Hanging lights

Tucson Electric Power employee volunteers spread a lot of light during the holiday season, hanging electric lights on parade floats and trees, lighting candles at festive events and lighting up people’s lives with gifts.

The company makes a strong commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy throughout the year, but many of its employees make a special effort to reach out from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

“It’s that time of year when many of us want to express gratitude. We like to give our employees a wide variety of opportunities to give back,” said Wendy Erica Werden, TEP’s Manager of Community Investment and Philanthropy.

Employees do this in many ways, from participating in toy drives and shopping sprees for children to giving food, presents and companionship to senior citizens in hospice care. Tucson offices hold drives to benefit a variety of non-profit organizations such as Youth on their Own and the Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse.

TEP linemen donate their time along with Sturgeon Electric Company personnel to string lights on tall trees for the Winterhaven Festival of Lights, a Tucson tradition for more than six decades. TEP volunteers also put lights on floats for the Downtown Parade of Lights and Festival.

Ron Runion, a Group Lead in Transmission and Distribution, dresses up as Santa Claus for several events during the season. When his natural beard turned from salt-and-pepper to white about six years ago, he decided to try on the red suit.

“I had a blast,” Runion said. “Talking to the kids is pretty cool. Some of them are absolute gems.”

Dressed as Santa, Runion joins a group of TEP volunteers that has visited with hospice patients for more than three decades. The volunteers work with Peppi’s House at Tucson Medical Center to bring meals, gifts and comfort to those at the center and in individual homes before Christmas.

Runion also regularly attends the Tucson Nursery School’s Christmas party, where daycare and preschool-aged children can sit on Santa’s lap and receive gifts collected by TEP employees.

At the Tucson Botanical Gardens, Runion invites children to sit on his lap during Luminaria Nights, with his wife by his side dressed as Mrs. Claus.

“It’s an opportunity to give back to the community and show thankfulness for what we have been provided,” Runion said.

Also at Luminaria Nights, about 70 employees volunteer to light the candles in the lanterns that are displayed throughout the gardens. Leonard Nehrmeyer, a Lead Accountant, has led TEP’s volunteer effort for 15 years, making it a family affair with his wife and 14-year-old daughter, Rachel.

Also during the holidays, Nehrmeyer helps wrap gifts for hospice patients, goes on a shopping spree with Big Brothers Big Sisters and contributes stocking gifts for children in Intermountain Centers for Human Development.

“We really enjoy making a difference outside our own family,” Nehrmeyer said. “I hope we always take time for volunteering during Christmas. It’s a way for us to realize just how thankful we are for what we’ve been given.”

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