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Community Service and Hands-On Projects 

2016 December Hands On Projects

The members of SIP and their families and friends contributed greatly to a joyous and festive holiday season for some of the Valley's least fortunate people.  This year the club sponsored and participated in two holiday-related hands-on events.  The Hands On Committee thanks everyone who donated and volunteered in the name of Soroptimist International of Phoenix.  Please forgive me if I missed anyone who helped at these two events; the omission was purely accidental and probably age-related memory failure.


1.  Tumbleweed Holiday Party on December 3, 2016.


Once again Tumbleweed youth, their children, staff, and SIP volunteers had a memorable holiday party.  This year we  held the event on Saturday December 3 at Grace United Lutheran Church on Third Street in downtown Phoenix.  We also assembled the gift baskets two days before the party, which allowed us to customize them a little bit and  lessen the burdens of short term storage and transport.  This seemed to work well for everyone, and alleviated the stress and traffic issues associated with an early-evening event during the work week.  


Many thanks to everyone who donated gifts and basket makings, helped assemble the gifts, and/or volunteered at the event.  We call your attention to the following event highlights, and give thanks to those who participated:


 For the December 1 basket-filling work party:

  • Mary Jo Miller arranged for us to use the Clubhouse at Antigua, and provided delicious food and beverages to sustain us  through the evening.
  • Four awesome Tumbleweed case workers, led by manager Laura, helped create baskets that were well-suited to Tumbleweed clients and their children.
  • Terry Parker donated cases full of beautiful gift tins.
  • Thanks to the many generous SIP members who donated the makings of over 60 gift baskets and 10-25 mugs and tins that were filled with items donated by SIP members and garnished by SIP volunteers.
  • Mary Jo Miller and Mary Grier collected stuffed animals for the children of Tumbleweed clients.
  • Mary Jo Miller and her book group collected and cleaned up gently used children's books to be given to the Tumbleweed clients and their children.
  • A very hard-working crew turned out to help with basket assembly, including Henrietta Speedie, Rocki Creaser,  Marcia Zielinski, Leigh Wales, Margie Burke, Katie Lindberg, Mary Sherman, Mary Jo Miller and Mary Grier.  

For the December 3 party at Grace Lutheran Church:

  • Many people contributed gifts, gift cards and  gift bags.  
  • Mary Jo Miller and Joy Mee made sure there was plenty of holiday music throughout the event.
  • Thanks to a few Soroptimist volunteers the guests enjoyed a wonderful feast.  Henrietta Speedie, Frankie James, Chris Fitas and Shirley Agnos made wonderful breakfast casseroles.   President Leigh Wales brought Dunkin Donuts (the hit of the party) and coffee.  Joy Mee and Lisa Farrar brought fruit and juice.  Mary Grier baked breakfast breads,  cooked bacon and sausage, brought a kringle and cases of water, coffee and other beverages.  Susan Bolton brought paper goods and utensils.  Maria Mathus provided 10 dozen cookies for decorating, and two bowls of beautiful cut fruit.  Karen Saelens spent an entire day baking beautiful decorated holiday cookies.  Mary Jo Miller brought sliced ham and rolls, grapes, crackers, hummus and other munchies.  
  • Soroptimister Ken Miller came to help set up, and with Soroptimist volunteers set up chairs and tables, hauled gifts in from the cars, and loaned his strength wherever needed. 
  • Shirley Agnos, Chris Fitas, Jeanine Decker, Hanrietta Speedie and Frankie James, set up the buffet tables very attractively,  kept the food replenished, and packed up all leftover food to go home with our Tumbleweed guests.
  • Paula Adkins, Jeanine Decker and the Tumbleweed staff made registration and orientation go smoothly and quickly.
  • Susan Bolton, Leigh Wales, Lisa Farrar and other volunteers set up the tables with green plastic table cloths and arranged the table decorations beautifully.
  • Karen Saelens, with a crew of volunteers, made the Santa's workshop area shine, with books, stuffed animals and gifts available for parents to choose for their children, gift bags and wrapping paper to allow the parents to wrap the gifts.  
  • Maria Mathus presided over a very busy cookie decorating table.  Leigh Wales, Joy Mee, and Mary Grier got to hold babies while their moms decorated cookies.  
  • Megan Grier and Kaylee McConohay helped out where needed, with the cards and crafts table, the gifts delivery, leftover packaging and general cleanup. Joy Mee and Margie Burke also helped out as needed, doing everything from baby-wrangling to cleanup. 
  • An awesome crew of case managers and supervisors from Tumbleweed helped to staff the event, provided transportation, helped with everything from welcomes to gift delivery, and took the unclaimed leftover food to clients in other Tumbleweed programs.  
  • Once again Tammy Lynn McConohay's friends Jeannie Hatfield (aka "Mrs. Santa" and "Rudolph") and her partner, JO (aka "Santa") brought the magic of Santa Claus to the event, posing for pictures with Tumbleweed clients and their children, and handing out gifts.  JO sported a new costume created by the incredible Debbie Stanhope (Tara Jackson's former assistant).

