Sandia LabNews

‘Our duty to help others’

Sandians giving back

United Way Affinity Group members encourage Sandians to help

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The way Angela Rivas (9531) feels about United Way is written all over her face and emails. She ends sentences with smiley face emoticons and, in person, she’ll enthusiastically explain why she wants everyone to get involved.

It’s no surprise that someone who volunteers for four affinity groups would want to spread the United Way fever, and those who talk to her long enough might catch the bug, too.

Angela, a communication and project management specialist, volunteers with Women in Philanthropy (WIP), Young Leaders Society (YLS), Hispano Philanthropic Society (HPS), and Guys Give. On average, she meets with each group monthly and serves on the stewardship committees for WIP and YLS.

The United Way provides several ways for members of the community to get involved, whether it’s donating money, organizing a workplace event, or volunteering. Affinity groups provide opportunities for networking, events, fundraising, and grant allocation — all revolving around specific issues.

I think what’s unique about United Way is there are so many ways to give.

“I think what’s unique about United Way is there are so many ways to give,” Angela says. “Whether it’s being in an affinity group or volunteering on the Community Fund allocation panel or a number of things. There are so many opportunities. Plus, they have the whole Center for Nonprofit Excellence that gives you volunteer opportunities with all the different organizations. You can be as involved as you want to, but you should definitely get involved.”

Angela grew up in Albuquerque and says her family and friends used some of the resources United Way provides. Knowing what it’s like on the receiving end is one of the reasons she gives her time and resources now, she says.

“I’m in a position now where I can give. I can give my time and I can give my financial resources,” she says, adding she recognizes that at any time she could need services again. “I think that’s something people often forget … You could lose your house in a fire or need emergency services and that counts, and that’s under the umbrella.”

Resonating Issues

There are six local affinity groups associated with United Way of Central New Mexico, and each has a different purpose. For Senior Manager Jesus Ontiveros (10590), it was children and education that drew him to HPS.

He says the primary focus of the group is to contribute funds to organizations that support middle schools. STEM-related activities, mentoring, and awarding grants are main focuses of the group. Jesus and others in HPS are working with Polk Middle School students in the South Valley. Members of HPS offer brown bag lunches, speakers, field trips, and presentations to teenagers who may not see themselves graduating from high school or college.

We really try to focus on making sure we’re engaging them and not just up there talking.

“We really try to focus on making sure we’re engaging them and not just up there talking. That’s really a major concern,” Jesus says. “One of the things that really helps us in that direction is having bilingual mentors. I think it makes a difference if you can conduct your lunch time session in Spanish or at least be able to speak to them in Spanish for a portion of the class.”

Angela, who plans to volunteer with HPS’ Polk Middle School program, also volunteers with YLS’ mentoring program at Del Norte High School. She says many of the youth she works with don’t see a clear path to their future, and these programs aim to help.

A first-generation college student, Angela said it can be hard when kids don’t have “great shining examples” of what they can achieve. Through volunteering, she wants to help them dream.

Angela says those who want to get involved with affinity groups can find the one that suits them best. Each committee group has a different mix of what they do, but they all have opportunities for service, opportunities for networking, and even opportunities for agency visits, she says.

Locally run, locally focused

Physicist Ben Yee (1118) became a YLS member when he moved to New Mexico from Michigan. He saw it as a way to network in an active group. He helped with an outdoor beautification project at Crossroads for Women’s Hope House and mentored teenagers at Del Norte High School. He also participated in Gift of Giving, an event at Explora last week that enabled the public to learn about local philanthropy.

“What I really like about the United Way is it’s locally run, locally organized, and it’s locally focused,” Ben says. “Even though it’s a national group, it’s sort of like a franchise. It’s all local members. They are the ones who decide where the funding goes, what the funding priorities are, what kind of projects they want to support.”

Instead of focusing on individual programs, United Way is more interested in what set of programs help a particular issue, Ben says.

United Way volunteers have the opportunity to read proposals and listen to presentations from various agencies seeking funding. For the last two years, Angela read several domestic violence proposals that receive grants through WIP, and Jesus, the council chair for HPS, read proposals that benefit students. Learning about central New Mexico’s issues can be overwhelming, but Angela and Jesus both say they see what United Way and the affinity groups can do.

“The community at large needs a lot of help, and when you discover all the needs out there, it’s really almost overwhelming. But there are many different aspects of the community that individuals can get involved in, and many ways to give back,” Jesus says. “I think most of us in HPS feel like we’ve been blessed with so much that it’s our duty to help others have some of the same blessings that we had, and see themselves getting and leading successful lives here in Albuquerque, or wherever they might go.”

For more information on United Way affinity groups, visit


There’s an Affinity Group for you

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United Way Affinity Group Guys Give’s first project was to donate sporting goods equipment to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central New Mexico. See more about Guys Give on the next page. (Photo by Randy Montoya

Young Leaders Society: This group, made up of members age 45 and younger, works to educate and encourage youth in central New Mexico. YLS organizes service projects around the community, and many members are involved in its Del Norte High School mentoring program. YLS awarded seven program grants this year.

Women In Philanthropy: This group strives to give women a greater voice with education and encouragement. WIP focuses on self-sufficiency for women and helps victims of domestic violence. The group often arranges agency visits and speaking events. WIP also runs its own mentoring program for women. WIP awarded four grants this year.

Hispano Philanthropic Society: The Hispano Philanthropic Society strives to recognize Hispanic leadership, and encourages all Hispanics to become contributors to the community. It also focuses on helping at-risk youth with mentoring and field trips. The group recently awarded grants to the New Mexico Jazz Workshop and the Native American Community Academy; both organizations work with youth in the state.

