The Yarnell Hill wildfire tragedy hit home to employees of UNS Energy Corporation.
The ridge where 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters lost their lives is just outside of Prescott, which receives gas from UniSource Energy Services. "It's part of our community," CEO Paul Bonavia said. "We have employees who are affected personally, or their neighbors, friends or family are directly affected by this very sad loss."
It was an easy decision, Bonavia said, for the company to match employee donations through July 31 to two charities that directly are helping the families of the wildfire victims. "The more we match, the better off we all are," Bonavia said.
And match, the company did.
In a month, employees donated $18,789 – with the match, a total of $37,578 was raised – for the Prescott Firefighter's Charities (Granite Mountain Hotshot Families) and the 100 Club Survivors Fund (100 Club of Arizona).
Employees held events throughout the state – lunches, barbecues and car washes – to generate funds and support for the families.
Early on, the company announced it would match employee donations, and Ryan Companies, which manages the Headquarters building, pledged $500 toward the cause. That set the wheels in motion for fundraising events.
At Headquarters, Human Resources convened a group of employees to plan a chili cook-off, which would become the largest of the events, drawing about 300 employees, the Tucson Fire Department chief and several firefighters on July 15 to the auditorium for lunch and a drawing.
A total of $6,221.50 was raised that day.
"As a group, we thought, 'What can we do?'" said Cathy Bradley, Director, Human Resources. Employees, she said, like lunchtime gatherings and competition. The planning group wanted something affordable, so all of the contributions would go toward the families. With this, the idea of a chili-cooking contest and hotdog fundraiser lunch was born.
And it was a huge success.
Fifteen employees entered batches of their homemade chili, including Rich Hyatt, Manager, Security Services. His New York recipe – specifically for chilidogs – took an hour and a half to prep and six hours to cook. "It's for a good cause," he said. "The firemen who were killed up in Prescott are near and dear to our hearts, and I wanted to support this great employee event."
All who came to the lunch received drawing tickets toward prizes that included a day with Tucson Fire Station No. 4. In exchange, employees were asked to make donations.
The money, Tucson Fire Chief Jim Critchley said, will benefit the families of the fallen firefighters, particularly their children, who now will grow up without their fathers.
Critchley said he and his colleagues were honored to join the event. TFD and Tucson Electric Power, he said, have a strong, trusting relationship. "We actually are kindred spirits; we're from the same place," he said. "We both want to take care of the community. We both have to deal with danger. We both have to follow safety rules."
"We have built a relationship with TEP that is the envy of most of the state on how well we work together," Critchley said.
He told employees he was proud of TEP's desire and mission to support its community. "I've really got to hand it to TEP: your leadership, your desire to help in the community," he said. "It isn't just about the dollar that's there; it's about taking care of the people we live and work with."
Across the state, UNS Energy employees held fundraising events.
On July 6, UES's Sara Miller, with help from Donna Milstead, organized a car wash to support the families. AutoZone donated items, and several volunteers made it a success. In all, they raised $924.63. The UES Prescott office had a fundraiser lunch BBQ on July 16, raising $425.
SGS held a hotdog luncheon and chili cook-off on July 25 to support the victims' families. SGS supplied the hotdogs, chips, cookies and drinks, and volunteers supplied the chili. Similar to the Headquarters event, the lunch was free, but donations were accepted. In all, the event raised $4,316. A follow-up dessert event raised an additional $177.
A BBQ fundraiser in the Kingman Office raised $4,030 for the fallen firefighters' families.
Said Bonavia: "It's a small thing we can do to support these families."