Slater at Granite Reef Senior Center

Jackie Mayfield, left, gladly accepts a bag of food from April Slater at Granite Reef Senior Center, one of many places in Scottsdale where volunteers help less fortunate Scottsdale residents.

With Thanksgiving come and gone, it is officially the holiday giving season – the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year when many nonprofits take in the bulk of their donations.

It is also a time when many Scottsdale residents use their time, money and efforts to help others and benefit the various Scottsdale-based nonprofit groups like Neighborhood Outreach Access to Health, Community Celebrating Diversity, Family Promise of Greater Phoenix and many more.

Volunteerism and philanthropy run deep in Scottsdale, a city that’s charitable history stretches back to before it was incorporated in 1951.

“People over the decades have really cared about education and charities in Scottsdale, so they have been great partners,” said Dennis Robbins, executive director of Scottsdale Charros.

Rosemary Karlin, a board member at Scottsdale Community Partners, said that if not for Scottsdale residents, “we would not have been successful. We are still around, because of them.”

The old weekly Scottsdale Progress teems with mentions of nonprofits, fundraisers and other events designed to enrich the community and its residents.

From the official organization of the Arizona Craftsmen Council – a group founded by notable locals like Lloyd Kiva with the goal of promoting the arts – in 1949 to mention of the Scottsdale Jaycees selling copies of the newspaper to raise funds to sponsor youth activities in 1960, the newspaper is an archived homage to the city’s legacy.

The weekly paper’s successor, the Scottsdale Daily Progress, was no different and contains a litany of stories about fund drives by the Jaycees, a Kaibab Elementary School food drive and the way the city came together to raise funds for the mother of Lance Blades, a seven-year-old Tonalea student who tragically died after a months-long coma after he was hit by a car in 1971.

Even the city’s newspaper itself is no stranger to philanthropy.

 Since its initial inception in the 1940s, the Progress regularly worked with local businesses and organizations to benefit the community, including donating those newspapers the Jaycees sold in 1959.

The late Jonathan Marshall, the publisher of the Progress from 1963 to 1987, was a renowned philanthropist in his own right, advocating on behalf of numerous causes –including the Greenbelt – in his role as publisher before establishing the Marshall Fund of Arizona with his wife Maxine.

The fund gave $5.5 million to healthcare, art, environmental, cultural and other causes, according to an obituary published in the East Valley Tribune upon Marshall’s death in 2008.

Scottsdale Community Partners

A vestige of Scottsdale’s charitable legacy is still alive and well in Scottsdale in the form of Scottsdale Community Partners, formerly Concerned Citizens for Community Health.

Longtime Scottsdale resident Frances Young, who passed away in 2009, founded the organization in the 1970s along with Anne Rissi and Jim Fausel as a way to raise awareness and provide for the unmet needs of the Scottsdale community.

Known as the “Mayor of South Scottsdale” for her work advocating on behalf of the community, Young moved to Scottsdale in 1961 after husband was transferred to the Valley for his work with Motorola, daughter Rosemary Karlin said.

Karlin, now a member of Scottsdale Community Partners’ Board, said her mother was no stranger to working within her communities before coming to Scottsdale and became involved with the local St. Daniel’s Catholic Church.

It was through the church that she became familiar with the local Yaqui community in southern Scottsdale. That community had reached out to the church for help with housing needs.

Young organized a group that raised money to purchase the community a new sewage system and provide for other health and education needs, according to Scottsdale Community Partners.

“She started to see a need to help the poor in Scottsdale (at a time when the City of) Scottsdale said there was no poor in Scottsdale,” Karlin said.

The erroneous perception that Scottsdale is a singularly affluent community without low-income residents or those in need of assistance persists to this day.

“There is a perception that folks living in Scottsdale are doing pretty well, and many are, but there is still a significant population living in poverty in Scottsdale,” said Jenny Adams, executive director at Scottsdale Community Partners.

Though Young and the city often butted heads during her lifetime as she pushed public officials to invest more in social services – with Karlin joking that her mother “made a nuisance of herself” at City Council meetings – SCP and the city do work hand-in-hand.

Individuals can make tax-deductible donations to SCP that benefit programs run by the city.

