to raise flags.

Founded in 2015 by Tucson police officers Charley Foley and Bradley Clark, Flags for the Flagless provides American flags to classrooms and educates the community about the flag’s history and proper protocols. By raising flags where there are none, it hopes to foster patriotism and a sense of community pride.

Several years ago, Foley received a call from a Tucson business that a flag on a 70-foot pole had been stolen just 10 days after it was raised.  When Foley tried to raise a new flag on the pole, he came up short. The pole was too tall.

“What could I do? Renting a bucket truck is expensive. So a news reporter covering the story contacted TEP, which offered to send out a crew and bucket truck to raise a new flag,” said Foley. “Now, with TEP’s ongoing help, I have everything I need.  I have the rope, the flags and now a way to get the flag to the top.”

TEP assists with about 20 flag raisings a year by providing a bucket truck and crew. In June 2017, TEP helped Flags for the Flagless raise its 100th and largest flag to date in Tucson: a 12-foot by 18-foot flag located near the Victory Worship Center on Ruthrauff Road.

6. Pink Power

We’ve all seen multi-colored ribbons and lapel pins worn in support of various causes. Several years ago employees at TEP’s Springerville Generating Station took their show of support for breast cancer awareness to a whole new level several years ago.

When a 90-ton bulldozer needed to be shipped to Caterpillar-Empire in Phoenix for reconditioning and repainting, Southwest Energy Solutions Superintendent Tracy Ortiz, who was Fleet Manager at the time, suggested that it be painted pink to support breast cancer awareness.

“My best friend who I’ve known since college was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Ortiz said. “She’s now cancer-free, but her cancer significantly affected our lives. With the bulldozer, I wanted to raise awareness.”

Her supervisors said yes.

So after the dozer was reconditioned and repainted, it was trucked back to Springerville where it was put back into use.

“It was quite a sight coming down the highway and was the talk of the White Mountains,” Ortiz said.