This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Community Action Team (CAT), a group of Tucson Electric Power employee volunteers who, along with family and friends, donate their time and talents to support local nonprofit agencies and causes.
The CAT was formed in 1993 after former CEO Charles Bayless challenged employees to connect with the community by volunteering. Employees stepped up by supporting 36 charitable events in that first year. These included scouting events, staffing weekend recycling stations, building homes for Habitat for Humanity Tucson and fundraising to fight diseases.
“In just a few years, CAT was making a huge impact,” said TEP Database Administrator Jean Dirks, who was one of the CAT’s original members in her first year at TEP. “We had a presence at almost every community event.”
Curtis Brooks, a TEP retiree and longtime CAT member, said the number and frequency of volunteer events really took off once the group was established.
“We were noticed right away because we had more volunteers show up than any other company group,” said Brooks, who has worn the costume of the group’s PowerCAT mascot to volunteer events since 1995. “Our calendar was full of events. There were times when we had several events on the same weekend.”
Through the years, the CAT solidified and strengthened its relationships with key nonprofit partners such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson, the American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.
Over the past quarter century, CAT volunteers have donated a total of 740,000 hours to support thousands of local nonprofit agencies. Today, CAT remains a strong force with more than 400 volunteers who support an average of 90 events annually. It’s common to see large groups of employees wearing the group’s blue volunteer shirts running food drives, completing a charity walk or run, serving meals to the homeless and taking needy children shopping for back-to-school clothes.
The company’s volunteerism and community outreach efforts have been recognized with numerous local and national awards, including several from the Points of Light Foundation.
Dirks attributes CAT’s longevity and success to the wide range of causes it supports and the opportunities it creates for connecting with employees from other areas of the company.
“We offer such a diversity of projects that most employees can find something that interests them,” Dirks said. “Knowing that you can make a difference leads you to do more.”
During National Volunteer Week (April 15-22, 2018), TEP will honor and recognize CAT volunteers at an appreciation event on April 19 at the Girl Scout Hacienda Program Center.
Looking forward, CAT leaders hope to attract more volunteers and focus on activities that will have the greatest impact, even as the group responds to employee requests to support smaller causes.
“As long as there are needs in our community, the CAT will be there to help fill them,” said Catherine Schladweiler, TEP Senior Environmental Engineer who is chairperson of the CAT Steering Committee. “Giving a part of yourself to help others is so gratifying because you know you’re making someone’s life better. You’ve got to nourish your spirit to flourish.”