An organization that began over coffee 12 years ago has been awarded a prestigious state honor.
The Mogollon Sporting Association --ounded by Craig Swartwood, Gary Barcom, Mike DeWees, Ted Pettet and Jim Spencer --ill be honored by the Arizona State School Public Relations Association for its longtime support of school programs.
The ASSPRA's award of merit will be presented to MSA representatives Judy Baker, Sandee Koon, Janice Short and Melissa Higginbotham at a special ceremony April 16 at Phoenix Metro Tech school. The luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m.
As one of the original founders of MSA, Swartwood says he is not surprised by the growth and success of the organization.
"I was confident it would do well," he said.
From the original five founders, membership has swelled to more than 200.
Payson Unified School District Superintendent Herb Weissenfels and school board members Kristi Ford and Albert Hunt also will be in attendance at the awards ceremony. Ford nominated MSA to receive the award.
"I was looking through an Arizona School Board Association flyer and noticed an article about awards to service organizations and businesses that help schools," Ford said. "MSA has quietly gone about helping the schools for so long, I decided to nominate them."
Ford said she was a bit hesitant about the chances of winning mostly because the nominations included schools of student populations from 2,000 to 10,000 students. the Payson school district services about 2,700 students.
"There are so many of those larger districts that have big corporations behind them," she said. "We are kind of small and MSA works very quietly."
About two weeks ago, the school district received notice that MSA had won the award.
"I was just thrilled. It's just a small way to recognize such a wonderful organization," she said. "The many things they do for our schools help make up for the state budget deficits we must fight every day."
Since the founding of the MSA, the association has earned about $400,000 at its annual spring banquets.
Following each banquet, the MSA governing board gathers and considers requests for donations.
In past years, sports teams, school bands, drama clubs, speech and debate organizations, school choirs and other youth associations have benefited from MSA's generosity. The association also sponsors high school athletic tournaments and makes donations to conservation and wildlife causes in the Rim country.
According to MSA member and banquet ticket chairman Jack Koon, the association is unique in that all the money it earns helps local causes.
In the original mission statement written by the founders, it was stated that all money earned must benefit local youth programs and conservation.
Banquet set for May 1
Koon predicts MSA's spring banquet could turn into the most festive evening the organization has hosted.
"We already have over 70 firearms and bows," he said.
One of the more unusual items up for auction is a full steer, donated by the Brawley Beef Co. in Brawley, Calif. One-half of the beef and a stainless steel barbecue will be given away in a special raffle. The other half of the beef will be sold at a live auction.
Those items, along with a long list of other donations, will be auctioned, raffled or given away as door prizes.
The banquet begins at 5 p.m. with a no-host cocktail hour. At 6 p.m., a filet mignon steak or chicken dinner will be served.
The fun continues about 7 p.m. when master of ceremony Will E. Dietz begins the raffles and give-a-ways, with auctions overseen by Dave Yoke.
At press time, the banquet was almost completely sold out. To inquire about tickets, call Koon at (928) 474-1662.