On January 17, 2019 at 9AM at the Tucson Convention Center we will honor the volunteer service of the award winners below!

Volunteer of the Year– Mary Ohrazda
Youth Volunteers of the Year– El Rio Teen Reproductive Health Access Project
Nonprofit Volunteer Program of the Year– Literacy Connects
Corporate Volunteer Program of the Year– Tucson Electric Power Company
Volunteer Administrator of the Year– Theresa Ulloa


Southern Arizona Volunteer of the Year: Mary Ohrazda


Mary was nominated by Morgan Wells, for her voluntary service to the Tucson Museum of Art In-School Program. She has been volunteering with TMA for the last 26 years. After serving as a Docent at the TMA for only one year, Mary was asked to create and organize a program to provide art education and activities to students in the Tucson Public School system. Over time, the In-School program expanded to offer five different programs from traditional artwork to Multi-cultural exploration. The program has steadily grown in popularity over the years. For the 2017-2018 school year, the In-School docents presented classes at 38 different schools, including Tucson, Marana and Sahuarita, with requests received from 122 teachers.


Mary serves as a role model in the community that inspires others to volunteer. At regularly scheduled meetings, the In-School committee meets to review existing programs and to explore new offerings. Mary encourages each docent to create art experiences that the individual docent is interested in and that will appeal to their student audiences. Over the years, Mary has served as the role model and instructional guide to countless numbers of docents who have shadowed her classroom presentations and “learned by doing” under her guidance. Each year Mary recruits new volunteers to the program both from the Docent training class and from the existing corps of docent volunteers. Her insight and the materials available for docents who are new to her program are key to her success. It is a measure of her success that many of her current students have told her that their parents were so excited that their child was receiving art instruction from the same “art teacher” that the parent had. It is a program that has grown exponentially largely due to the enthusiasm of the teachers who have taken advantage of the opportunity that Mary’s program offers to them.


Southern Arizona Corporate Volunteer Program of the Year: Tucson Electric Power Company


More than 500 people, nearly 25 percent, of TEPs workforce volunteer in some fashion. On average, TEP employees and their families and friends volunteer 20,000 hours in the community. If a TEP employee has a passion for community service, the company finds a way to support their efforts. This year TEP supported volunteer events with more than 30 different nonprofit partners sponsored through the company. Top TEP volunteer events with 50+ volunteers participating include: Junior Achievement, 9-11 Tower Challenge for First Responders, Ronald McDonald House, Climb to Conquer Cancer, Habitat for Humanity, Everyone Runs, Special Olympics, SANDS Buddy Walk, Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Club, Humane Society, El Rio Back to School, and many others. In addition to volunteers, TEP financially invests $1.5 million to support local nonprofit groups. There are hundreds more individual employees who volunteer their time at schools, churches, and other deserving organizations.

The culture of volunteerism starts at the top of TEP through the leadership of CEO David Hutchens. It is not uncommon to see him assisting children at a school-clothes shopping spree, swinging a hammer at a construction site, or walking to honor veterans. Nearly every one of TEP’s VPs serve on local boards of directors for local non-profits. In the community, everyone recognizes TEP’s blue shirts on their volunteers. What makes TEP volunteers special is that they are a reflection of the community: our neighbors, youth coaches, tutors, friends, caretakers, and more.

If you multiply the number of TEP Volunteer hours 20,000 hours, at a value of $26/hour for their service, it’s almost half a million dollars of sweat-equity invested locally. Also, TEP employees are true volunteers in that they do not receive any company compensation or days off in return for their time volunteering. In 2018, TEP celebrated its 25th anniversary of the Community Action Team (CAT) the employee-led steering committee that organizes volunteer activities in the community and Habitat for Humanity was one of their first and most consistent partners since CAT first began. Each year $100,000 is directed into the community through events coordinated by the CAT team. Furthermore, TEP is investing $50,000 in Habitat for Humanity Tucson’s volunteer program as well as Literacy Connects each year over the next three years, for a total of a $300,000 investment. Whether it’s walking with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or making meals for homeless men at the Primavera Men’s Shelter, TEP employee volunteers, alongside their families and friends, are investing their time and resources in our local neighborhoods.


Southern Arizona Nonprofit Volunteer Program of the Year: Literacy Connects


Literacy Connects serves children and adults through literacy programming that provides solutions to many of society’s most persistent problems. They serve approximately 55,000 adult and child learners annually by mobilizing over 1,000 community members to volunteer upwards of 63,000 hours per year – the equivalent of approximately 31 full-time employees working 2,000 hours each.

Volunteers are the heart and soul of Literacy Connects. Each program of Literacy Connects engages volunteers in a different manner – dependent upon the population being served, the tasks to be performed, and the needs of the client. Volunteers who work directly with clients are required to participate in training specific to responsibilities plus ongoing professional development. Other volunteers help clean gently used books, provide office, library, hospitality, and facilities maintenance support. Literacy Connects recently began a volunteering program for adult students, providing them with valuable work experience while building capacity for the organization.

Volunteers build social networks with one another and within the diverse populations and neighborhoods they serve. As they work to improve literacy in our community, they also enhance their own skills, capacities, and sense of worth. A volunteer who coaches elementary school children in reading said, “I now have a greater understanding of the connection between illiteracy and poverty, incarceration, homeless, and other social ills. This is one of the most rewarding things I have done in the past 44 years of volunteering.” Another volunteer who tutors immigrants and refugees in English shared, “I am thrilled that I finally convinced myself to sign up as a volunteer with Literacy Connects. I had no idea that in addition to learning how to tutor English, I would also be gaining incredible insights into my community and making new friends. Thank you!”