Guys Give: The newest of United Way’s affinity groups, Guys Give is a group of men coming together for philanthropy. The group meets monthly and recently completed its first project: donating sporting goods equipment to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central New Mexico.

Tocqueville Society: This is an active group with more than 500 members who annually donate $10,000 or more. Sandians represent more than 100 of the members.

Loyal Contributors: This group is made up of donors who have been giving to any United Way branch for 10 years or more. There is no minimum contribution amount to be a loyal donor. There are more than 10,000 Loyal Contributors in central New Mexico.

Service and Suds

Guys Give affinity group combines philanthropy, fellowship

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THE PAYOFF for Guys Give is seeing kids skipping with joy as a collection of sporting  goods is delivered to a Boys and Girls Club facility. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

It wasn’t technically happy hour, but it was that time of day, and as the sun streamed its late afternoon glow on Marble Brewery’s rooftop, a couple of dozen guys gathered for pints and lively talk about philanthropy. And even if the beers weren’t on a two-hour special, it seemed like happy hour anyway.

The crowd has been meeting for several months at various breweries around town to network and discuss how to create positive change in Albuquerque. The group, officially called Guys Give, is one of United Way’s affinity groups that connects locals with opportunities to give their time and financial resources to the community.

A few of the men brought sporting goods equipment with them that night to support Guys Give’s first project for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central New Mexico. Technical Security Systems Dept. 4226 Manager Greg Hughes brought kids’ golf clubs and says he’s been a big advocate of United Way and Sandia’s Employee Caring Program (ECP) for 31 years.

‘I grew up with them’

Streamlined Acquisitions Dept. 10246 Manager James Burt, who was also at the Guys Give monthly meet-up, donated soccer balls and basketballs at Sandia during the Guys Give sporting goods drive that ran through September. He’d been a coach for AYSO and was happy to find a new home for dust collectors in his garage. As a child, Burt benefitted from the Boys and Girls Clubs, so donating old sporting goods equipment to the organization hit close to home.

“I kind of grew up with them and thought that was a good match for [Guys Give],” James says. “I have a lot of memories. I learned how to play foosball at the Boys and Girls Club. They took us on field trips. It was cool to have a place to go in the summer. They definitely kept us busy.”

I want this group to say, ‘Look, we did this. We’re not just getting together to grab beers once a month.’

All donations for the Boys and Girls Clubs were dropped off in early October. News of the drive, backed by Community Involvement, spread through word-of-mouth, and big 44-gallon garbage cans were placed in a few buildings as collection points.

Agile Procurement Dept. 10247 Manager Jac Pier, one of the leaders for Guys Give, says collecting sporting goods seemed to fit with the affinity group’s identity, and was a good first step outside of meeting at breweries.

“I want this group to say, ‘Look, we did this. We’re not just getting together to grab beers once a month,’” Jac says.

How Guys Give began

Pioneered by Ron Eppes, Community Engagement Manager at Intel, and former Sandian Pam Catanach, Guys Give’s goal is to bring men together who may not feel like they fit in other affinity groups, but who are interested in service and humanitarian work.

Over the last several months, Jac arranged monthly meet-ups at breweries around the city. While the name of the group is Guys Give, women are welcome to join, too. In fact, Angela Rivas, who works in Collaborative Information Environments (9531), volunteered for the sporting goods drive.

The evening Guys Give met at Marble, members listened to a United Way presentation about Mission: Graduate, which brings educators, employers, and educational support providers together with the goal of increasing central New Mexico’s graduation rates by 60,000 by 2020.

Eppes also worked with Marble and $1 for every beer purchased by a Guys Give member that night was donated to United Way.

It’s been several years since I threatened to start a group called Men Drinking Beer for Philanthropy. The concept survived, but the name was changed.

“It’s been several years since I threatened to start a group called Men Drinking Beer for Philanthropy,” Eppes said that night with a pint in one hand. “The concept survived, but the name was changed.

“We talk a lot about our career road maps and where you want to go. As you’re talking about where you want your career to grow, maybe you should also be thinking about how you want to impact the community to grow as well.”

The future of Guys Give

Adrian Carver, development officer at United Way, works directly with Guys Give and says the group is reaching the stage where deeper talks about community impact can take place.

“United Way is developing our community impact agenda, so what we’re going to do is to be directly aligned with the community impact agenda of the United Way, so we can demonstrate measurable results on the issues that this group of guys care about,” Carver says.

Early in the evening, while some of the Guys Give members took a tour of Marble, a group formed inside before moving to the roof. Larry Strickland of United Way said he’d been coming to the meet-ups and watching the number of attendees grow.

“It’s kind of clear they’re getting there,” he says. “Right now, it’s like, ‘This is something!’”

Guys Give is about creating a way for men to be more intentional about giving to their community, Strickland says. To do that, they will work with United Way on issues that can be affected, and figure out ways to pay for impactful projects.

“I just had a long discussion with a guy and he said in his family, women were the generous ones,” Strickland says. “And so he said, ‘This is encouraging to me because I’m more involved.’”

Strickland works as the director of donor impact at United Way and for years has seen where funding comes from.

“The data has said for many, many years that women give because they’re involved. Men give, and this is a generalization, men give because … another man in their business or somebody in the community that they hold in a high regard [asked them]. That’s how organizations raise money. Let’s have men to go ask men if they can do this.”