To support youth sports and employee volunteerism, Tucson Electric Power awards $200 grants to local teams, organizations and programs.

Last year, TEP and its sister company, UniSource Energy Services, awarded $16,000 to youth organizations, mostly to sports teams, but also to scouts, 4-H and other science-related programs. To be eligible, an organization must be nonprofit and have a TEP or UES employee as an active volunteer.

“Supporting youth sports teams and organizations benefits our communities,” said Sharon Foltz, TEP Community Relations Manager. “Higher grades, greater self-esteem, fewer behavioral problems and improved psychological and social development all can result from youth sports.”

“As more and more schools eliminate sports, especially for younger grades, local leagues and our volunteers become more important,” she said.

TEP’s grant program has been around since the beginning of its Community Action Team in 1994 and has grown over the years as the company has promoted it to new employees.

Pete Rios, a Painter at TEP, is a longtime softball coach and also is vice president of Los Niños Little League Softball on the southeast side of Tucson.

A former ballplayer himself, Rios coached his three daughters in softball (two of whom went on to play in college) and remains dedicated to coaching. After 18 years coaching, he’s still at the ballpark almost every night of the week.

“One of the reasons I volunteer is because of a coach I had growing up. He taught me a lot of lessons on and off the field,” he said. “My approach is teaching the kids more than just sports. We teach manners. We teach teamwork. We teach respect, to the other team, to the fans and to the umpires. We teach them how to win and how to lose. There are many ways to win, even when the score shows a loss.”

Teaching proper preparation, hydration and the correct use of safety equipment is just as important to Rios as how to field grounders and hit line drives. “TEP’s culture of safety translates into my coaching,” he said.

To the teams, especially in lower-income areas, $200 is a big deal — in particular when it encourages dedicated volunteers to get involved, Rios said.

“We want to support employees doing volunteer work,” Foltz said. “The greatest gift we can give any organization is to support our employees’ efforts in the community.”

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