Alex Ruvalcaba has seen the life-changing impact of a mentor.
The PG&E employee was raised in a gritty neighborhood in San Francisco’s Mission District near his aunt and her three sons, who grew up without a father. His aunt, wanting a male role model in her sons’ lives, arranged for her boys to spend time with Big Brothers.
Those connections left a lasting impact. Today, Ruvalcaba’s three cousins lead successful lives and one even went to MIT. His personal tie to his family’s upbringing is why he volunteers for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area.
“It kept my cousins off the streets,” said Ruvalcaba, who analyzes energy usage for large PG&E business customers.
PG&E recently named the nonprofit a winner of a $1,000 Power Your Community grant, thanks to Ruvalcaba’s nomination. The organization is one of 91 throughout the utility’s service area—all nominated by employees—to receive grants of $1,000 or $2,500. The grants are another way that PG&E gives back to the communities it serves.
The money is much appreciated, said Erica Argueta, spokeswoman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area.“We’re really excited because this grant will help us better serve the children,” Argueta said. “Without the community support, we wouldn’t be able to provide these services for free to these families.”
G&E has been a longtime supporter of the organization, which began in 1958 and serves about 1,100 children each year in five Bay Area counties—San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa.
This past summer, PG&E pledged $1,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area for every double play turned by the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. That resulted in $20,000. And the utility hosted children and their mentors at a game, including a behind-the-scenes tour of the ballpark.
While Ruvalcaba isn’t a mentor himself, he volunteers by organizing fund raisers for business professionals, including a recent event featuring wine tasting and tapas.
He’s also on a committee to increase the number of Latino mentors. About 45 percent of the children served by the organization are Latino compared with only 15 percent of the mentors. Some of the children have been waiting for five years for a mentor.
Ruvalcaba said it’s important that matches have a similar cultural background, especially if the children speak little or no English.
“I think they can relate a little bit more,” he said.
The bond between child and mentor can last a lifetime. Ruvalcaba said his oldest cousin, now a 41-year-old professional living in Boston with his own family, still keeps in touch with his onetime Big Brother.
Ruvalcaba said he still fondly recalls the times in the mid-80s when he tagged along to watch movies at the home of his cousin’s mentor.
“He had this huge collection of VHS movies,” he recalled. “All the Star Wars movies. All the Indiana Jones movies. At the time we weren’t able to afford cable, so sometimes we’d go there and cook and watch movies and eat popcorn. Just hanging out. He was a great positive role model in his life.”
Written by: PG&E Writer David Kligman