April is National Volunteer Month. At least one-third of Tucson Electric Power employees volunteer, either on their own or through events coordinated by the company’s Community Action Team (CAT).
To celebrate their contributions, we’re sharing stories about just some of the employees who give back to the community during their off hours. While their volunteer work varies greatly, they all share a passion for making a positive difference in other people’s lives.
Andrea Mitchell, Chemical Technician
Andrea Mitchell, TEP Chemical Technician, pictured above, has owned and loved animals all of her life. But it wasn’t until after she finished her master’s degree and had more free time that she decided she wanted to give back by volunteering.
“I thought about how much I love animals, and how much mine mean to me,” says Mitchell, who has four cats – two of which she fostered and adopted – and three dogs. “I wanted to be able to help animals so that they can enrich other peoples’ lives, too.”
Mitchell’s volunteer work as a foster mother for abandoned or stray cats and kittens with the Human Society of Southern Arizona enables her to do just that.
“I give them a safe, comfortable place to grow. I feed and clean them, and nurture and love them,” Mitchell said. “If they are sick, I take them to the vet and give them medication.”
Mitchell usually fosters kittens for about 10 months of the year without much of a break in between litters. She says feral kittens require a longer stay with her to learn socialization skills to help ensure they’ll be adopted.
“It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it. I like to think that I’m giving these animals a chance,” she says. “Yes, it is hard giving them back, but because I have adopted animals from the Humane Society, I know that they will work very hard to find good homes for the animals. I like to think of it as their graduation.”
Gary Davis, Lead Superintendent, Business Services
Benjamin Franklin once said that “if you want something done, ask a busy person.” One such person is Gary Davis, Lead Superintendent of Business Services for TEP’s Springerville Generating Station (SGS).
Throughout his 33-year career with TEP, Davis, pictured above, has given freely of his time and talents for the benefit of the local community. Davis has served on boards for numerous organizations, including the White Mountain Regional Medical Center, the Round Valley Senior Living Center, the United Way of Northern Arizona, the Round Valley Unified School District, the Round Valley High School Booster Club, Pioneer Irrigation Company and the Apache County Board of Economic Development.
He also carves out time to volunteer with the Boy Scouts, coordinate SGS’ annual United Way employee drive, serve in several leadership roles for his church, and participate in the CAT, which organizes and supports local fundraisers and events.
Davis doesn’t think of himself as an overachiever. Giving back and volunteering comes naturally to him.
Born and raised in St. Johns, Davis represents the sixth generation of a family that settled in the area as ranchers in the 1880s. He says hard work and helping the community were just things that he and his siblings were taught to do.
“I come from a family of 10 children, and that’s the way everyone was in the community. Coming from a small town, we all take care of each other. My parents taught by example. I don’t see giving back as anything unusual.”
Davis can only estimate he volunteers about 80 hours a month. “I don’t keep track like I should,” he says. “A lot more gets done when you don’t care who gets the credit.
Ruth Estrada, Senior Procurement Specialist
TEP Senior Procurement Specialist Ruth Estrada, pictured above, knows how to make someone’s day. She uses her skills as a cake baker and decorator to spread sweet joy to others through her volunteer work with Cakes for Causes.
Volunteers for the nonprofit agency whip up sweet treats free of charge for other nonprofit organizations’ special events, for children spending their birthdays in the hospital, and as thank-you gifts for military personnel at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Estrada began volunteering for the agency five years ago after completing a cake-decorating class. She takes on baking projects about six times a year.
“I thought it was a really neat way to help all of these other organizations,” says Estrada, who is certified as a food handler and residential baker under the state’s Cottage Food Law. “I like it because it’s ‘hands-on.’ If it’s something you enjoy, you make the time. It’s also something that I can do with my family.”
Just a few of the lucky recipients to benefit from her baking skills include the Diamond Children’s Medical Center, The Loft Cinema, Handi-Dogs, Inc., and the air base.
When she’s not baking, Estrada applies her other talents serving on the Cakes for Causes board. “Working in procurement, I’m pretty good at paperwork, too,” she says.