By Paul Hughes
Southern California Edison
Edison International employees last year contributed $4.2 million and volunteered countless hours to their favorite charities, proof that the spirit of giving is alive and well companywide.
Compelled by personal adversity or a desire to give back to their community, employees either made contributions to charities, schools and community-based, non-profit organizations, or volunteered their efforts to civic-minded causes.
Continuing a more than 100-year-old tradition, Edison International’s annual Employee Contribution Campaign will be held between September 25 and October 31. During that period, individual department meetings will be conducted by campaign leaders who will take pledges and organize volunteer “Follow Your Heart” or “Energy in Action” fundraising events.
“Edison really believes in this,” said Jeanette Duvall-Ward, project manager in Community Involvement. “Edison believes in giving back to the community.”
In 2006, some 8,000 employees, 50 percent of the Edison International workforce, contributed $4.1 million to 3,800 non-profit agencies and schools, she said. In addition, 2,200 employees, their family and friends volunteered 346,000 hours at non-profit agencies and schools.
When pledging, employees can make a one-time gift amount or, through payroll deduction, opt to have a certain amount deducted and donated each month to a charity they select, Duvall-Ward said.
Those who volunteer record their hours on a web page. Edison contributes up to $600 per year to the nonprofit organization of the employee’s choice based on their volunteer hours and matches worker contributions to schools up to $2,000, Duval-Ward said.
She said the program wouldn’t work without employees who are committed to volunteerism and the spirit of giving.
“Our employees really drive this,” Duvall-Ward said. “They are generous – the money and hours they give is really generous.”
The employees profiled here are examples of why the program works so well.
“They really exemplify the spirit of giving or giving back to the community,” Duvall-Ward said.
Schools get built and injured marines receive visits from family members, thanks in part to contributions from employees at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).
Celebrating its ties to the Camp Pendleton Marine Base, SONGS employees have made the Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund (www.semperfifund.org) a major beneficiary of its annual fundraising efforts. In 2006, employees contributed $50,000 to the fund.
Additionally, employees raised nearly $11,500 for Hope Through Education, an International nonprofit organization that is dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance through education around the world.
The Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund provides financial aid to help families of marines injured in the line of duty visit their loved ones in the hospital. It is a cause that has touched SONGS, since the facility sits on Camp Pendleton land and because most of the San Onofre security force is former military, said Karen Strand, a Site Emergency Preparedness manager and volunteer campaign organizer.
Employees get a sense of satisfaction from helping others, she said.
“It’s human nature to want to help the less fortunate,” Strand said. “Especially if it is an 18-year-old who was severely injured and his mother wants to visit him. How can you say no to that?”
Ted Luckham, manager, Security Training Services at SONGS, said 2006 was the first year employees chose the Semper Fi Fund and did so have being provided dvd’s that depicted injured marines – at least one who lost a leg in combat – discussing what the contributions meant to them.
“We knew going in that that we would get strong support, but we totally exceeded our expectations,” Luckham said, describing a SONGS Security force that is comprised mostly of ex-marines.
He said it was not difficult convincing Security personnel of the importance of the fund. “A lot of the guys we have are not that far removed from being there (in Iraq and Afghanistan),” he said.
Strand said SONGS’s participation doubled in 2006 over the previous year, with 870 employees taking part. A total of $424,000 was raised through personal contributions and fundraising campaigns.
“The philosophy has always been if you can touch employees’ hearts, the contributions will follow,” Strand said.
John, Joseph and Vivian Alderete
Seeing joy in the faces of mentally and physically disabled youth as they snow ski for the first time is reward enough for John Alderete, who volunteers with the U.S. Adapative Recreation Center in Big Bear Lake.
“For some of them, it’s the first time they’ve seen snow, so it’s really cool to see their reaction,” said Alderete, a 25-year SCE employee and supervisor in Alhambra.
The U.S. Adaptive Recreation Center (www.usarc.org) was founded in 1983 by retired SCE employee Sallie Pritchard, and Alderete has been involved with it for 20 years. Using standard and modified equipment, the center operates year-round and is open to those of all ages who are either physically or mentally disabled. In the winter months participants can learn to ski or snowboard. In the summer, they can take water skiing lessons, jet ski or fish on the lake, even hike through the forest.
