Herrera: These visionaries are working to make a difference

Posted 6/3/21

These visionaries are working to make a differenceWhether it is due to losing a friend or offering to help an elderly person, there’s something in our lives that inspires us to do good for …

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Herrera: These visionaries are working to make a difference


Whether it is due to losing a friend or offering to help an elderly person, there’s something in our lives that inspires us to do good for others.

These are the motivational stories behind the visionaries who created nonprofit organizations which are among the Arizona Women’s Partnership grant recipients.

After tragically losing a loved one during 9/11, Carolyn Manning created something wonderful out of anguish; namely, a welcoming program for refugees who were being misjudged and rejected at the time. Enter America Project, for which she received a CNN HERO Award in 2014, and continues to welcome refugees by providing these families with household furnishing to help them make a transition into their new homes in metro Phoenix and Valley-wide.

Ruth Langford, founder of Helping At Risk Teens in Peoria, or HART Pantry, identified the necessity to support less fortunate high school students to fulfill their education.

“The need far out-weighed my perspective at the time and soon I became aware that we needed a larger independent organization which led to incorporation in 2016. Seeing the pressures on our young people requires participation in the solutions,” Ms. Langford said.

Losing a loved one can be painful and difficult to face. This is particularly seen in young children who may not understand the circumstances. According to Juli Schragel: “I was inspired to start Billy’s Place (a children’s grief support center in Glendale) in 2005 when our lives were forever changed after the death of my late husband Mike, Billy’s dad.”

Care and concern inspired Mary Gloria from Pan de Vida in Queen Creek.

“I was motivated when a great number from Latino countries arrived in town. Some walked the desert, others paid Coyotes who packed them in box trucks; many suffocated. They lived in washes or vacant lots and were beaten. They came to provide for their hungry families back home,” Ms. Gloria said.

A community garden and numerous social service projects are the result.

Jeanne Devine considered there had to be more assistance for underprivileged women and their children. She, along with her peers, strongly believes that it’s key for these individuals to have an available system for education and professional development.
As Ms. Devine puts it: “I started Unlimited Potential educational programs to encourage involvement of low-income women in positive social change within their own south Phoenix community.”

Jennifer Crews, founder of Desert Sounds in Mesa, saw how powerful music was for her little one’s learning. Ms. Crews didn’t hesitate to offer other kids the possibility to have a musical instrument to interact with.

“We named our first project for our son Jeremy because it puts music within the reach of many, many other kids,” Ms. Crews said.

About Care was founded by Barbara Bradley because there was a need in Chandler for the elderly (mostly women) to remain in their homes and to live independently for as long as possible. About Care tends to the health and well-being needs of this vulnerable population.

A similar mission is present at Neighbors Who Care which was formed by a group of local community leaders to address the needs of the elderly: transportation to medical appointments, food instability, and companionship.

There are many who reassure a safe and welcoming environment. This is the scenario for Maria Patterson’s Wonder Mother who founded the Angel Heart Pajama Project in Tucson.

“Mom was forever grateful for us having been given an education and for the many gifts we have received…She loved children and wanted to make sure that children in need were given love, pajamas, books and other items for comfort, especially those who were removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect,” Ms. Patterson said.

At Somali-American United Council of Arizona you can find support with cultural adaptation. Dr. Mohamed Ali Abukar founded this nonprofit in 2006 after experiencing and evaluating the needs of the newly arrived multi-ethnic community of refugees from over 12 countries. Their focus is on ESL, literacy, and job search skills.

These visionaries are current and past grantees of the Arizona Women’s Partnership founded by Paula Cullison

“Realizing that the smaller nonprofits, which provide many needed social services, are the ones who receive the least amount of funding, I created the Arizona Women’s Partnership in 2002, as an all-volunteer philanthropic nonprofit to provide grants to this sector,” Ms. Cullison said.

To date, AZWP has awarded more than $500,000 in grants to over 80 nonprofits. Many are multi-year grant recipients.

For more information, visit azwp.org or call 602-863-9744.

Editor’s note: Claudia Manzano Herrera is a student volunteer for Arizona Women’s Partnership, Inc.