Last Wednesday morning, members of Scottsdale Leadership’s Class 35 Project Lead it Forward gathered at the bottom of the steps of Family Promise’s southern Scottsdale shelter.
This small gathering marked the culmination of six months’ worth of hard work for both Project Lead it Forward Team, Raising Hope and local artist Laura Thurbon to gift the nonprofit’s Scottsdale site with a new, vibrant mural.
“This is a blessing of enormous magnitude to us, and it’s going to be here a long, long time — not just for families, but for volunteers, for donors, for friends,” said Ted Taylor, Executive Director of Family Promise-Greater Phoenix.
As part of the Core Program of Scottsdale Leadership, members form teams to implement meaningful, sustainable community service projects. Through these projects, members demonstrate community stewardship.
Team Raising Hope was assigned the project to beautify the stairs for Family Promise-Greater Phoenix in January.
“Family Promise is just such an integral part of our community, that we were delighted to choose them and have our group work with them,” said Lee Ann Witt, executive director of Scottsdale Leadership.
For Team Raising Hope member Michael Baer, the project was first and foremost for families – especially the children.
“We knew that we wanted to do something with these steps, and we had to find a way and figure out a way to [create] something sustainable on these steps that would show hope and love and safety,” Baer said. “And even more than that, evoke a little kid’s imagination.”
Thurbon created a painting depicting the silhouette of three children sitting against an orange sherbet-hued sunset as piano keys, opened books, music notes, and purple and blue butterflies swirl above them.
Thurbon hopes it will inspire the children.
“And that they know they’re coming to a place they’re protected, and they will be taken care of, and they’re in a place full of hope and fun, too,” she said.
“This project will show through art the healing and journey our families experience while at Family Promise-Greater Phoenix,” Taylor added.
Family Promise-Greater Phoenix is a nonprofit that provides emergency shelter and social services to help families move toward independent housing and self-sufficiency.
In April alone, the nonprofit graduates four families into their own homes with steady employment and savings in the bank.
“We’re successful 70 percent of the time,” Taylor said, “which means my heart is broken at least 30 percent.”
The goal of each Scottsdale Leadership Project Lead It Forward team is to identify a community need and develop a project that positively affects that need while also gaining hands-on experience as community leaders.
For Raising Hope member Maureen Aldrich, Scottsdale Leadership was her way to give back to the community.
“I’ve always heard great things about Scottsdale Leadership, and it’s a time of my life now where I have time to volunteer and do those things,” Aldrich said.
Taylor is also familiar with the program: He’s a graduate of Class 26.
“I was told that when I became the executive director about 11 years ago, that I was going into Scottsdale Leadership. That wasn’t an option,” Taylor said with a chuckle.
“And now I know why: Because it’s a community of game-changers – people who want to change the world. And I believe, in my case, I’ve been blessed to be able to do that through Family Promise.”
Taylor chose to highlight the staircase because it’s the first thing families see when they arrive to Family Promise in Scottsdale.
“Those stairs are really important,” Taylor started. “When we invite them in, the first thing they’re going to do is walk up these stairs. We want their children and their parents to see something different. We’re not here to walk in front of them. We’re not here to walk behind them. We’re here to walk with them, beside them in this journey back to self-sufficiency.”
Witt hopes the muraled staircase will relay to families that they’re in a safe and hopeful place.
“Families in this position don’t choose to be; it’s just a series of unfortunate circumstances, and so, there’s a lot of feelings that go into it,” Witt said. “But to have somebody walk beside you up the steps, I think this just brings a little bit of peace.”
The Scottsdale Leadership Class 35 graduation takes places June 11 at The Homestead at DC Ranch. Tickets are $30 per person.
“We’re here because we are a game-changer in this community. Scottsdale Leadership has made it possible for us to grow, to connect to more resources in this community,” Taylor said.