For more than 20 years, Mary Fosdick has made volunteering at the Tucson Botanical Gardens part of her holiday tradition. This year, she’s organizing a volunteer effort and inspiring others to assist in spreading the holiday spirit at the nighttime experience.
“This is a really, nice centering event during what can be a stressful time,” said Fosdick, a Senior Chemical Environmental Engineer.
TEP is a longtime supporter of the gardens’ holiday events, both with financial contributions and volunteer help. This year, the venue is presenting a new holiday light show through Jan. 15. “LightsUp! A Festival of Illumination” features more than 1 million sparkling lights.
This is one of many holiday events that TEP is supporting throughout the season, which kicks off with a holiday food drive before Thanksgiving and incorporates other light displays and gift donations throughout the subsequent weeks.
In earlier years at the Botanical Gardens, the paths were lined with candlelit luminarias – traditional Mexican lanterns with candles in weighted paper bags. TEP volunteers helped make sure the fires stayed lit and safe. The gardens later upgraded to LED-illuminated luminarias, thanks to a $10,000 donation from TEP.
“One of our guiding principles in creating the design was to blend those well-loved traditions with new and awe-inspiring light displays. Keeping the luminarias, but combining them with more than a million lights among the canopies of our mature trees is one way we are accomplishing that,” said TBG Executive Director Michelle Conklin.
TEP donated $10,000 this year to help the gardens transition to the new, brighter display.
Fosdick started volunteering at the gardens as a TEP intern before becoming a permanent employee. She has memories of lighting candles when she was pregnant with her oldest son, who is now almost 21 years old.
“Over the years, we’ve made it a family volunteer event,” said Fosdick, who has brought her husband and both sons to help out.
Fosdick said the gardens helps her and her family take the time to enjoy the holidays.
“Volunteering at the gardens forces you to slow down. That’s why I’ve always loved volunteering for this holiday event,” Fosdick said. “It kind of puts the meaning back into refocusing on the holidays and what they mean.”
Here are other ways that TEP is giving back this holiday season.
Shopping and Gifts
TEP employees are collecting toys and gifts, taking children on shopping sprees and holding donation drives to help those who are less fortunate.
On Dec. 3, employees participated in a longtime tradition – and a favorite volunteer activity – of taking Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson members shopping at Kohl’s before the store opened. About 70 TEP volunteers helped children select shoes and clothing.
This year, volunteers also are participating in the Kids and Cops Christmas Shopping event with the Tucson Police Officers Association at Target. We’ll also be at the Shoes for Smiles Shopping Event at Kohls, assisting students through the Amphi Foundation, the fundraising arm for the Amphitheater Unified School District.
At a separate event, employees helped wrap, tag, and bag gifts for more than 350 low-income children and teens during the Santa’s Helpers Gift Wrapping Party on Dec. 10 at the Mountain View High School Library.
Lights and Entertainment
Along with the Botanical Gardens, TEP is bringing the twinkle of holiday lights to our community at activities throughout the region.
In downtown Tucson, spectators can watch a light-decorated TEP truck, mascot PowerCAT and employees travel the route in the Downtown Parade of Lights on Dec. 17.
On select nights, TEP is presenting Holiday Nights at Tohono Chul, which is hosting illuminated pathways, live entertainment and sparkles throughout the gardens.
Since 2016, TEP has sponsored the Winterhaven Festival of Lights, which features elaborate holiday displays in a midtown neighborhood that draws about 100,000 visitors per season. As part or our involvement, TEP volunteers will assist in collecting food for the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. See a video.