Reading to kids

One of the ways Tucson Electric Power works to expand educational opportunities in the communities it serves is by supporting agencies that serve children.

Last year, TEP provided grants and corporate contributions to Aviva Children’s Services, Arizona Children’s Home Association, Junior Achievement, the Physics Factory, local United Way organizations and many other children’s advocacy groups across Arizona.

“Research shows the most critical time for a child’s development is birth through five years,” said Wendy Erica Werden, Manager of Community Investment and Philanthropy for TEP. “By supporting children’s agencies, we help to prepare children for education in a more formal school environment.”

Many TEP employees have supported Aviva, a Tucson foster care organization, by organizing and participating in the group’s annual holiday Kruzin’ for Kidz fundraising motorcycle parade. TEP also hosts the agency’s clothing drives and sponsors tutors for the children in Aviva’s care.

TEP employees also work with Junior Achievement to provide age-appropriate lessons that help Blenman Elementary School students better understand money and decision-making.

Volunteering on boards is another way the company and its employees engage with organizations that serve children. TEP’s Vice President and Controller Frank P. Marino and Michael Baruch, a supervisor on the energy efficiency team, serve on the boards of Junior Achievement and Aviva, respectively.

“Our leaders are role models for our community involvement,” Werden said. “They personally believe in it. They’re out there actively participating and making a difference with their volunteer time.”

Child-assistance agencies also have secured significant funding through the companies’ competitive grants program. The awards, previously known as Grants that Make a Difference, were expanded and rebranded this year as Community Impact Grants to provide even greater support for the companies’ philanthropic mission.

Last year, GAP Ministries used a $10,000 grant from TEP to purchase a convection oven that helps the Tucson agency feed hundreds of children every week, including students at local schools and foster care recipients.

GAP Ministries also teaches food-preparation skills to students, both to encourage healthy, nutritious eating and to prepare interested students for future culinary careers.

Other youth-oriented organizations that have received TEP support include Our Family Services, Good Shepherd United Church of Christ, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tucson, Beads of Courage, the Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation, the Educational Enrichment Foundation and Pima County’s Joint Technical Education District.

An organization that draws widespread TEP volunteer support is the Erik Hite Child Care Center, which provides low-cost child care for first responders, police and military families that need additional flexibility in hours.

“Our linemen work with first responders all the time and understand that accessible child care is very important,” said Katie Ferencik, TEP Community Relations Coordinator.

“We have so many families here at TEP and Tucson is such a family-oriented town that we appreciate the importance of child development.”

To help extend the company’s culture of volunteerism and philanthropy, TEP encourages its employees to volunteer as a family and to bring their own children to charitable events.

“We encourage employees to teach their children the importance of community service,” Werden said. “We have employees who, at some point, have benefited from projects TEP supports. Now, they can give back and make a difference for someone else in the same situation.”

In September, TEP and its sister company, UniSource Energy Services, will be awarding $330,000 to community groups focused on education, the environment and community investment through its new, expanded Community Impact Grants. In addition to grants, the companies take corporate contribution requests year-round at tep.com and uesaz.com/community.