Tammy among the people
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
After more than a decade at SCE, she is now the director of Philanthropy and Community Involvement
Presently the director of Philanthropy and Community Involvement for Southern California Edison (SCE), Tammy Tumbling is responsible for managing SCE’s philanthropy budget of approximately $16.6 million seeing that it gets to the right place where it can do the maximum good. And as the director, she provides strategic direction on funding programs, oversees the company’s grant-making focus on community building, employee giving, in-kind donations, and volunteer and scholarship programs. And she says, “I actually love what I do now.”
From ‘Straight Outta Compton’, Tumbling graduated from California State University at Dominguez Hills, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, and a master’s degree in Public Administration.
Her background made her uniquely aware of the value of education and the role it plays in personal and career advancement. She is also a graduate of two community leadership programs–the Los Angeles African-American Women’s Public Policy Institute and Leadership California–that has added to her keen awareness of the importance of mentoring and providing leadership where it is sorely needed.
Listening to Tumbling as she relates her personal, educational and professional background, it is amazing to hear what she has accomplished so quickly. “It was a long path,” from Compton to SCE, she said, “I can’t say it was a short one … I grew up in the city of Compton … I had a single mom; she raised five of us. By third grade (eight or nine), I was in a foster home because my mom was unable to take care of my siblings and me. That created a level of determination, at a young age, and I wanted to make sure I would always be able to help my mom and my siblings.”
“I became a teenage mom at the age of 16,” she continued, “and by 19, my mom died and I had to take care of all my siblings under me; I had a two-year-old baby, I was in college and had three jobs. So it wasn’t an easy path. I did whatever it took to take care of my family,” Tumbling explained. “But I remembered, one of the keys my mom instilled in us was to get an education.” It became clear that she had foundational experience along with the responsibilities that had been thrust upon her at an early age, paid off in a big way: her accomplishments and accolades.
Tumbling is the 2010 recipient of the Publisher’s Choice Award from the Inland Valley News and she has earned and deserved every part of it. She further recalled pearls of wisdom and encouragement from her mother “I cannot give you a silver spoon but I can teach you to grab the ‘brass ring’; I cannot tell anything but how to get it and that’s through education.” Tumbling, not only reached for and acquired the ‘brass ring’, she brought along her siblings with her–notwithstanding they were also a part of her support system.
She believes that she was lucky to find a job in the city of Compton as a program coordinator, but luck actually only played a minor role; she was prepared. It was there overseeing the summer youth program, with a case load of 150 kids “that’s where I believe the philanthropy and the care for kids started and that what I do now, as an adult, has an impact on all these kids in Compton–from how to dress; how to present themselves at their worksites: be it public works, some work in the mayor’s office, some work in Enterprise Middle School. That was the start of my career.”
Her acknowledgement of the positive role that Compton played in her development was very refreshing since traditionally, the city has often been bad-mouthed and maligned without just cause. But thanks to the current new breed of progressive-minded elected officials, the city is undergoing a renaissance of social and economic upward mobility, despite the sluggish economy.
“It’s about (making an) impact … and coming from a city like Compton,” Tumbling went on, “Where we always wanted the best resources to help our youth, and move them along … helping human service programs … sometimes in certain communities, they’re limited. And if I have an opportunity to have resources that I can try to strategically align with underserved communities, I feel that I can make a greater impact doing the work that I’m doing now … saving some here and saving some there. I could probably make more money, but it’s not about the money … it’s about investing in our communities.”
According to Tumbling, she was already in philanthropy when she went to SCE. “I started at the company in philanthropy at an entry level position; I did that for two years. Then I worked in the transmission and distribution unit where the linesmen are climbing poles … I was an electrical service planner and that was doing electrical engineering and designing distribution lines to bring electricity from the curb side to customers’ homes, residential and commercial buildings. I did that for about seven years. It was unique, it was different because there were not as many women as there were men on that side. But I learned a lot.”
Eventually Tumbling went back into philanthropy where, according to her, “I went from providing help and service to people in the area of electricity to helping them with education programs.
As she continued , she went into the different phases of the philanthropy and as with her vest knowledge of electrical terms and corresponding engineering technology, Tumbling was equally at home with philanthropy and its effectiveness in reshaping lives especially through education. For example, she was responsible for Edison’s innovative $1 million Green Jobs Education Initiative providing some community colleges with funding to support students enrolled in ‘green jobs’ training programs.
In addition ‘green jobs’, Edison’s contribution programs focus includes Edison scholars, computer donations and high school diversity initiative, and Tumbling is a part of that process of education.
A sought-after professional mentor, Tumbling is the mother of four children: Aaron, Ashton, Amanda and Sekai.