David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager, 480.517.8472
Rio Salado College has partnered with the Arizona-based charity Smiles for Christmas to make the holidays special for nearly 1,000 low-income students at five Valley schools.
Starting Nov. 9, Rio Salado, 2323 W. 14th St., Tempe, is collecting Lego sets, Play-Doh, and monetary donations for the children at Children’s First Academy and Thew Elementary in Tempe and three additional schools in Phoenix.
Students, instructors, staff members and the general public are invited and encouraged to participate in the three-week toy drive by dropping off donations at Rio Salado College.
“As educators, we are expected to be leaders, and the best way to lead is by example,” said Elizabeth Cole-Fay, a project coordinator at Rio Salado. “Throughout the year, Rio Salado’s participates in a variety events and programs that benefit the communities where we work and live.”
On Dec. 1, the donations collected at Rio Salado will be delivered to McClintock High School in Tempe where they will be wrapped by volunteers and distributed to the elementary school students during a holiday fair.
“Smiles for Christmas was created to help needy children in the Valley,” said Smiles for Children Founder Tom Medrano. “This has been a difficult year for many families. People are struggling to put food on the table and pay bills. Toys are definitely not the first things on the minds of family providers.”
Medrano started the charity in 2002 and provided toys for approximately 150 students at one school. Throughout the last seven years, the help has expanded to nearly 1,000 children at five schools. The drive started with high school students, but recently expanded to college students and organizations. This is Rio Salado’s first year participating in the program.
“Some of the people who participated in the event during high school contacted me to see how they could help now that they are in college,” said Medrano. “Working with colleges is the next step in the process of reaching out and helping more needy students.”
For Rio Salado, the Smiles for Christmas toy drive is just part of the college’s volunteer efforts.
Recently, school officials started working on a college-wide campaign called Pay 30 Forward. The campaign encourages employees to get involved in their communities by volunteering, participating in charity events, and helping other causes.
“Rio Salado recently marked its 30th anniversary,” said Cole-Fay. “To celebrate this milestone, we asked employees to give back to the community by volunteering at least 30 hours.”
While the 30-hour mark is linked to the 30th anniversary, it also was established after officials discovered that a large contingent of employees already volunteer throughout the Valley.
“While talking to employees we discovered that some really dedicated people are volunteering more than 30 hours a month,” said Cole-Fay. “So we came up with the 30-hour mark to make it challenging for the employees, yet still reasonable.”
For employees who want to volunteer, the college established a committee to provide opportunities like the Smiles for Christmas toy drive.
To learn more about Rio Salado College’s outreach effort and how you can get involved, visit http://www.riosalado.edu/community/services/Outreach.