The Earl Stephens Medical-Community Center, which began as one man's dream, is about to become a valuable resource for an entire community.
"We're so close to completing the project," John Dryer, president of Punkin Center Charities, said.
Years ago, Stephens gave Punkin Center Charities more than three acres of prime real estate for the project.
The reason behind Stephens' generosity has become local legend.
Punkin Center Charities formed in 1978, with the specific purpose of building the Tonto Basin School. That lofty goal was accomplished within two years, and students were heading to their new classrooms by the fall of 1980.
With the group's goal accomplished, the principals of Punkin Center Charities planned to dissolve the corporation.
Earl Stephens, a longtime Tonto Basin resident, had another idea, and in 1986, gave PCC more than three acres to build a medical-community center. He died two years later.
Now, nearly 13 years after his death, the Earl Stephens Medical-Community Center will open this spring an 8,500-square-foot multi-purpose facility that will serve the residents of Tonto Basin for years to come.
The Stephens center features medical, dental, chiropractic, and veterinary offices. It also has a pharmacy, trauma center, surgical suite, and X-ray capabilities.
Dr. Mark Ivey Jr. will oversee the medical center staffing, Dryer said.
"So far, we'll have Dr. Ivey, and Dr. Ivan McLaws, podiatrist, will be working out of there. Dr. Donald Steele, dermatologist will see patients there, and we've got Dr. Phillip Fausett, the dentist, all lined up. In all, we'll have eight visiting specialists who will see patients at the Earl Stephens Medical Center."
Dryer said Punkin Center Charities also has been negotiating with Payson veterinarian Patti Blackmore, who has agreed to treat pets at the clinic once a month.
On the other side of the building, the community center features a hall that seats 250 people.
Once completed, the community center will become the gathering place for weekly bingo, wedding receptions and community parties, such as Tonto Basin's annual "Bean-Off" cooking contest.
As with many projects like the medical center, the fund-raising efforts never stop.
To make a tax-deductible donation to Punkin Center Charities, write to John Dryer, president of Punkin Center Charities, Inc., P.O. Box 621, Tonto Basin, AZ 85553.