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Video+Story: UTEP Employees Help Those in Need Through State Charitable Campaign

As a youngster growing up in El Paso’s Lower Valley, Jesus Ramirez remembers his family getting the government’s help to keep food on the table.

“I was glad to be fed,” said Ramirez, who graduated from The University of Texas at El Paso in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in social work. “I knew I was not going to bed hungry.”

The assistance his family received, and seeing his parents in careers that help others, made it clear to Ramirez that he needed to give back to his community. He worked as an intern at Big Brothers Big Sisters of El Paso during the 2015-16 academic year and the organization hired him as a match support specialist after he graduated.

Ramirez said he sees how the community helps the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, from providing tickets for families in El Paso County and parts of Southern New Mexico to enjoy the El Paso Zoo to supplying pounds of candy for Halloween treat bags for the 100 children ages 6 to 17 in the program and another 122 who are on the waiting list.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of El Paso is among the 47 local and 395 statewide organizations that are eligible to receive funds from the State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC), which ends its two-month fund drive on Oct. 31, 2016. UTEP’s SECC coordinating committee wants to raise $110,000 to help these groups that provide food, information, counseling and job training, among other services.

As the campaign hit its halfway point, UTEP SECC committee chair Vince Burke said University faculty and staff had donated more than $60,000. He said the committee was just as committed to raising awareness about the community’s needs and individual participation as achieving its financial goal.

He and the committee are promoting the SECC message through video, social media and personal appeals to encourage University personnel to unite behind an act of giving.

“We have tried to instill a new way of thinking,” said Burke, associate professor of art. “Our slogan is ‘UTEP Cares.’ It reflects UTEP’s connection to the community. It also is a call to action. We, as community partners, can have a profound influence on the charitable organizations in our community and the people they serve.”

Burke, who said he participates because it is a powerful expression of his values, has reason to be optimistic. In 2015, when UTEP’s SECC slogan was “Giving is Easy,” the University raised $105,455 of the $206,600 collected from state employees in El Paso. On top of that, the El Paso/Las Cruces region recently earned the No. 1 rank of America’s Most Generous Cities in 2016. The ranking was based on percentage of population that donated to a charity or nonprofit organization, to include religious groups.

Among this year’s SECC contributors is Herminia Hemmitt, Undergraduate Learning Center building services coordinator. She has participated in the campaign for about 20 years because she knows there are causes that need help. She usually selects organizations that assist animals and the elderly.

“I feel blessed to be able to give,” said Hemmitt, who earned her bachelor’s degree in organizational and corporate communication from UTEP in 2005. “I can’t give thousands (of dollars), but when all the little donations are put together it makes a big difference.”

Even the smallest gifts have an impact. Janie Sinclair, chief operating officer at El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, was the keynote speaker at the Sept. 13, 2016, SECC kickoff luncheon at UTEP. She said her organization can turn a $1 donation into $11 worth of food. Sinclair shared personal stories of helping people who had to decide how to stretch their meager funds between food, medicine, lodging and utilities. In most cases, those people had to choose what to do without.

The Texas Legislature created the SECC in 1993. The campaign’s goal is to positively impact the health and welfare of the people who live in Texas. Since 1994, the campaign has collected almost $8.5 million. It is one of the largest state employee campaigns in the country.

UTEP’s SECC committee asked University staff and faculty to visit secc.utep.edu and make a donation. Participants can choose from a long list of charities that provide vital health and human services and enhance the quality of life. The donation may be used as a tax deduction.

Questions: 915-747-5176 or secc@utep.edu

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

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