Making an Impact

Energy fuels pandemic relief

By Eric Garcia

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It’s been just over a year since we confronted coronavirus, which impacted all Americans and placed a stranglehold on the U.S. economy. The energy industry stepped up to combat the pandemic by donating more $100 million, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API). Latinos were often first responders, whether as nurses and doctors, or essential workers in other sectors that kept the economy going.  Companies like Phillips 66 and BP provided supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE), to support their efforts and offered support in other critical areas to lend a helping hand. 


For Juliana Moreno, the appeal of the energy industry was to better people’s lives. The 33-year-old Mexican American grew up in Southern California. While her father only reached the sixth grade, he and Juliana’s mother instilled in her the value of education. Juliana attended Norwich University, earning a dual B.A. in political science and Spanish language and an M.A. in international studies from Chapman University. Early in her college career, Juliana became interested in policy and joined the U.S.Department of State in 2009. During the Obama Administration, she served in Geneva and continued to work in various roles, ultimately in Washington, DC, as a Foreign Affairs Officer. But in 2019, she returned home to Orange County with Phillips 66 as the Public Affairs and Community Relations Advisor, focusing on community outreach and philanthropy and supporting STEM education.

 

“I wanted to make an impact,” she says. “It was very important to me to give back to the Latino community. It made me who I am.”


As part of its philanthropic efforts during the pandemic, Juliana established a partnership on behalf of Phillips 66 with 3D printer company Matter-Hackers Inc. to deliver volunteer-produced 3D printed face shields and other essential supplies  to hospital workers. But Juliana had the idea of approaching her colleague, 76® Brand Director Bree Januhowski in Houston for support. The result of this creative collaboration was a care package that included not just face shields but also gift cards, sanitizers, , t-shirts, face coverings, and even meals provided by 76® gas station owners, and even t-shirts and bandanas. Volunteers distributed the care packages from the Phillips 66 Los Angeles Refinery, including Juliana herself. They went to over 20 hospitals and fire/police departments in 14 cities and three counties in Southern California and numerous non-profits in Greater Los Angeles.


“It was quite the production,” says Juliana. “We were able to scale up our grants and philanthropic efforts, as well as get our employees involved.”


The effort was part of a $3 million grant by Phillips 66 to address the pandemic. Juliana’s program was replicated at some of its 13 other refineries around the world, and she was recognized with the company’s coveted Golden Shield Award.


Juliana also serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Club of the Los Angeles Harbor and the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, which serves between 70% to 90% Latino youth. As part of her portfolio, she supports literacy and holds an annual holiday book giveaway in partnership with thewith the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, benefiting over 10 local elementary schools like Hawaiian Elementary. For almost 70 years, the refinery has invited families to see its giant, illuminated Jack-o’-Lantern tank, which is recognized by everyone in the community. Juliana fondly remembers, one student referred to her as the “Lady from the Calabaza.” (Calabaza means pumpkin in Spanish.)


“I have the opportunity to make a difference in my immediate community,” she says. “You don’t see that except at the grassroots level. Phillips 66 allows me to do that.”


For Rudy Gallegos, 41, a career at BP fulfilled a childhood dream. Born in El Paso, Texas, he grew up in Hammond, Indiana, a growing Latino community near BP’s Whiting Refinery. His mother worked at a car dealership just a block from the refinery, and Rudy often wondered what it would be like to work there. 


Rudy grew up hanging dry wall with his father, who encouraged him to find another line of work. “Drywall gets pretty heavy over time. You have to study, go to school and do something different,” he recalls his father saying. So Rudy attended Notre Dame, earning a B.S. in chemical engineering and then an MBA. He joined BP in 2002 as a design engineer, commuting just half a mile from home. Rudy later worked at two other BP refineries, in Texas and Spain. “The opportunity to move somewhere else, to work within a different community and culture, gives you a different perspective that helps you make better decisions,” he said. He added that such experiences are part of BP’s focus on developing future leaders for the company.

Rudy returned home to Whiting in 2014 and later became Director of Health, Safety, Environment & Carbon. The refinery, located on the Lake Michigan shoreline near Chicago, is BP’s largest refinery in the world, and the largest overall in the American Midwest. It produces about 10 million gallons of gasoline a day, along with 7% of U.S. asphalt.


When the pandemic hit, the refinery’s response was within the responsibility of Rudy’s team. That meant setting up safety protocols, distributing PPE, planning remote working schedules, and managing “an army of people working to sanitize surfaces.” Due to BP’s strict safety protocols, very few cases of COVID were transmitted among the over 3,000 BP employees and contractors at the refinery. 

Early in the pandemic, Whiting donated more than 16,000 pieces of PPE to local healthcare providers, first responders and other essential workers, drawing from a surplus it built up during the H1N1 pandemic. “When we made the donation, it was at a time when masks were still hard to get,” Rudy recalled. “We didn’t want hospitals to go without.”


Among BP’s other COVID-relief efforts, the company also provided 3 million gallons of jet fuel at no cost to FedEx and Alaska Airlines. FedEx used the fuel for deliveries of PPE around the country, and Alaska Airlines used it to restore air service to remote Alaska communities and provide food, medical supplies, mail and emergency passenger transport. 


BP also provided more than $8.5 million in fuel discounts to first responders and others who serve their communities, along with donating two ultra-low temperature freezers to the Denver Health Foundation to help keep vaccines at their required storage temperature. 


“This pandemic has upended people’s lives and caused a lot of suffering,” Rudy said. “BP has tried to help where it can and let people know they’re not alone.”
 

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