TEP is helping first responders and essential workers keep working during the pandemic by helping local nonprofit groups care for their children.

The YMCA of Southern Arizona and a day care center run by the Erik Hite Foundation have stayed open throughout the year to watch hundreds of children, from babies to age 12.

“Without funds from TEP, we wouldn’t have had a place for these children – and that means we wouldn’t have had people working in hospitals, grocery stores and law enforcement so all of us in the community could continue to be safe and thrive,” said Stephanie Mills, Chief Development Officer of YMCA of Southern Arizona. “It was an incredible ripple effect.”


On March 17, YMCA made the quick decision to offer emergency childcare in a safe environment for children of essential workers when schools shut down. Two days later, the YMCA opened its doors, first for school-age children, and later to preschoolers and toddlers as the pandemic progressed.

The emergency childcare program served 546 school-aged children at seven sites, as well as 62 children ages 1 to 4. Later, the YMCA offered a summer camp program and supervision of remote learning when the school year began.

TEP provided a $10,000 donation to help cover emergency program needs, pay staff members and provide subsidies that supported the care of about 58 children.

“What frontline workers continue to do is amazing. We need to support them – and this is one of the ways we can – as long as we have entities like TEP who step up to make this happen,” Mills said.

The help extended to children of TEP field employees as well.

“Early in the pandemic, YMCA partnered with our company to provide information on their services for essential workers, but more importantly, they considered our employees as ‘essential’ and they were willing to create additional programs for younger children,” said Kimberly Bowie, Human Resources Project Coordinator. “We’re grateful that the YMCA was available for our employees, as well as for the community at large.”

Erik Hite Foundation

Named after a Tucson Police officer who died in the line of duty, the foundation has provided a childcare center for children of first responders and military personnel since 2011. To serve the needs of their assignments, the foundation’s center stays open longer hours – 5:30 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday – for children ages newborn to 5. The center also serves older children during breaks.

“Through this entire COVID crisis, they never shut their doors once,” said Larry Weigel, Transmission and Distribution Supervisor who is a foundation board member. “They provided service nonstop so first responders could do their jobs.”

With TEP’s longtime support of the foundation, including an $8,000 grant this year, the center was able to keep full hours for families who continued to need care

Since the pandemic, enrollment has dropped in half because some partners of first responders lost jobs and others were wary about the potential for illness. Still, the funds were essential to reserve spaces for families when they return and to keep up with employee costs.

“That was a relief to know that funds were available,” said Nohemy Hite, Executive Director. “I knew, with the relationship that we have with TEP, we weren’t going to have a problem helping the families.”

In addition to the grant support, 52 TEP volunteers participated in a virtual fun run and walk to support the foundation. Read a previous story about the event.

This story is part of our ongoing series highlighting one of TEP’s philanthropic focus areas – community assistance. TEP works with non-profit partners to develop invitation-based donation requests for community assistance. Funds come from corporate resources, not customers’ rates. Learn more about donations.

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