Juana Capuchino is passionate about helping people. It’s why the longtime San Onofre nuclear plant employee spent a decade as a volunteer making sure homeless children had shelter and nutritious meals.

So it came naturally to her to reach out to Orange County churches, schools and nonprofits when she learned San Onofre had roomfuls of surplus items to donate after the nuclear plant closed last year.  

Capo Beach Christian School in Capistrano Beach was among the 50 nonprofits that leapt at the chance to acquire San Onofre’s surplus chairs, desks, white boards, carpet and cabinets for the small school serving kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I’m thrilled that Capo Beach will be able to put our donations to good use,” Capuchino said. “Because we provided so many desks and chairs, the school will have more money to spend on books and laptops that directly help students learn.”

The school’s principal, Nicky Magnuson, said the donations also mean the school can grow, fulfilling a dream to offer high school courses and become a K-12 curriculum by 2018.

“These generous donations are changing a generation,” she said. “This school has been here for 30 years and now we can take a huge step forward because of what Southern California Edison (SCE) has done for us.”

Magnuson, armed with a doctorate in organizational leadership and education, has already honed in on a larger building about 10 miles south of the school in San Clemente that will be closer to many of the students’ families. 

She credits Capuchino with the care, persistence and knowledge to make it all happen. “She’s got a huge heart, and she’s a hard worker who goes above and beyond what is needed to get the job done.”

For her part, Capuchino said the Capo Beach project has been rewarding for the entire SCE team. “We watched as the parents and volunteers pitched in and hauled all the chairs and materials to the school and we saw firsthand the school’s generosity.” 

One of the volunteers is a homeless man whose endeavors inspired the school to buy him a surplus San Onofre trailer to live in. His new home is now parked by the school.

“Juana’s connections in the community were the key reason San Onofre was able to help so many organizations,” said Bob Allen, manager of the investment recovery team which oversees San Onofre inventory reductions and charitable donations. “She is a valued employee who makes a difference every day.”

Capuchino’s community work and strong performance at San Onofre have earned her numerous accolades. She was an SCE Chairman’s Award winner in 2013 and received the Chief Nuclear Officer Award in 2012. She has been recognized several times for her work with homeless children, including the National Leader of the Year for Stand Up for Kids in 2005.

The community outreach by Capuchino and her San Onofre co-workers is a brief snapshot of the more than 250,000 volunteer hours donated by SCE employees each year. Their civic engagement aims to improve quality of life by increasing access to education, promoting public safety and environmental stewardship.