“We went into partnership with city in 1975…It’s a beautiful relationship, because they have the qualified social workers that can screen clients, and we are able to handle the funding,” Adams said.

 “(Donors) write the check to us, and we are a 501(c) 3 (nonprofit), so they get tax credits that they wouldn’t get that if they donated right to the city.”

That joint effort between the city and the organization is a testament to Young’s tenacity.

Together, the city and SCP provide dozens of programs that benefit the community, including the Adopt a Senior and Adopt a Family holiday programs that provide meals, gifts and needed health and hygiene products during the holiday season.

The programs help over 400 families and over 300 seniors each year.

The program is doubly important, because the delivery of these products gives city social workers the opportunity to meet with seniors and provide needed social interaction and wellness checks. 

Through the Vista del Camino Community Center, the city and organization have a food bank, career and job preparation programs, rental and utility assistance, hydration station to help vulnerable individuals receive water and other needed items during the summer, and many other programs.

The city, in collaboration with many local businesses, organizations and individuals, also has a robust back-to-school program to provide clothing and supplies for children before the school year begins.

Young and the CCCH helped establish the Vista del Camino Community Center to provide medical and social services to the community.

The center, built in 1973 and partially funded by $380,000 from the federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, is still active, adjacent to a historically Yaqui neighborhood in Scottsdale at Roosevelt and 78th streets.

To this day, the Vista del Camino Community Center is an indelible part of Young’s legacy that provides assistance for Scottsdale families in need.

Individuals can volunteer or donate with Scottsdale Community Partners by visiting scottsdalecommunitypartners.org.

Adams, the SCP executive director, said she expects a bulk of the organization’s donations to come in during the holidays – a common trend for nonprofits nationwide.

“Our biggest donation time is between November and the end of December, and then it kind of goes away,” she said. “We are always trying to pump that well to get people invested in other times of the year, though we are grateful for all donations.”

Adams said that the services funded by Scottsdale Community Partners are year-round, including utility and rent assistance and food supplementation for seniors and at-risk students in Scottsdale Unified School District.

She said utility assistance is a particularly important program because “heat is an eight-month issue” in the Valley, and rising cooling costs can be exacerbated by rising rents in Scottsdale and a lack of affordable housing.

As far as volunteering, Adams said the biggest need is for its large events, like its back to school program that serves around 1,100 students and holiday programs.

Business groups

Philanthropic efforts in Scottsdale have run the gamut from organizations providing social services to the city’s residents to business groups advocating on behalf of the city.

Two business groups that have left an indelible mark on the city are the Scottsdale Jaycees and the Scottsdale Charros.

The Jaycees took over the Parada del Sol in 1953 and ran the event until the official group disbanded in 2008. At that point, former Jaycees, which stands for Scottsdale Junior Chamber of Commerce, formed another organization to run the event.

Many of those former Jaycees are still involved in running the events, with Dave Alford heading the Parada del Sol Rodeo and Chris Lyman working on the parade.

While the Parada was the Jaycees signature event, they also contributed a considerable amount of effort towards other philanthropic causes during their run, including giving to local Boys & Girls Clubs, Arizona Friends of Foster Children and providing scholarships to local students.

“We used to say that service to humanity is the best work of life,” said Lyman, whose mother was also a member of the Jaycees.

The group also provided youth leadership programs.

“That’s what the Jaycees was all about: training young people to go out in the world,” Lyman said.

The Scottsdale Charros was officially created in 1961 to promote tourism and sporting events in Scottsdale. Specifically, the group was in charge of promoting and running Scottsdale’s then-new spring training efforts.

“We were the sweat equity selling programs and tickets and providing security and everything else needed to run spring training. We’ve been doing that ever since 1961,” said Robbins.

While focused on its primary mission of promoting spring training for the first few decades of its existence, the Charros began supporting other local groups as well, and in 1986 it formed the Scottsdale Charro Community Foundation, now known as The Charro Foundation.

The opening of a new stadium in Scottsdale in 1992 proved to be a boon to the community and gave the Charros access to more advertising funds to use towards philanthropic causes.

The foundation provided seed money to various local groups and also gave scholarships to local students.

“We have tried to be good partners with everybody,” Robbins said. “There are many organizations that try to do good in Scottsdale, and we try to work together to do that.”