In 2017-2018, Literacy Connects partnered with 53 schools, 61 pediatric clinics, and dozens of community organizations to offer reading support and arts programs to children, and English and basic literacy classes to adults. Literacy Connects also collaborates with many organizations such as the Pima County Public Library, the Tucson Festival of Books, the Mayor’s Education Task Force and the Arizona Daily Star to recruit community members to meet the increasing demand for literacy volunteers. Literacy Connects is continually working to leverage community connections while building broader, more widespread awareness of their work and of the importance of improving literacy in our community.

Last year, Literacy Connects put over 100,000 books in the hands of people who need them, and encouraged active literacy skills by inspiring 6,402 elementary students to write close to 14,000 original stories. 1,606 K-5 children experienced an average of 30% greater gains in assessed literacy skills than their peers, and 99% of participating teachers reported an increase in their students’ excitement about learning. 121 adult students reported either getting promoted in their job or obtaining a new career. These outcomes positively impact our entire community – for generations.


Southern Arizona Youth Volunteers of the Year: El Rio Teen Reproductive Health Access Project


El Rio Teen Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP) volunteers have a goal to increase access to health services for 1,200-1,500 youth at-risk, ages 14 – 24, through youth driven outreach to other young adults in collaboration with youth serving organizations in Tucson. Since fall 2017, El Rio Health has held 17 focus groups with 87 youth; and recruited 15 youth to participate in the Youth Leadership Team (40 applications were received). These young people represent the diverse population being served in that they have or are experiencing homelessness, incarceration, undocumented status, home disruption, substance abuse, trauma, poverty, life challenges and/or sex trafficking. Members of the El Rio RHAP Youth Leadership Team work directly with Joy Baynes, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), who is their trainer, mentor and supervisor.


Key RHAP 2018-2019 Program Outcomes:

  • RHAP Youth have helped co-train 50 staff and from participating partner organizations on reproductive health information.
  • RHAP Youth helped facilitate focus groups with children/teens for the El Rio LGBTQ Family Day.
  • RHAP Youth leaders are providing contraceptive education and referrals for 500 young people through direct outreach at their monthly pizza protection parties, community events, and teen clinics.
  • RHAP Youth co-host monthly teen walk-in clinics at multiple El Rio sites.


El Rio Health has seen 1,600 new teen patients at El Rio Health since January 2018 and more than 250 have received a long acting reversible method of contraception. This is thanks to our El Rio RHAP volunteers.

The fifteen El Rio RHAP youth leaders have launched their own social media sites – Instagram, Facebook and Snap Chat for youth to youth health education. Our RHAP youth leaders are diverse, dynamic, passionate and committed to helping other teens get accurate reproductive health information and compassionate, high-quality health care. Many of the teens they are helping through their outreach at schools, on the streets and through their social media have not seen health care providers in years. El Rio RHAP is one of three national projects partially funded by national support from Advocates for Youth and Arizona Complete Health. The national feedback is that Tucson is ahead of the other pilots nationwide in developing an exciting, new youth-driven system for healthcare engagement and delivery of care. We are very proud of the young people who are helping us on this project!!


Southern Arizona Volunteer Administrator of the Year: Theresa Ulloa


Theresa has been the Volunteer Administrator for Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse for five years. She and more than 150 volunteers work every day to provide opportunities to create, sustain, and celebrate a life free from abuse. By providing domestic abuse crisis intervention and housing, prevention, education, support, and advocacy services to anyone experiencing domestic abuse. While the majority of the people seeking our services are women and their children, our services are available to anyone regardless of gender.

As a result of her professional and community leadership, Theresa has clearly demonstrated a commitment to the mission of Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse its dedication to growing the different opportunities in which we use volunteers to directly work in programs and services as well as in an administrative capacity, special projects and events. Her contributions to the Purple Ribbon Volunteer Program have positively affected the lives of our participants receiving services and has created significant positive change to improve the volunteer program at Emerge!

For the past 5 years, Theresa led, managed and enhanced the Volunteer Program including naming of the Purple Ribbon Program, adding an information session component as part of her recruitment plan, stream lining our volunteer onboarding process with an interview component, orientation, tour and training process. Theresa has also developed a community tabling training and a quarterly team meeting that serves as a scheduled time for check-in’s and training for all volunteers. Lastly, Theresa has created a volunteer appreciation component that has helped up retain our volunteers.

Theresa is a strong advocate for all members of The Purple Ribbon Volunteer Program. She makes sure that not only are we utilizing them to support our staff and services but that the volunteers have a rewarding experience with the agency. She is a true optimist and it is because of her positive attitude that helps her accomplish any task. She is a go-getter and will go the extra mile on any project given to her with minimal guidance.

Theresa was given the opportunity to come up with volunteers for the Holiday House project that would benefit the women and children in our services. Holiday House is a shopping experience for participants so that they can celebrate the holidays without causing hardship on the families. Theresa coordinated over 100 volunteers to come help set up, help the participants shop, wrap presents, decorate and tear down. She transformed several conference rooms into a beautiful decorate store for the women and children to pick out a few things and come and enjoy their time there. She offered light refreshments as the women and children when they came into to the event. All of the women and children beyond excited. Many expressed how happy they were to be able to give their children a nice holiday. Theresa and her team of volunteers engaged the women and children with conversation, helped them pick out items and offered such a warm presence. The women and children were so happy and they felt amazing. This project impacted them in a huge way. For one moment they were able to think about themselves and treat themselves to something nice made with love. It was an amazing event.