Upon moving to Payson almost five years ago, Marcy Rogers says she promptly bemoaned the fact that there weren't that many children to help, because "Payson was a rich little town."
But it wasn't long before Rogers who devotes her spare time to providing young people with affection, gifts and opportunities they might not otherwise experience began to see things differently.
"I found out there are lots of kids here who can use some more caring adults in their lives," she says. "So I started with the kids right on my own street. I was getting them bicycles and toothbrushes and games and taking them to the parks."
That was, after all, what Rogers had been doing for a living for many years as a planning and zoning coordinator for the Arizona cities of Mesa and Tucson. And she has since managed to incorporate that passion into her job as Payson's redevelopment and housing coordinator in the form of the hugely successful Payson Community Kids program.
Rogers operates the program on her own with the town's support and blessing. Through it, some 30 children from newborns to teenagers learn leadership, community service, to rise above difficult circumstances, and "All that stuff that you need to learn when you're a kid," she says.
Rogers' fondest hope is that these youngsters "grow up to be our next town managers and mayors and police chiefs. Wouldn't that be just wonderful?"
If Rogers sounds like something of a cheerleader ... well, she is. And she can't think of a worthier team to root for than children.
In a few short years, Payson Community Kids has grown from offering its participants simple activities to real self- and community-esteem builders such as neighborhood clean-ups, art programs, peer support, group trips, and a dental health program.
"There are kids who are 11 years old, and we're getting them their first teeth cleanings and cavity-fillings so they'll still have their teeth by the time they're 25," Rogers says.
The young people also are engaged in community service projects, such as helping distribute food for the Payson Food Bank.
"We'll get a red wagon, and the kids will take the food around to the older ladies who are homebound," Rogers says. "The kids feel really good about that and if you don't get to know that good feeling when you're young, sometimes you never get to know it."
The benefits of Rogers' program do not extend to kids alone. She also has developed and implemented, for example, a literacy program for the parents of participating youngsters.
"We kind of consider this a leadership and community service group," Rogers says. "The kids are learning, and so are us adults, how to be good citizens who take care of one another."
Fortunately, Rogers has found a number of local service organizations loaded to the gills with good citizens who have taken on a simple but all-important task: "Just helping to get the kids here.
"In a program like this, transportation is a big deal. If you can get the kids here, you can get them to participate. And they need to participate, because too often they don't have parents who are involved in little league or are taking them to swimming or computer lessons or horseback riding or shopping or on a picnic or to the movies."
The middle of five kids, Rogers was born in California ... but she's not exactly certain where. "I think it was Redlands, but I was too young at the time to remember. And we didn't stay there long."
After growing up in the Northern California cities of Irvine and San Jose, Rogers moved to Tucson, which became her home for the next 20 years and where she received her first experience in the professional realm of planning and zoning as a Pima County subdivision coordinator.
Rogers' move to Payson was facilitated by a local job offer as a code compliance officer. But her interest in that position dissipated the moment she read a help-wanted ad for her current job. "I want to do that!" she remembers thinking. "I've done all of that stuff! I want that job!"
One of the first missions Rogers gave herself was to create the Payson Community Kids program.
"It was so easy," she says. "All you need is a couple of kids and a couple of activities, and you're on your way."
If it sounds like Rogers is the kind of person who only gives, gives, gives ... well, that impression isn't entirely correct. She gets a little back, too.
"I get the joy of seeing these kids receive the opportunity to have a wonderful life; to be artists, pilots, account managers, or whatever they want to be.
"See those cookies over there?" Rogers asks, pointing to a huge box. "When I came into the office last night, those cookies were sitting there. There was a check on the seat of my chair. There was food in one corner, and a big bag of clothes in another. At Christmastime I came in and found a $1,000 check on my desk.
"Who comes to their office every day and sees this kind of human caring? Who gets to give kids things that you always wanted as a child? Who gets to work in an area that's like a giant park, with 30 great kids?"
Marcy Rogers does.
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Clothing, toy and food donations to Payson Community Kids can be dropped off at the Community Development Building at Town Hall. Checks made out to Rim Country Volunteers can be dropped off or mailed to Marcy Rogers, Payson Town Hall, 303 N. Beeline Highway, Payson 85541. For more information on how to volunteer or make a donation to the program, call Rogers at 474-5242, extension 269.