Arizona Republic celebrates 25 years of Season for Sharing, $64 million given to Valley nonprofits

Niya Davis, 16, kept her mouth closed and feelings hidden within the four drab walls of the shelter she lived in. It wasn’t until she found songwriting that she was able to be herself.

Now a high school junior, Davis has written three books of music and volunteers for Free Arts, a Phoenix nonprofit organization that helped her believe in her own self-worth.

“I had so many thoughts in my head but no place to put them. Free Arts gave me that outlet and to be confident in myself,” she said.

Niya and Free Arts are among the hundreds of Arizona residents and nonprofit organizations that have received Season for Sharing grants over the past 25 years. Since 1993, Season for Sharing has made grants totaling more than $64 million to hundreds of agencies around the state that help those in need.

25 years of Season for Sharing

These grants are made possible by generous donations from community members who contribute to the campaign sponsored by The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. Matching contributions from the Gannett Foundation and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust supplement the donations.

You can donate to the 25th Season for Sharing campaign from Nov. 11 through Jan. 31.

Last year, Season for Sharing raised $2.2 million, all of which was given to agencies that help Arizonans.

Your contributions fund local nonprofits that help children and families, boost education and provide support and services to older Arizonans.

Arizona Republic Executive Editor Greg Burton said Season for Sharing is exactly the kind of work newspapers should be doing.

“We’ve been serving this great state for more than 125 years and are dedicated to seeing all Arizonans thrive,” Burton said. “Helping our most vulnerable citizens moves us toward that goal.”

Where Season for Sharing began

Season for Sharing was inspired in 1993 by a chance meeting between Republic Publisher Louis A. “Chip” Weil IIIand Charlie Brumback, the chief executive officer of the Tribune Companies and the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.

Weil sent a team of Republic employees to Chicago to learn about the foundation’s grant-making program. Gene D’Adamo, who worked on events and community outreach, was a part of that team. They came back to Phoenix and launched Season for Sharing in two months. It was a frenzy.

“It was like drinking from a fire hose. We scrambled.” D’Adamo said.

The newsroom, marketing and advertising departments worked together on a campaign that was new to the public in many ways.

There was no past donor base to reach out to and azcentral.com didn’t exist. The internet was in its infancy. Season for Sharing launched just before Thanksgiving with stories and ads in The Republic. Readers were invited to donate money and their donations would be matched.

“Now, you hear about matching campaigns a lot more,” D’Adamo said. “Back then, that was not the type of fundraising people typically did.”

In that inaugural year, Season for Sharingraised $1.6 million to help more than 100 Valley nonprofits.

“It was so humbling, and it really showed the power of the trust the public put in the newspaper. They had never heard of the campaign before and had no idea what we were talking about,” D’Adamo said.

“People gave their donation and trusted us to give it to the agencies who were most deserving and most at need.”

‘Seeing the results … was exciting’

Amy Carlile was The Republic’s features editor when Season for Sharing began. Her department was responsible for writing stories that gave readers an intimate look at where their donations would go. 

“It was an exciting time for a lot of nonprofits here who might not have been served by this kind of fundraising before in the Phoenix area,” Carlile said. “Season for Sharing created a funding opportunity that they did not have.” 

Season for Sharing quickly became a newsroom tradition. 

“Everybody understood its value for the community. It added something to our plate, but seeing the results of the work was exciting,” Carlile said.

The Arizona Grantmakers Forum is an organization that fosters philanthropy throughout Arizona. President and CEO Laurie Liles said Season for Sharing is successful in many ways.

“Season for Sharing creates an opportunity for philanthropic organizations to collaborate for the greater good,” Liles said. “It showcases Republic Media’s ability to not only report on the issues in our community but identify and galvanize support for solutions.”

Desert Mission: Helping older adults

Desert Mission’s Adult Day Healthcare program is a senior-enrichment facility that offers daily activities to older adults. Organizers were unsure how they would be able to fund the program this year.

“We thought about cutting out entertainment and scaling back on outings. It made us sad because these are things our participants look forward to,” said Anne Paulus, director of the Phoenix program.

Their Season for Sharing grant of $5,000 pays for music performances, Wii bowling, an electronic bingo program, trips to local attractions and restaurants, meals, and art and dance classes. 

“These are people who really don’t get out in the community anymore. We could play a sing-a-long, but to have an entertainer come in and sing to them, it’s like the difference between turning on your radio and going to a concert,” Paulus said.

The program gives caregivers a little break. About 40 people a day attend the program.

“To be a caregiver 24/7 is exhausting, so our program provides them with some respite time so they can take a couple hours off and tend to their own needs. We serve the participants and the caregivers,” Paulus said.

“You can really count on Season for Sharing to be there. It makes a difference in the activities each year.”

Salvation Army: Helping families with meals, toys

The Salvation Army has received Season for Sharing grants since 1993. The organization used its $50,000 grant last year to help fund its Christmas assistance program that provides meals for families and toys for children.

In the past six years, the program has provided more than 6,000 holiday meals at the Phoenix Convention Center, 2,000 meal deliveries to people in their homes, and toys to more than 50,000 children. 

But it costs to make it all happen every year.

“There’s so much that has to be done to get the toy to the child. It’s all the ancillary costs of purchasing bags, boxes, hiring of staff and transportation,” said Salvation Army Metro Phoenix Program Director Major Nancy Dihle.

“We’ve been able to meet the needs of a community that has grown exponentially because of a generous community and we couldn’t do what we do without the ongoing support we’ve had with Season for decades.”

Free Arts: Helping youngsters with trauma

For 25 years, Free Arts has served children who have suffered trauma from abuse, neglect and homelessness. The Phoenix-based organization partners with shelters, treatment centers and group homes to help children Valley-wide heal through art and mentoring.

Its $12,500 Season for Sharing grant last year helped it to host art, theater and hip-hop camps and bring in local artists who teach art classes. Free Arts provides an environment for children to learn new artistic skills and express themselves through art as a form of therapy. 

“Free Arts has grown from that first year having five volunteers to now having over 800 volunteers and serve over 8,000 kids a year,” said program director Jessica Flowers.

“Just in the last couple of years, we’ve seen children who’ve participated in our program who are now young adults, come back and volunteer their time and work as contracted teaching artists.”

Niya Davis said learning how to write her feelings into a song at Free Arts allowed her to release pent-up feelings that she couldn’t let out in the shelter. During a Free Arts camp, she learned how to play piano freestyle to accompany her lyrics. Now, her mentors are helping her find a studio to record her songs.

And just as volunteers helped her, Davis has returned to Free Arts to help youngsters like herself.

“I always figured if someone helps you, you help them back,” Davis said. “They really played a big part in my life, and if I can help them in any kind of way or share my story, I can do that for them.”

How to donate to Season for Sharing

There are four ways to donate: 

Where the money goes

It all stays in Arizona. One hundred percent of your donations and the matching funds go directly to nonprofit agencies in the state. All overhead and fundraising costs are paid by The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com.

Matching your donation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *