El Paso Charity Tour: See the Difference

From the street, the building looked unassuming. To Sundt Project Engineer Alexi Santillan, it seemed more like a small office building than a nonprofit for children, let alone a creative space or gallery for their artwork. However, he soon realized it was much more.

Last month, members of Sundt’s El Paso team attended a tour of three local nonprofits, coordinated by the United Way of El Paso County. Sundt Foundation members here had previously awarded grants to these organizations; for this group, however, it was the first time seeing their operations in person.

A group of people stand in front of a collage of paintings in an art gallery.
The El Paso team stands inside the Creative Kids gallery in front of a collage of paintings.

Providing the Space for Limitless Imaginations

Creative Kids, the second stop on the tour, proved to be more than meets the eye—not only in its venue but in the level of impact the organization has on kids. “This is a lot more than just a place for kids to create art; it also allows them to grow in their skills for the future,” said Alexi Santillan. The community-based, nationally recognized art nonprofit offers several programs for youth, including for children with disabilities and those who are battling cancer.

A sign showing six programs that are offered by Creative Kids.
Creative Kids offers six programs: Project Arts-in-Motion (AIM), Early College High School Program, Kids in Migrant Families, Project ABLE (Art Brokers’ Learning Experiences) and Little Picassos

“Kids here are learning design and photo editing programs, they have access to a 3D printer—things they can use to market themselves and skills that transfer into the workplace,” said Alexi. In the low-income communities the organization serves, access to these programs and training are limited. However, as Alexi pointed out, a child’s imagination is limitless; they just need the right place to be curious and push boundaries. By the end of the tour, he was amazed. “To see the artwork these kids are making and the energy coming out of this place, it’s mesmerizing. Being able to support something like this, it gives you a really good feeling.”

People browses an art gallery.
The team browses the Creative Kids art gallery which features a variety of artwork from different mediums and genres.

Opening Eyes to a Community’s Needs

The tour evolved out of the United Way’s Young Leaders Society, an education and social leadership program, with the aim of helping Sundt team members discover where they can be more active participants with local nonprofits. This is in line with Sundt’s stated purpose to build prosperity for our communities.

“We have some of the poorest zip codes in the country here in El Paso,” said Sundt’s Business Development Representative Angelica Rosales. If Sundt is going to build prosperity, she explained, it must start in the communities where we live and work. That means not just giving through donations but taking it a step further to make a difference. “Seeing this work up close opens doors for Sundt Foundation members to become engaged in the local community in ways they hadn’t been engaged before.”

The first stop on the tour took the team a few blocks away from the Sundt office to the Opportunity Center for the Homeless. Since 1994, the Opportunity Center has provided safe nightly shelter, food and support services for individuals struggling with homelessness.

A group of people stand outside homeless shelter.
The team stands together outside the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.

Project Engineer Jennifer Peralta described the experience as eye-opening. “This shelter helps [the homeless], even people who are just struggling, like for a week or a couple of days. They provide them a bed and food for as long as they need it.”

Sundt Foundation Vice President and El Paso region leader Joseph Riccillo was also moved, namely by how the Opportunity Center never turns anyone away. “[They] told us their constraints, what they’re working on, and the demographic they’re taking in, which is anyone—regardless of mental health issues. It was really touching.”

Building Skills to Shape the Future

Last on the tour of nonprofits was the Fab Lab, an organization that provides community access to digital fabrication tools and resources for technical skillset learning. With a focus on STEM, the Fab Lab offers a space for creative collaboration, prototype development and product manufacturing.

The United Way’s Margaux Dalbin, Assistant Director of Philanthropy, emphasized the importance of these programs and how they truly make a difference in the lives of the children involved. She explained, “When kids and young adults have that foundation, it inspires them to then take on those careers, to further their degree, whether it be in engineering or some sort of tech degree, which is so needed right now.”

On the left, the team views some of the designs created by Fab Lab and community featuring colorful vases being displayed in front of a window. On the right, an incomplete prototype robot is displayed on a workshop bench.
On the left, the team views some of the designs created by Fab Lab and community featuring colorful vases being displayed in front of a window. On the right, an incomplete prototype robot is displayed on a workshop bench.

The biggest takeaway from the tour, said Joseph Riccillo, is that team members recognize the organizations they’re giving to and the level of need among the people they serve. “These nonprofits made a big impression on our team,” he said. “We’re beginning to see how, when people get involved at a deeper level, the impact these charities can have on the El Paso community is limitless.”

The Sundt Foundation has 11 giving areas including El Paso, North Texas, San Antonio, San Diego, Irvine, Sacramento, Tempe/Phoenix, Tucson, Salt Lake City, Charlotte, and Portland. If you’re involved with a nonprofit and are interested in a applying for a Sundt Foundation grant, please visit Sundt.com/Foundation/#apply.