Unemployment, food shortages and other COVID-19 challenges have caused individuals and families across Arizona to seek help anywhere they can.
Nonprofit agencies have found themselves particularly strapped as financial and volunteer resources are down at a time when demand is spiking.
Season for Sharing can help.
Today, The Arizona Republic launches the annual holiday giving campaign, which is now in its 27th year. In that time, almost $68 million has been raised — 100% of which has gone back to charities that help those in need. Last year, $1.8 million was directed to 143 groups throughout the state.
“Season for Sharing is The Republic’s annual gift to Arizona, and our readers have been key to its success since the beginning,” said Greg Burton, executive editor of The Republic and azcentral.com.
“Making Arizona a better place for all, including the neediest among us, is central to our mission. This year, help is needed more than ever.”
Season for Sharing grantees help at-risk children and families; support for arts and education programs; and assist for older adults.
The Republic covers all administrative costs to ensure that 100% of donations go back into the community. As a bonus, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust matches charitable gifts 50 cents on the dollar until donations reach $100,000.
Throughout the campaign, The Republic will highlight the work of Arizona agencies funded by Season for Sharing and the impact of last year’s grants. All nonprofits awarded grants during the last campaign were also allowed to use them to address urgent COVID-19 needs.
ACCEL: Helping Arizonans with disabilities since 1980
Season for Sharing grant: $7,500
Arizona Centers for Comprehensive Education and Life Skills, or ACCEL, provides a variety of programs for Arizonans with special needs including autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities and behavioral disorders.
Since its founding as a school for 49 students with special needs, ACCEL has grown into a robust organization offering educational, behavioral, therapeutic and vocational programs for kids and adults at campuses across metro Phoenix.
Today, ACCEL provides services for about 400 people, ranging from toddlers with autism to adults getting life skills and vocational training. There’s even a recreational and aquatics therapy program.
“Most families that visited wanted their child with special needs to attend a school where they would be respected, appreciated for who they are, and encouraged to excel,” said Jessie Bustamante, chief advancement officer.
Previous Season for Sharing grants, including a $7,500 grant awarded last year, have supported ACCEL’s job-training program for teens and adults.
Donations from Season for Sharing have also helped ACCEL overcome unique operating challenges that didn’t exist pre-pandemic. “With COVID, people need to be spaced out more … They can’t share devices or things like they used to. So now our grants are really helping us make sure every individual has their own needs met,” Bustamante said.
Peoria resident Scott Alford is the father of Sammy, a 20-year-old with autism who attends ACCEL’s educational program.
“The staff is professional, they’re friendly, and they have a real genuine sense of caring for the individual students,” Alford said. “They also have a lot of life skills training … things you’re just not going to get in a public school system.”
Sammy has been a part of ACCEL’s education program since the fifth grade. Alford watched him struggle in the public school system.
“The public school system… is not perfectly tailored for a kid like Sammy. They were not able to handle his needs and he wasn’t doing very well there,” Alford said. He says moving his son from the public school system to ACCEL was a step in the right direction.
“His behaviors have improved. He’s a happier kid. He’s much more structured and organized,” he said.
Alford plans on transitioning Sammy to the agency’s adult services program.
“There’s not a manual for what your kid’s going to do when they’re totally out of the school system, and that transition is something that they’ve been very helpful in assisting us to understand,” Alford said.
“It’s a really big thing and scary as a parent.”
Aster Aging, Inc.: Home-delivered meals for disabled and older adults
Season for Sharing grant: $20,000
Aster Aging, formerly known as East Valley Adult Resources, has been in operation for more than 40 years. The agency’s services include wellness checks and home-delivered meals to more than5,000 older and disabled adults in the East Valley annually.
Last year, the nonprofit was awarded a $20,000 grant from Season for Sharing to expand its Meals on Wheels program. In March, the organization experienced a sharp rise in requests for assistance.
“Our Meals on Wheels program serves seniors who are the most vulnerable, and we are currently providing almost double our pre-pandemic number of meals,” said chief executive officer Deborah Schaus. “We truly appreciate Season for Sharing donors for making a real difference for your homebound senior neighbors.”
The organization empowers and supports disabled adults like Patricia Weber, a 63-year-old Mesa resident. She said the agency filled her food security needs and reduced her feelings of isolation through daily wellness checks.
“Just seeing another friendly face each day really does a lot to lift spirits and just keep contact with people and the outside,” Weber said.
“The fact that I have another set of eyes looking on me each day and seeing that I’m OK gives my family a great sense of relief and then they don’t have to worry so much about me.”
Schaus said that the agency anticipates increased service demands to continue into the future, making donations from Season for Sharing even more important.
“Our programs serve community members who are at the highest risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, and the protection and safety afforded to them through our program and your support are critical.”
Educare Arizona: Early childhood education for disadvantaged kids
Season for Sharing grant: $10,000
As part of a nationwide network, Educare Arizona works to give the state’s low-income children a better chance of success in school and life by offering early childhood education for them and support for their families.
Located in the Brunson Lee Elementary School near 48th Street and McDowell Road in the Balsz School District, Educare Arizona serves nearly 200 kids from infants to preschoolers each year. According to Educare Arizona, 75% of children in that district enter kindergarten struggling to speak English.
Earlier this year, Season for Sharing awarded Educare Arizona $10,000 to help them provide full-day, high-quality early childhood education on their campus.
There, kids learn to recognize letters and numbers, develop social and emotional skills, eat meals together, taste food from the vegetable garden, play on the playground and more. Parents can get resources and training, too, and an on-site health center provides medical and dental care for uninsured people.
Halima Mohamed, 36, is the parent of six children. She is from Somalia and was raised in Kenya.
Mohamed says that a neighbor introduced her to the organization’s early head start program.
“I saw my neighbor’s daughter … At the age of 4 years old, she was going over all of her letters and numbers and she could write her name … I was like, ‘That’s amazing. How does she know how to do that?’ The neighbor said, ‘Oh, I take her to head start.’ ”
Soon after, Mohamed enrolled her 9-month-old daughter into Educare’s head start program. Currently, two of her children attend Educare. One child is 3 years old and the other is 1 and a half.
Mohamed says the social and emotional development between her children that have attended Educare’s head start, and the ones that have not, are noticeable — especially around homework time. She says that she has to help the children that did not attend Educare’s head start, “but the kids that went to the program, they don’t need my help,” she said.
Ginger Ward, CEO of Southwest Human Development and board member for Educare Arizona, says that the organization was able to help at-risk children and their families overcome early education barriers with the grant from Season for Sharing.
“Funding from Season for Sharing helped Educare Arizona fulfill its mission by helping to close the achievement gap for 117 low-income children who received full-day, high-quality early childhood education on our state-of-the-art campus,” Ward said.
How to donate to Season for Sharing
With the help of our readers, we’ve raised — and given away — nearly $68 million to nonprofit organizations around the state over the past 26 years. Help us continue that support.
Here are four ways to donate to Season for Sharing:
- 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.
Where does the money go?
When you give to Season for Sharing, your donation goes toward helping nonprofits that support education, feed the hungry and help struggling families.
Every dollarof your donations and matching funds go to Arizona nonprofit organizations.
All overhead and fundraising costs are covered by The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com.
Matching your donation
Through partnerships with our community partners the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and the Arizona Community Foundation, your charitable donations have even more of an impact.
- Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust matches 50 cents on the dollar up to $100,000.
- The Arizona Community Foundation provides the grant application portal and manages the collection of donations and distribution of grants.
For assistance or questions about Season for Sharing, contact Community Relations Director Stacy Sullivan at 602-444-8749 or [email protected]