Alderete became involved after he attended meetings and it was announced that volunteers were needed. An avid skier, Alderete provides both private and group lessons and is allowed time off work to participate during the week.
Volunteerism runs in the Alderete family. John Alderete’s older brother Joe and sister Vivian are also long-time SCE employees who are devoted to their own charitable causes. Joe volunteers with the Blind Children’s Learning Center in Santa Ana (www.blindkids.org) and at La Casa de San Gabriel Community Center (www.lacasacommunitycenter.org), a day care facility in San Gabriel, using contacts he has accumulated through years as manager of Equal Opportunities to help those agency tap funding resources.
Vivian, a 15-year SCE employee and accountant in Covina, for the last 11 years has participated in the annual Revlon Run-Walk for Women 5k marathon (http://www.revlonrunwalk.com), which raises money for women’s cancers, and for four years the Light the Night Walk (http://www.lightthenight.org), which is sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“I’m a slow walker,” Vivian Alderete said.
The Alderetes were inspired by parents who urged them to become involved in their communities.
“In our family, we were taught that you can always give something. If not money, then there are people who can always use help,” Vivian Alderete said, describing her father as active in the La Puente political scene. “We’ve followed in (our parents) footsteps a little bit.”
“Our folks urged us to become involved. They instilled in us the importance of giving back to the community,” said Joe Alderete, a 34-year SCE employee and manger of Equal Opportunities.
He’s been volunteering at the Blind Children’s Learning Center for four years and became involved after a tour of the Santa Ana facility. “The work they are doing is phenomenal,” he said.
SCE project manager Richard Duke survived cancer. But his involvement with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society began long before he was diagnosed with the often fatal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Duke will again lead his “Duke’s Gang” in the annual “Light the Night Walk” at Anaheim Stadium on September 15. The event brings together thousands of walkers to raise money for the society, which supports research into one of the deadliest forms of cancer. In 2006, Duke and his group of 50 walkers raised $9,930; Edison contributed $50,000.
For Duke, his involvement with the organization began in the late 1980s when a friend and fellow SCE worker was diagnosed with, and later died from, leukemia. In 1997, Duke was diagnosed with lymphoma.
“It’s a very uplifting event because there are a lot of cancer survivors there,’ he said. “But it can be very heart-wrenching because there are family members there who are walking in memory of a family member who died. I’ve been on both sides.”
Following a bone marrow transplant in 2003, subsequent remission and a recurrence of the disease in 2006, Duke has been cancer free since February.
Thanks to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, new treatments for blood cancers are being researched, developed and tested; hopefully, a cure is near, he said. “Maybe not for myself, but for future generations, there may be a cure for cancer,” said Duke, a 27-year SCE employee.
This year Duke was named an Honorary Member for the “Light the Night Walk.” As a member, he has been attending lunches and sharing about his experience with cancer and his involvement with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“Richard has been an inspiration to the Power Delivery Department,” said Vivian Perez, one of the organizers of the Employee Contribution Campaign. “
No thanks are necessary for the work Joanne Wilborn does with the Historical Society of Pomona Valley. She’s just having a good time.
“I’m not really volunteering. I’m having fun,” she said. “We’re there to do something that’s worthwhile.”
Thanks to volunteers like Wilborn, the historical society, www.pomonahistorical.org, was successful in saving the landmark Fox Theater in downtown Pomona. The building is currently being restored to its original 1930s-era grandeur. “Come and see it in a year,” she said.
Additionally, the historical society is trying to convince a developer to retain and restore a group of old buildings in Pomona’s historic downtown, near the Fox Theater.
The historical society, organized in 1916, provides education about the history if the Pomona Valley, hosts events and lobbies for preservation.
Wilborn is active in the group’s support of the Robert J. Bernard Biological Field Station, part of the Claremont Wilderness Area and site of several ongoing environmental studies.
When the historical society hosts a children’s event at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona in September, Wilborn will be on hand. A 100-year-old farmhouse will be on display, a wall missing so visitors can peak in and get an idea of how Southern Californians lived at the turn of the 20th century.
Wilborn spoke of a variety of volunteer activities available to people with a willingness to donate some of their spare time and highlighted the benefit of the contributions Edison makes to these groups on behalf of those volunteers. “Once you get involved, there’s always something to do,” she said. “This can be fun.”