Jacob and Alex Echevarria appear like most youngsters.
The brothers will tell you they love sports, making art, playing video games and hanging out with their friends. But if you spend a little time chatting with them, you’ll quickly learn they’re interested in something that has a much deeper meaning.
“We think a lot about what we like best about our life,” Jacob said, “and what opportunities we have that we’d like to give to someone who might not have them.”
The Echevarria brothers have been helping their mom, Sidney Echevarria, determine where her charitable contributions will go since they were small. She’s a diversity and inclusion program manager who recently celebrated 10 years with Duke Energy.
“We want them to think through what causes and topics they’re passionate about, then turn their passion into action,” Sidney Echevarria said. “We go visit the organizations we’re supporting, so the boys can see different sides of things they might not have, otherwise. They’re both very aware of how much privilege they have, and how they can pay it forward.”
Duke Energy’s annual Power of Giving campaign empowers employees in the seven states the company serves to support the causes of their choice. The Duke Energy Foundation matches donations dollar for dollar – nearly doubling contributions employees can make in their community. In 2022, employees contributed $5.6 million in support causes as diverse as the arts and animal welfare, combating hunger and curing disease.
A few weeks before Power of Giving begins in September, the family begins their process.
“Our parents do the heavy lifting, but they’ve always asked for our input when it comes to who receives help,” Alex said. “They let us know about a week in advance so we can research different organizations. Then we come together around the kitchen table to make our decisions.”
The Duke Energy Foundation contributes more than $30 million in charitable grants each year to support nonprofits in the seven states the company serves, focusing on the economy; climate resiliency; and justice, equity and inclusion. Employees and retirees volunteered more than 100,000 hours with nonprofit organizations last year, contributing $3 million in estimated value of their volunteer time
The young men say they are particularly proud of one contribution.
A few years ago, they wanted to make sure children in hospitals had access to video games, so they donated to a group that provides gaming devices to kids who wind up sick, injured, or might be visiting someone who is.
They give to organizations across the diversity spectrum, like the Young Black Leadership Alliance, which Jacob is now a part of, E2D (Eliminate the Digital Divide), the Mint Museum and Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture and International Museum of African American History.
Jacob and Alex say the exposure to many different types of people and places helped to shape their childhoods – who they are today – and who they hope to be.
“It’s given both of us a heart of service, to be raised in a way where we are expected to help and serve,” Jacob said. “We’ve learned and seen things and met people we wouldn’t have if we didn’t. I hope other families start being more proactive, because it’s so easy and can make such a difference."