So far we have documented approximately $2000 in value of in-kind contributions for this event from Soroptimists and outside donors.  Members, if you have not already provided information about items that you donated and their estimated value, please send it to Mary Grier.  


Tumbleweed staff reported that once again they and their clients were delighted with and touched by this event.  We have also received favorable comments from Soroptimist volunteers.  Based on the positive feedback we would recommend that the club sponsor this or a similar event for Tumbleweed clients next December.


2.  Live Your Dream Adopt-a-Family Project and Gift Wrapping Party.


This year Heidi Esposito, herself expecting twins, took on responsibility for coordinating the adoption of our three LiveYour Dream award winners and their families for Christmas.  Heidi collected scores of gifts and gift cards generously donated by SIP members (a big thanks to everyone who donated), and brought them to Darlene Miller's home the afternoon of December 3 for wrapping and delivery.  A special thanks to the following for their help with the gift wrapping and deliveries on the afternoon of December 3:

  • Heidi Esposito, for doing a brilliant job coordinating and leading this effort, and to Karen Saelens who assisted her.
  • Darlene Miller for her generous hospitality hosting the gift wrapping activities, and providing delicious snacks and beverages to sustain us.
  • Lori Reed, Maria Mathus, Margie Burke, Henrietta Speedie, Leigh Wales, Joy Mee, Karen Saelens, Jeanine Decker, Mary Jo Miller and Mary Grier for helping to wrap and label gifts
  • Heidi Esposito, Leigh Wales and Maria Mathus, for delivering the gifts to the three delighted families.  They were overwhelmed by the generosity of SIP members.

We are blessed to have the material and other things we need to live comfortable and happy lives.  We are privileged to be able to share some of our wealth and holiday party spirit with those who have next to nothing.  




Mary Grier and Mary Jo Miller

Hands On Committee Co-Chairs


2015-2016 Club Year Community Service and Hands On Projects

During the coming club year SIP members will participate in a number of community service and hands on projects, including the following:

WISE – The club will continue to participate in the Live Your Dream program and the City of Phoenix Young Man-Young Woman award program.  The club will award scholarships to 10 high school girls in Fronteras, Sonora, to pay the costs for them to attend high school, and will  provide scholarships to three girls in Haiti, working in partnership with the What If Foundation, to enable them to attend trade or vocational schools.  The club also expects to roll out its revised program to assist women and girls to overcome the obstacles to achieving their high school equivalency certificates.  Watch this website for more details regarding that program. 

DOVES – The club will continue its support of the DOVES program, through a winter holiday dinner and party, supporting the DOVES clients’ attendance at the Phoenix Theatre performance of Calendar Girls in January, 2016, attendance at the club’s Lunafest event in April, and a spring holiday party for Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. 

TUMBLEWEED Young Adult Program  - SIP members are already hard at work collecting gift items and making arrangements for the Tumbleweed holiday party at First United Methodist Church.  Mug-filling and gift basket-making parties will be scheduled in September and October.  This year through the generosity of Rocki Creaser’s daughter Sara we plan to take and print photos of the Tumbleweed clients with Santa, so that they can take a framed photo or photo card home from the event.

TUMBLEWEED Girls Group Home – SIP members plan to engage the residents of Tumbleweed’s group home for girls in a variety of activities, including cooking a meal and mealtime etiquette,

making arrangements for the girls and staff to join Soroptimists on the London Bus Holiday Lights tour, making arrangements for the girls and staff to attend Lunafest, and a spring holiday party event.  Other activities may be scheduled as we get to know the girls and staff, and better understand their needs.

SATURDAY OF SERVICE – SIP will once again participate in the Soroptimist Saturday of Service on March 5.  We hope to partner with another club in the Phoenix metro area.  Watch this space for more details about that event.

DREAM IT, BE IT CONFERENCE – SIP will once again participate in the Dream It, Be It conference, which is scheduled to take place on April 9, 2016.   Watch this space for more details about that event.


2014-2015 Club Year Community Service and Hands On Projects


SIP members enjoyed a year full of rewarding community service and hands on projects, including the following:


WISE – During 2013-14 the club initiated a new major program, called WISE:  Women Investing in Successful Education.  The principal objective of this program was to assist women in overcoming the barriers to achieving their high school equivalency certificates.  The club partnered with Fresh Start Women’s Foundation to provide tutoring and mentoring of Fresh Start clients, most of whom completed the program and earned their equivalency certificates.  Beginning in January of 2014 the high school equivalency examination was changed, to increase the standards of performance and require that all tests be taken by computer.  Most of the WISE program participants did not pass the revised examination, and SIP undertook an analysis to determine how the program could be modified to improve the outcomes for participants.  During 2014-15 the club invited the Department of Education’s high school equivalency program manager to speak at a program meeting to describe the changes in the test and discuss what measures might best address the needs of those seeking to earn their equivalency certificates.  Based on that information and additional research and analysis the club is revamping its WISE program to better serve the community. 


