Townsends, others honored at Yuma awards ceremony

2013-10-30 00:42:58

The community honored a Yuma couple for their strong support of 4-H kids at the 14th Annual Heart of Yuma awards ceremony Tuesday evening.

Phil and Debbie Townsend were named Philanthropists of the Year at the ceremony presented by the Yuma Community Foundation at the Yuma Civic Center.

“We’re surprised and very honored,” Debbie said. Phil also expressed appreciation for the recognition. “This community is a wonderful community. Anyone here deserved it.”

The couple, both fourth-generation Yumans, grew up with community service and philanthropy ingrained in them, Phil said. The Townsends could have been nominated for every category, according to Kristan Sheppeard of Limelight Creative Group, which nominated the couple for the award.

“Many organizations are grateful for their continued support, both (in) financial and volunteer hours,” Sheppeard said. One of these organizations is Crossroads Mission, a homeless shelter and alcohol treatment center.

In addition to offering their time, advice and connections, the Townsends give the mission financial support as well as donate the meat they purchase at the annual Yuma County Fair. They have also sponsored a dorm room at the family shelter. Phil and Debbie have made significant efforts to involve 4H children with the mission.

“They see the value of teaching children to be socially responsible and to be involved with their community,” Sheppeard said.

In addition to the thousands of hours they volunteer, they support all Yuma County 4H events including the fair, the barbecue and the scholarship fund. They also support Yuma County FFA, Yuma County Ag Producers Scholarship Fund, Bridget’s Gift, Hospice of Yuma, Foundation of Yuma Regional Medical Center, Amberly’s Place, Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona, Yuma Lutheran School and Southwestern Christian School.

Phil and Debbie are Yuma County 4H beef leaders and community club leaders for the Yuma Moos and members of various 4-H committees. Debbie is president of the Yuma County 4H Leaders Board and a board member of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area. Phil is a board member of both the Arizona Crop Protection Association and the Yuma Union High School District.

“These two keep Yuma ‘ticking.’ Their passion for the youth in this community is unmatched,” Sheppeard noted. “Thanks to them, we can all feel confident that the next generation of leaders is going to do a great job.”

The foundation also honored other individuals and organizations in the categories of Outstanding Volunteer, Outstanding Leader, Outstanding Young Leader, Outstanding Benefactor, Outstanding For Profit Corporation and Outstanding Nonprofit Organization.

The other honorees are:

Bud Thompson – Outstanding Volunteer

Thompson was honored as Outstanding Volunteer for his “dedication and always with a smile,” Judy Arnold, executive director of the Greater Foothills Helping Hands, said in her nomination. In the two years Thompson has volunteered with Greater Foothills Helping Hands, he has dedicated more than 800 hours of service and driven over 3,000 miles in his own vehicle while paying for his own gas. Many of those trips include picking up donations for the organization’s yard sales, taking care of a multitude of handyman jobs, delivering food bank boxes to homebound seniors and handling many transports of all sorts.

“Bud is a total team player and takes young volunteers under his wing by encouraging and teaching them new skills,” Arnold said. “His exemplary years of service as a military officer are evident in his leadership and dedication as a volunteer.”

Thompson also helped build 10 examination tables for the new Yuma Free Health Clinic.

Shelley Mellon – Outstanding Leader

Mellon has demonstrated her leadership skills throughout her adult life. “Shelly is very committed the betterment of her community and possesses the ability to bring others together to achieve beneficial goals. She is an outstanding leader,” stated Wayne C. Benesch, who nominated her for the award. In 1990, Mellon became a partner in RL Jones Insurance, a company she purchased in 1994.

In 1992, she joined the Rio Colorado Commission, a bilateral organization of leaders from Yuma County and San Luis Rio Colorado. She served as co-chair of that organization for two years. Mellon is a charter member of San Luis Rotary, a 20-year member of Yuma Executives Association and a member of the Philanthropic Educational Organization. She was a musician in the Yuma Civic Orchestra for nine years and is very active in her church performing a music ministry and serving as a worship leader. Mellon has served in the steering committee of the Southwest Arizona Futures Forum for five years and as chairman for more than two years.

Most recently, SAFF partnered with YRMC to improve the overall health of our community and sponsored a Youth Town Hall involving more than 150 local high school and college leaders.

Alex Deckey – Outstanding Young Leader

Deckey has made it his personal mission to fight hunger in Yuma. He first went to the Yuma Community Food Bank in February 2012 as part of his high school interact club. He immediately showed initiative when he coordinated honor club students to redesign the customer service area with a program called “Fill the Plate,” said Shara Marten, YCFB director of resources and community relations.

“The staff and volunteers at the food bank recognized his politeness, willingness to get involved and his drive in wanting to make a difference,” Merten added. Dedicated to helping the food bank raise funds, Deckey organized a two-week fundraising event with local businesses, securing more than $8,000 in the summer of 2012.

“Alex became the first Ambassador of the Yuma Community Food Bank because of his compassion for helping others – students, school, community,” Merten explained. In 2013 he continued fundraising among the business community, securing over $10,000 from two major companies. Matched through the Capital Campaign, the funds doubled for a total of $20,000.

“We are proud to recognize Alex Deckey for his dedication and accomplishments in this fight against hunger,” Merten said.

Willen Family – Outstanding Benefactor

“The Willen Family continues to give and give in Yuma County,” noted Terre Catanzaro, board president of the Yuma Community Food Bank in her nomination. They are supporters of the YCFB, Assistance League and Amberly’s Place. “Their financial donations have significantly impacted each of these organizations,” Catanzaro said.

“The Yuma Community Food Bank would not be in its current building if it weren’t for the Willen Family. The food bank’s current building allows the organization to serve the massive need for food for hungry families in this area.” In addition to the financial support, the members of the Willen Family are dedicated volunteers, sharing their time and energy with DPS, the Optimist Club and YRMC.

“We are extremely grateful to have the support of such a generous family, whose passion for their community shines through everything they do,” Catanzaro wrote in her nomination letter.

Assistance League of Yuma – Outstanding Nonprofit Organization

Every year, the members of the Assistance League of Yuma consistently volunteer more than 25,000 hours.

“This group of dedicated and passionate community members work long hours in order to accomplish our mission,” said Karen Griffin, league president. The league’s “caring people” support several programs, including Operation School Bell. They provide survivor kits for assault victims through Amberly’s Place and stuffed bears for accident and trauma victims. The organization also provides scholarships to Arizona Western College vocational students. “These programs are financed primarily through the hard work our members do in our thrift shop,” Griffin noted.

MGM Design – Outstanding For Profit Corporation

“MGM Design has made a true commitment to giving back to the Yuma community,” said Mike Ivers, YCFB president and CEO. “This company has exceeded far beyond expectations what the Yuma Community Food Bank had ever thought possible,” he added. By donating “countless” hours of time, MGM Design created a total image rebranding for YCFB.

“The vibrant and lively new logo was an inspiring and priceless piece of support provided to assist the Yuma Community Food Bank’s mission in continuing to fill the empty stomachs of children throughout Yuma and La Paz counties,” Ivers explained. The company also “continued in its dedicated path by looking into the heart and soul, visions and goals of the staff, clients and donors to create a modern and remarkable website that will be able to spread awareness about hunger throughout the nation,” he said. The diverse and accessible website contains “intriguing” content allowing the food bank to reach new volunteers and donors, he added.