by Jim Keyworth
roundup staff reporter
Payson Community Kids, the group of young people sponsored by the town's Community Development Department, is making it easier for Rim country residents to lend their support.
The group, which is led by town housing and redevelopment coordinator Marci Rogers, recently qualified as a nonprofit organization in its own right after operating for 18 months as a work program under the nonprofit Rim Country Volunteers. This means donations can now be made directly to the Payson Community Kids.
"We've had no money coming in since December because of the changeover," Rogers said. "But we've continued running our normal programs our classes and activities. We've pretty much emptied out our bank account, so we need to get going again."
Currently, about 50 children with special needs, ranging in age from 18 months to 14 years, belong to the group. They meet regularly every Tuesday evening.
"The kids get a full dinner at our weekly gatherings," Rogers said. They do arts and crafts, learn CPR, things like that.
"The Soroptimists cook for us on Tuesday nights. We have spaghetti-type meals, and, believe me, we go through a lot of food. We also celebrate all their birthdays. We have a volunteer, Hazel West, who makes these big two-foot-by-two-foot cakes. And then we have artists like Donn Morris and Annele Henson who come and work with the kids."
On Sundays, Rogers and Terry Nelson, another volunteer, take about 18 children to church.
One of the more important values that Rogers and the other adults try to instill in the children is the importance of giving back. Many of the group's programs are focused on community service.
"It's all about becoming friends with the whole community," Rogers said. "On March 2, we'll be out cleaning up Bonita one of the streets we've adopted. We also do Malibu and Rumsey next to Wal-Mart."
The group is currently working on hand-crafting tickets for a fund-raising raffle.
"Mark Hamblin of CableVision has donated a $1,000 racing bike that's only been raced three times," Rogers said. "We're using the proceeds to hold a museum day at the Rim Country Museum on April 27, so the raffle tickets we're making all have something to do with history."
The event will tie into Payson History day, an all-day celebration that includes the placing of historic plaques at sites along Main Street, historic vignettes and re-enactments sponsored by the Historic Preservation Conservation Commission.
Payson Community Kids also will participate in another of the commission's upcoming events, the Rim Country Photo History Exhibit, the goal of which is to develop a permanent photographic collection of the history of the Rim country for future reference. Scheduled for two Saturdays, March 9 and 16, Rim country residents are asked to bring old photos of the area to Eastern Arizona College - Payson.
"We could use more volunteers to work on sub-committees," Rogers said. "We need lots of help with our dental program and our kids-care program.
"We also need a sub-committee to help with donations, with sorting and passing out thinks like that. We can also use food, smaller bikes in good shape, used bike helmets, coats, summer clothes, shoes, toiletries, and toothbrushes."
And, of course, the group can always put tax-deductible cash donations made under the group's new tax exempt status to good use.
Right now, Payson Community Kids meets at Payson Town Hall or Rogers' home, but they are fast outgrowing both facilities.