In 2001, Chris Coffman remembers saying a prayer before heading out with a local ministry to try to identify needs in a West Phoenix community.
Within minutes he spotted a boy — maybe five years old — alone by a busy intersection. After he and another random driver pulled over to help, the boy led them to a house where his adolescent sister answered the door. She'd been in charge of watching her brother while their mom, a single parent, slept.
Once the boy was safe, Coffman remembered his original task: identify a community need. His prayer had been answered.
Out of that moment the idea was born for Helping Hands for Single Moms. The Phoenix group’s mission is to eradicate the cycle of poverty by providing scholarships and resources to single mothers so they can obtain a higher education.
Helping Hands for Single Moms was one of 176 Arizona nonprofits that shared $2.1 million in grants last year as part of The Arizona Republic's Season for Sharing campaign. The group received $10,000, which provided nursing school scholarships for five single mothers.
Today, The Republic and azcentral launch this year's Season for Sharing fundraising and grant-making campaign.
Since 1993, Season for Sharing has raised and given away more than $70 million, 100% of which has gone back to charities that help those in need.
How to donate: Click here to give to Season for Sharing.
Grants are made possible by donations from community members and The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. The Republic donates all administrative and promotional costs. The Arizona Community Foundation is a fund-raising partner.
"So many of our neighbors are in need. Subscribers and our community come together each year to help nonprofits statewide that provide help," said Greg Burton, executive editor of The Republic and azcentral.com. "Season for Sharing is an annual gift back to Arizona."
Season for Sharing grantees help at-risk children and families, support teachers and students, and provide services for older adults.
Education helps break cycle of poverty
Alejandra Aguilar is a champion for Helping Hands for Single Moms. With the Phoenix group's help, she enrolled in a concurrent nursing program at Arizona State University and Maricopa Community College. She expects to get her bachelor's degree in May 2022.
Aguilar enrolled in college after a divorce and while raising two children. One of her professors, sensing that she was struggling, referred her to Helping Hands for Single Moms.
“They are a single mother’s wish granted, when she is crying alone at night,” Aguilar said.
Another education-related nonprofit, STEP: Student Expedition Program, targets low-income high school students who want to go to college. The Phoenix-based group received a $7,500 Season for Sharing grant last year.
Kidist Taye became aware of STEP when founder Tracy Baynes gave a presentation at her Laveen high school.
Through the program, Taye learned about what colleges were looking for in applications. She was able to visit Washington University in St. Louis and live in a dorm for two weeks through STEP. Staff worked to help her apply to enroll there.
She was given the scholarship to cover the majority of her tuition.
“I felt there was no way I could get into that school,” said Taye, whose parents immigrated from Ethiopia.
“Washington University was my dream school.”
Helping older Arizonans live independently
Amalia Kay gave up driving 20 years ago after a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. She also had trouble speaking and communicating after a stroke. She could still cook but was embarrassed to keep asking friends to take her grocery shopping.
That's where Duet: Partners in Health and Aging stepped in. The Phoenix-based group helps adults who can live independently, but need assistance with grocery shopping, rides to doctor’s appointments, paperwork assistance and even minor home repairs.
Duet paired Kay with volunteer Kirsten Plambeck in 2019 and "we have been shopping ever since."
Duet received a $18,000 Season for Sharing grant last year. Kay believes in the organization so much that she donates from her own pocket whenever she can. She recognizes how vital the services are to her well-being. “I would be helpless without it.”
Calls and visits from volunteers also ensure that clients don't feel so isolated.
Said director Ann Wheat: “Duet is all about one person helping another, and Season for Sharing is instrumental in helping us carry out our vision of a community where every person ages with compassion, dignity, and hope.”
Helping struggling children and families
Many Season for Sharing grants distributed in spring 2021 addressed issues of food scarcity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them: $10,000 to Unlimited Potential, a South Phoenix group that helps families and children.
The group handed out 60,000 pounds of food, some of which was provided through partnerships with local farmers. Staff and volunteers also worked to educate the Latino community about the importance of being vaccinated, including translating CDC guidelines into Spanish.
The organization offers assistance in three areas: adult education, community programs and youth programs.
Adult education programs include English as a Second Language (ESL), General Education Development (GED) and computer classes. Community programs include a community garden and health education classes.
Wendy Munive was a Spanish-only speaking stay-at-home mother when she heard about Unlimited Potential's classes and daycare.
“This organization built my self-esteem,” Munive said. “I felt I had no opportunities in this country. I lived in a closed-off world.”
After learning English, she and her husband completed their GEDs through the organization. Munive also took sewing, technology, business and health classes. Today, Munive runs her own business, Azteca Traditions, which sells handmade creations including, keychains, purses and clothing inspired by her native Mexico.
Republic reporter Roxanne De La Rosa covers Arizona's nonprofit community. Reach her at email@example.com.
How to Donate to Season for Sharing
With the help of Republic readers, Season for Sharing has raised and given away more than $70 million to Arizona nonprofits during the last 28 years. Help us continue helping our neighbors in need.
Five ways to give:
Fill out the secure, online form at sharing.azcentral.com.
Text “SHARING” to 91-999 and click on the link in the text message.
Go online at facebook.com/seasonforsharing and look for the “DONATE HERE” post.
Clip the coupon on Page 4A of The Arizona Republic, fill it out and mail it to P.O. Box 29250, Phoenix AZ 85038-9250.
Scan the QR code with your smartphone camera, click on the link to donate.
Where does the money go?
When you give to Season for Sharing, you're helping nonprofits that support education, feed the hungry and help struggling families. The Republic pays all administrative costs, so 100% of donations go back to the community.
Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Season for Sharing kickoff: How to help struggling Arizonans