Cover Story: Movers, Shakers and Impact Makers
Director of social responsibility. Community relationship manager. Director of community affairs. They go by many titles. But these pros don’t just impact their own businesses — they use their positions to make a positive impact on all of Arizona. Keep reading to learn what drives five of our community’s most innovative and socially responsible leaders.
Tina Marie Tentori
Arizona Public Service
The daughter of a pastor and a nurse, Tina Marie Tentori grew up with community in mind. “My dad would take me to hospitals when he visited sick people,” she said. “I learned what it takes to have a vibrant community, that all those people are your neighbors, and it’s our job to make sure we’re meeting each other’s needs.”
Today, Tentori is director of community affairs and executive director of the Arizona Public Service Company Foundation, a role she calls her “dream job.” Headquartered in Arizona for over 100 years, APS is embedded — and vested — in our community.
“When I chose APS, it was because APS was always giving to the community,” she said. “I knew they would allow me to do the things that are important to my heart. They’d let me serve on boards and do volunteerism. They walk their talk.”
Tentori had worked at a nonprofit for 17 years before coming to APS and was able to apply that nonprofit thinking to the corporate world in order to work more collaboratively together.
“That’s when it became a match made in heaven,” she said. “I am now in a position where I can help nonprofits be successful through funding, volunteerism and board service, knowing how all of those are so important to nonprofit success.”
One thing Tentori wants people to know about her work is that it’s sincere. “I know some people can view the giving a company does in a skewed manner. But I get to oversee where the money goes, and I know it’s based on need,” she said. “It’s based on the issues Arizona is facing and how we can impact them.”
Tentori’s commitment to community hasn’t changed much since the days she was tagging along with her dad during visiting hours. “A person like me fits perfectly at APS because they care about contributing to the prosperity of Arizona,” she said. “We really want to make a difference.”
PNC Financial Services Group
Lourdes Sierra grew up in southeastern Arizona, close to the Mexican border. Raised in a small agricultural farming community, she spent her youth working in the fields to help her family. “It was through that hard work that I learned those valuable lessons that resonated with me throughout my life,” she said.
One of them was aspiring to pursue higher education. “That was unheard of because my parents collectively only had three years of formal education,” Sierra said. “I always viewed education as an opportunity for me to change my trajectory.”
She became heavily involved with Chicanos Por La Causa while she was an undergrad at Arizona State University. After she graduated, she stayed in the community and did education outreach campaigns for ASU to increase the number of underrepresented students who attended the university.
“I’ve always had a passion for community, even though I was a business major,” Sierra said. “At the end of the day, we only become a stronger community and a stronger country when we’re all given opportunities to achieve.”
As vice president of client & community relations at PNC Financial Services Group, she is helping to do just that. Early childhood education is a focus area for the organization that hits close to home for Sierra. “It’s an area that, frankly, is underfunded and underappreciated,” she said. “If we’re going to meet the educational outcomes that we want to see in communities, it’s got to start at the earliest level.”
Education and community have been driving forces in Sierra’s life since she was a girl. Today, she tries to share the fruits of those labors with others — and lift communities in the process. “That’s really what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to move from transactional giving to transformational impact,” she said.
Christine Bracamonte Wiggs
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
“I grew up around healers,” said Christine Bracamonte Wiggs. Her dad was a nurse practitioner; her mom was a midwife, so Wiggs assumed she wanted to become a doctor. Then, she learned about public health. “I was like, that’s my jam because instead of helping one person at a time, it is the opportunity to help multiple individuals and whole communities in order to have a bigger reach,” she said.
Wiggs began her career doing applied research at the University of Arizona. “Applied research is really embedding yourself in the community and finding out what the assets of that community are and what opportunities the community sees to promote health,” she said.
Today, as staff vice president for community & health advancement and president & board chair of Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, Wiggs leads the social responsibility efforts of an organization with resources to make a substantial philanthropic investment in the community. “Even though I moved from academia to healthcare, there’s a thread through what I’ve done, which is how we align and partner shoulder to shoulder with community members to drive health-related impact,” she said.
