TEP is very concerned about the critical health and safety needs of the community. Volunteer activities, are encouraged for employees, their families and friends, and are completed on personal time, without pay. Several projects focus on assistance for homeless and near homeless teens, a much underserved population. Since 2004, Community Action Team (CAT) volunteers have volunteered extensively with five nonprofits serving at-risk teens and contributing nearly 1,000 volunteer hours.
The Tucson Planning Council for the Homeless estimates 4,336 people are homeless per night, with 40 percent being families with children. And the younger homeless are less likely to receive government aid. All agencies have waiting lists for services or are unable to meet program needs due to budget shortages.
In October 2004, TEP’s Community Relations staff invited executive directors from five organizations serving 624 at-risk teens – Intermountain Centers for Human Development, La Paloma Family Services, Open Inn, Our Town Family Center and Youth On Their Own – to describe their situations with the CAT Steering Committee. The facts were compelling. One story told was about a 17 year old homeless girl who had given birth at a Tucson hospital. Late in the day, a nurse leaving the hospital noticed the young mother and newborn sitting outside the hospital. She had been there all day and had no way back to the car she had been living in. Fortunately the new family was referred to Our Town and the story had a happy ending.
For the past four years, a TEP employee who serves on the board of Our Town, has led clothing and toy drives and shelter improvement projects for a unique transitional housing program for homeless teen moms and their children. The 2004 Holiday Season had company wide support with approximately 500 gifts donated to all five organizations and valued at $4,622. The Corporate Accounting Department has adopted an Intermountain group home for volunteers to do quarterly cleanup, repairs and donating of furniture. The Information Services Department donated two computers, a desk and printer to maintain the home’s study center. Information Services also coordinated a “Back-to-School Backpack Drive” and filled all 74 backpacks with school supplies and hygiene products, again for all five organizations.
Grants totaling $20,000 have funded everything from CPR training for the youth to monthly stipends for homeless teens determined to graduate from high school.
From volunteer opportunities to providing team-building opportunities, TEP work groups and individual volunteers have been serving as mentors along the way. TEP’s grants have provided matching funds for other grants and linked nonprofits for common training, i.e. CPR and emergency response.