“We live here. We make a living here. We need to give back to the community.”
With those words Alan Means summarized the attitude and philosophy of many companies located in the Permian Basin. Some firms raise money to help numerous nonprofit organizations. Others send employees to volunteer their time and expertise. And other companies help change the lives of young students by encouraging and inspiring them to succeed, hoping to see them again in the future as employees.
Means had volunteered his time and knowledge with some organizations. But it wasn’t until his office manager, Tiffany Grant, suggested the company raise money to help others that Means went from just hands-on to financially supporting organizations. That decision also changed the attitude and focus of his employees.
“I worked with Christmas in Action back in 1986 to 1989 and loved it,” said Means, now co-owner of Cambrian Management. Back in those early years, Means was employed by Terra Resources, then Coastal Management. Ten years ago he and Sal Pagano started Cambrian, an oil and gas project management company. The firm manages drilling programs and workovers and does engineering consulting work.
In 2011, Ms. Grant told Means, “We’ve been in business almost 10 years. Why not do something to give back to the community?” He agreed. “With her guidance and help from the staff, we put together a golf tournament.”
The tournament was held at Hogan Park Golf Course and numerous companies stepped up as sponsors or sent a team to play. “We work with a lot of oil and gas service companies,” Means said. “They fall off the bus to help you. We had sponsors for T-shirts, hats, everything. It was endless. Hogan Park employees said it was one of the five best-run tournaments for them.”
Total net that first year: $66,000. In summer 2012, $83,000 was raised. It shocked Means and the other workers.
They already had decided where the money would go. “We wanted to help local charities that were founded here and based here.” And it wasn’t hard to decide the winners: Christmas in Action (CIA) and Reel Wives.
His volunteer efforts with CIA more than two decades ago left a lasting impression, as had its director: Bobby Trimble. “He’s a wonderful guy and I’ve always stayed in touch with him.” Means saw how CIA since 1972 has repaired the homes of more than 9,000 low income elderly and/or disabled persons who could not afford to pay for the work. Repairs can include paint, new windows, doors, heaters, and handicap ramps.
The Reel Wives organization is an extension of Reel Thanx in which wounded soldiers are flown to Midland for a weekend of fishing, recreation, and camaraderie. A few months after the men come for their special retreat, the women are flown here for a weekend of pampering. It’s an organization that is close to Means’ heart.
He serves on the Reel Thanx board and his wife, Renee, initiated efforts to do something special for the wives. She started putting gift packages together and mailing them to the spouses. Those efforts evolved into the Reel Wives’ weekends.
“They’re heroes also in our eyes,” Means said of the military wives. “When the husbands are deployed, these moms are moms and dads both. They have to do it all. We have a daughter going through that now. My son-in-law is deployed in Afghanistan. This organization is close and personal to us.”
To date, money raised has been split 50-50 between the organizations. Means said his group is talking about adding a third recipient or possibly starting a scholarship fund for an underprivileged student who wants to become a petroleum engineer.
When August rolls around each year, Patrice Compton knows she can expect a gift as big as Christmas and one that keeps on giving until the end of school. As counselor at Parker Elementary School in Midland, she sees many students start school without the necessary supplies or the ability to purchase them. This is where Parker’s Partner in Education rolls in to fill the gaps. Pioneer Natural Resources’ employees volunteer time, money, and expertise to supply the needs of these students and put them on a level playing field with others.
“The Pioneer employees are fabulous,” Compton said. “When we start the new year, Pioneer has a collection at their office (in Midland) for school supplies. When they finish collecting, they bring a truckload over here. They bring backpacks, notebook paper, pencils, crayons, erasers, anything a student will need.”
With a closet in her office converted to resemble a store, Compton sets up her wares. Students can shop for their needs and not worry about how to pay the bill. It’s also available to students who transfer to Parker during the year and have no supplies.
But the assistance doesn’t stop with supplies. Pioneer employees volunteer throughout the year as mentors. “Last year we had 33 employees,” Compton said. “We choose students who need a little encouragement. Some Pioneer employees come and eat lunch with their student. They read to students, offer help with various subjects and just spend time as a friend. Sometimes these kids just need someone to talk to and who says to them, ‘You mean something to me.’ It’s one-on-one time that some of these students don’t get at home.
“Every day kids will stop me in the hallway and ask if their mentor will be here that day. The visit from their mentor is the highlight of their week. It makes them feel so special. One Pioneer volunteer started helping her student with spelling, which was that child’s worst nightmare. This woman made spelling fun and now the student loves spelling.”
Pioneer Natural Resources also donates money to help with special projects, Compton noted. At the end of the year, the students are bussed downtown to the company’s office for a party and photos with their mentors. Pioneer also covers the cost of taking all Parker’s sixth graders to Texas Tech University in Lubbock to show them college life while encouraging them to plan for a college education.
“Money is wonderful,” she noted, “but the presence of Pioneer employees here means more than anything. Pioneer is all about what we need.”
Opening young minds to the wonders of science is only part of the reason behind the involvement of ConocoPhillips employees with the Petroleum Museum and its various education programs.
“They have been very helpful,” said Stacie Hanna, the museum’s education director. “They’re very reliable about coming out to volunteer and help out with Family Science Night. I send an e-mail to ConocoPhillips asking for help and we always get at least five to six and sometimes more. I need at least 20 people to put on these Science Nights, so they make up a large part of the volunteer force.”
Last summer, a large group of ConocoPhillips employees helped Hanna with a summer class on geology. “This was the first time we opened the summer classes to junior high students. The ConocoPhillips volunteers really worked with these kids and they were a hit.”
Other employees have assisted Hanna with scout camp-ins, often speaking on the fun of being a scientist or engineer.
The cornerstone of ConocoPhillips’ mission is “SPIRIT values,” said geologist Terra George who assisted with the museum’s summer class on geology. “SPIRIT stands for Safety, People, Integrity, Responsibility, Innovation, and Teamwork. Responsibility means being a good neighbor and a good citizen in the community. As a result, ConocoPhillips employees are very active in community projects. They are engaged in the communities where we live and work.”
The corporation’s summer involvement at the Petroleum Museum involved interns and new hires to help them understand ConocoPhillips’ SPIRIT. A few other employees helped with a Brownie camp-in that focused on geology, and other employees currently assist with Family Science Nights and in other areas.
A geologist for five years with the company, George said, “We enjoy educating the kids and their parents about the oil and gas industry and about science. We want them to understand the world around them and how much petroleum contributes to our lives. It’s not just putting gasoline in a car. An iPhone and a Bandaid all come from petroleum products. Even parents don’t know how far-reaching the impact of oil is in their lives.”
Meanwhile, ConocoPhillips employees also encourage young students who like science to consider a career in the petroleum industry.
Money, time, and expertise. Companies that give back to their communities through at least one of these avenues are changing lives of young and old: helping the seniors to enjoy their last years and directing the young toward a better life with education.
“We didn’t do this to get publicity for our company,” Means said of Cambrian’s golf tournaments. “It started as a desire to give back. This community has a heart of gold and as big as Dallas.”