The program now encompasses all of the club’s activities that support education of women and girls, including the following:   provision of scholarships to high school girls in Fronteras, Sonora and in Haiti;   the solicitation of funds for future scholarships;  participation in the City of Phoenix Outstanding Young Man and Young Woman award program;  support of the kickoff event  that raised over $10,000 for the Vicki Pina Scholarship Fund (honoring SIP member and former GWR Governor Vicki Pina), which will provide scholarships to women who have faced obstacles such as domestic violence and homelessness); and participation in Soroptimist International of the Americas’ signature Live Your Dream program.  In addition, during the 2015-16 club year SIP expects to find more effective ways to help women and girls achieve their high school equivalency.


SATURDAY OF SERVICE – DREAM IT, BE IT CONFERENCE – SIP was one of the Phoenix metro area clubs that began the “Saturday of Service” program, which invites Soroptimist Clubs throughout the world to engage in a service project on the first Saturday of March.  This year the club supported a Valley-wide conference for women and girls called “Dream It, Be It.”  Soroptimists from throughout the Phoenix metro area came together at Grand Canyon University to present a day of programs of interest to women and girls, including many inspiring speakers, fun raffles, and a delicious lunch.  We look forward to an even bigger and better conference in the coming year.


DOVES - The DOVES® program is a program of the Area Agency on Aging.  It assists victims of late-life Domestic Violence (ages 50+) overcome the unique challenges older victims face in attempting to protect themselves and leave their abusers.  In the past SIP supported DOVES through social interaction and the creation of a community garden at the DOVES property.  This year SIP members supported DOVES in a variety of ways, including by providing a home-cooked winter holiday dinner and party, at which each DOVES client received a “hooty cakes” mix assembled by SIP members, along with gift certificates and tangible gift items.  We also arranged for 8 DOVES clients to attend the Phoenix Theater presentation of Mary Poppins, by providing a Valentine’s Day afternoon get together with food, games and prizes, and by taking several DOVES clients to see Lunafest.


TUMBLEWEED Young Adult Program  - Tumbleweed is a Phoenix metro area social services agency that serves homeless youth and young adults.  SIP was instrumental in founding Tumbleweed, and has maintained a strong connection to the program.  During this club year SIP continued the tradition of providing a holiday party and gifts for participants in the Tumbleweed Young Adult Program, most of whom are women and girls and many of whom are single mothers.  This year’s party was held at the First United Methodist Church, which graciously allowed us to use its beautifully decorated and spacious hall for the event.  Soroptmists cooked ham and turkeys, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetable side dishes, gravy, and desserts.  Soroptimists provided cookies and decorating materials for the youth and children to decorate holiday cookies, and construction paper, cards, and other crafts materials so that they could create holiday cards. Gifts included holiday and winter-themed mugs filled with candy, gift cards for meals at Chik-fil-a, and an assortment of personal tangible items.  The highlight of the evening was a visit from Santa, who brought his assistant to help him distribute gifts, and posed for pictures with Tumbleweed clients.  The club also arranged for some of the youth from a Tumbleweed group home to attend the Phoenix Theater presentation of Mary Poppins.


GIRLS THRIVING – Soroptimists participated in the presentation of meals to girls participating in the Fresh Start Foundation’s “Girls Thriving” program, designed to help  middle school and high school aged girls with self esteem and other issues and concerns.  Soroptimists cooked the meals, brought them to Fresh Start Foundation’s Women’s Resource Center, and shared the meal with participants in the program. 


CREATING GIFT BASKETS and CANDY MUGS – On several weekend days in October and November SIP members gathered at a member’s home (location varied with each event) to assemble gift baskets and candy-filled mugs.  These items were offered for sale at a Holiday Bazaar at the Scottsdale Public Library (downtown branch), which generated over $1000 in net proceeds, provided an assortment of affordable and lovely gift items for purchase by library patrons, and provided many of the gifts that were given to the DOVES and Tumbleweed clients at holiday parties.  The remaining items were donated to a local foster care program, to the City of Phoenix public housing department for senior women,  and to senior women residing in a local assisted living facility.


SINGLETON MOMS HOUSE CLEANING – Singleton Moms is a local charity that provides support for single mothers who are suffering from cancer.  This club year the club provided a group of members and others to provide a thorough cleaning of an apartment occupied by a Singleton Mom and her son.  This was a very rewarding experience for the SIP members who participated.


CREATING DERBY HATS FOR SPRING CONFERENCE – The club set aside one club meeting in May for the construction of Derby Hats, which members offered for sale at the Golden West Region Spring Conference.  Members had a great time socializing while using their creativity to fashion outrageous but attractive hats, and ultimately raised approximately $200 from hat sales.




Soroptimist is an international volunteer organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls.
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