Through the foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield targets some of Arizona’s most pressing health concerns, including mental health, substance use disorders, chronic health conditions, and health equity. “It’s not just giving to do good. It’s can we measure what the good is? Are we moving the needle in the right direction? It’s an important responsibility,” she said.
Wiggs points out that money is just one part of the equation. Equally important is the work to build meaningful partnerships. “Make sure that the focus is not just on the dollars, but on the relationship,” she said. “Because that is how the work gets done.”
That commitment to work continues to guide Wiggs. “My path to where I am has been a winding one,” she said. “I haven’t focused on the job or the title; I’ve focused on the work. My North Star has been waking up every day knowing that what I’m doing is making an impact.”
As director of social responsibility at Freeport-McMoRan and president of the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation, Tracy Bame develops strategies and programs for the company to interact with communities. “That’s stakeholder engagement and social investment and working with communities to build wellness and resilience during the life of our operations,” she said.
Being mindful of resources is a hallmark of the company because of the nature of the business. “Mining is a finite resource,” Bame said. “Eventually, the mine will be depleted.”
Accordingly, Freeport-McMoRan works with communities to help them envision their future and identify what resilience looks like. “Community resilience isn’t something you achieve overnight or even in a decade. You have to put those building blocks in place,” Bame said. “Our philosophy is about listening to our communities and stakeholders to understand where they think the greatest needs are, and to try to invest in things that have a multiplier effect.”
Although there is a pathway to jobs like hers today, Bame says that wasn’t the case when she started out. “Now, there are a lot of degrees related to social responsibility in various sectors, including corporate. There weren’t when I graduated from college,” she said.
Instead, Bame found her way to corporate social responsibility by observing work being done at her first job at American Express. “I got interested in the concept of helping companies be good citizens,” she said.
Bame has advice for anyone interested in doinsimilar work. “There are a lot of really good degree programs related to sustainability, or corporate social responsibility. So, definitely pursue higher education, but also get to know the nonprofit community and what’s happening in the community around you,” she said.
Service to the community is paramount, according to Bame. “We always look at how people engage beyond a degree and a specific skill set. So I would say anything that anyone can do to get engaged, be part of solutions and support the community is always a good entrée to the CSR field,” she said.
Bank of America
In her work as senior vice president and community relationship manager at Bank of America, Maria Echeveste spends most of her time listening. But she has also important things to say.
She has lived in Arizona for more than 40 years, seeing opportunities here grow along with the state. Her paternal grandmother was born and raised in the Globe-Miami area, and Echeveste sees positive change, but also understands remaining inequities.
“If I can be a leader in trying to help solve these problems or be a voice for those who don’t have one — because, unfortunately, these inequities continue — that’s what’s guiding me,” she said.
Echeveste has learned a lot in the 28 years she has been with Bank of America. “I’ve been fortunate to learn from leaders in the company that educate us about economic mobility and why advancing racial equality is so important, besides understanding it from my personal family experiences,” she said.
In her role at Bank of America, Echeveste engages in the community, develops relationships with nonprofit partners, learns about local issues and steers the bank’s leadership to be part of the solutions.
“I’m fortunate to work with a company that values listening to our employees and our communities,” she said. Instead of prescriptive solutions, Echeveste said they strive to listen and work collaboratively. “We ask those with lived experience, or who are finding solutions, what do they see? It’s not for us to say, ‘This is what we think needs to happen.’”
For all of the advances, Echeveste thinks we are at a critical point in our state. “If we don’t step back and listen in on what is going on in our community, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, and help empower others, our youth will have worse challenges than we think,” she said.
Those challenges are real. People of color still generally earn less than their white counterparts, and there’s a 14-year discrepancy in life expectancy, depending on where in the Valley you live. On top of that, climate issues, challenges in affordable housing, and access to future education resources loom.
“We cannot do this alone. It cannot be just Bank of America or one nonprofit or government institution,” Echeveste said. “It has to be collaborative.”
Cover photo by Scott Foust Studios | Makeup by The Sparkle Bar artists Charlee Torres and Eli Medina | Styled by Risa Kostis, Dulce Badillo and assisted by Katie Anderson