Teaching kids in a classroom

Tucson Electric Power employees will support reading at the upcoming Tucson Festival of Books. It’s just one of the ways the company and its employees promote literacy in the community throughout the year.

TEP regularly gives grants to organizations with literacy programs, while employees volunteer as reading tutors, assist in schools and plan annual book fairs.

On March 11-12, about 1,800 community volunteers will put on the book festival that is expected to draw more than 135,000 attendees to the University of Arizona.

Carmen Morris, a TEP Senior Plant Accountant, will serve as a key volunteer organizer. Now in her sixth year as a volunteer, Morris is the co-liaison for the volunteer check-ins during the festival. In addition, she plans on recruiting fellow TEP employees to help.

Morris first got involved with the festival because she loves to read, often finishing two to three books a week. She started in jobs at the information booth, but she gradually has taken on more duties.

“If not for people like me who volunteer, they wouldn’t be able to put on this festival,” Morris said. “It’s not just a fun event; it’s helping to promote literacy in the community.”

The festival has raised nearly $1.5 million to give to literacy organizations, including Literacy Connects, where TEP employee Marcia Isbell serves as the chair-elect of its board.

Isbell, a TEP Enterprise Change Process Leader, plans to help at the Literacy Connects booth to promote tutoring programs and recruit volunteers.

Since 2010, Isbell has volunteered for the non-profit organization, which has a range of programs serving babies to seniors. Because of her strong interest in reading, she decided to volunteer as an adult tutor and quickly learned about the great needs of those who can’t read well.

“They struggle getting jobs because they can’t fill out job applications. Many adults who have reading difficulties are very good at faking it,” Isbell said.

In addition to tutoring a 72-year-old man, she assisted the staff with professional development when the organization merged with five other community literacy programs. She joined the board in 2014.

“We need to have a literate community. It doesn’t do Tucson well if a large population is not able to read,” Isbell said. “I view it as setting up our community for success.”

In addition to its volunteers, TEP regularly assists non-profit organizations that promote education, including Junior Achievement and CommunityShare.

TEP gave Community Impact Grants to literacy programs last year.

With a $10,000 grant, the YMCA of Southern Arizona will offer its Summer Learning Loss Prevention Program, which provides instruction for six weeks during the summer in the Tucson area.

“We are so grateful for TEP’s generous support,” said Kurtis Dawson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the local YMCA. “As a result, we can deepen our literacy work in the community and continue to help all children achieve their fullest potential.”

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