Community Action Team: 20 Years, a Half-Million Volunteer Hours

Deep in the heart of Arizona Wildcat country is another feline-inspired entity – the Community Action Team, or CAT, of Tucson Electric Power.

For the past 20 years, this CAT has been on the prowl for ways to serve its communities through volunteer service and charitable contributions.


In its first year, back in 1993, CAT volunteers worked with 36 agencies, including the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona – a relationship that is still strong today. Volunteer hours totaled more than 2,000.

Over the past two decades, CAT has upped its ante, contributing more than a half-million volunteer hours to nonprofit groups in Tucson and the White Mountain area of Eastern Arizona, where TEP operates its Springerville Generating Station. The team now supports nearly 700 nonprofits each year and has expanded to the Arizona communities served by UniSource Energy Services.

Charles Bayless, under whose leadership CAT was formally established, said the group has “exceeded expectations” to help the community.

“My job was simple: I wanted to make people proud to walk down the street wearing a TEP shirt,” said Bayless, who served as Chairman, President and CEO from 1989 to 1998.

Today, employees and community members, alike, can be proud of the company and CAT. The award-winning volunteer program is one of the most effective of its kind nationwide, serving as an example for other organizations looking to establish corporate volunteer programs.

“We definitely have a reputation of doing a great job and being there,” said Sharon Foltz, Manager, Community Relations. “When TEP gets involved, things just happen – and they happen well.”

While leadership support has been integral to making CAT a success, the team is largely employee driven.

“Seventy percent of our philanthropic giving program is driven by employee volunteer engagement at some level,” Foltz said, adding that volunteers include employees and their families, retirees and even former employees who have gone on to work for other organizations.

“People really enjoy getting to meet and work with people from other departments,” she said. “We get thanked for that a lot.”

The best part of it all? While employee volunteers are building relationships with each
other, they’re also making a difference in the community.

Through CAT, volunteers have created the first energy efficiency homes for Habitat
for Humanity, revamped animal habitats at Reid Park Zoo, built a playground and
community gardens for the Community Food Bank and ramped up efforts to educate
young people about the dangers of drinking and driving.

And that’s just scratching the surface. Plenty more has been done – and there is still
plenty more to do.

“There is a never-ending need in the community for money, talented volunteers and
change,” Foltz said. “We encourage and enable our employees to go out there and be
that light.”

CAT has helped TEP secure numerous awards.

Among them:

1996 : EEI “Driving Drunk Will Put Your Lights Out” Campaign
2004 : Award for Excellence in Workplace Volunteer Programs Points of Light Foundation
2006 : National Corporate Advocate of the Year, National Child Welfare League
2012 : Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist, Association of Fundraising Professionals
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