A grassroots organization that has its origins in a Payson coffee shop 15 years ago will soon be inducted into the Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame.
The Mogollon Sporting Association is scheduled for induction during a banquet and ceremony Aug. 19 at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center.
According to longtime MSA member Sandee Koon, about 10 local members of the organization will travel to Scottsdale for the ceremonies.
"It's quite an honor, but a lot of the credit has to go to the community that supports us," Koon said. "Without them, we couldn't do what we do."
According to Steve Hirsch, president of the Wildlife for Tomorrow Foundation that sponsors the Arizona Hall of Fame, MSA was chosen because of the contributions the organization makes in the Rim Country.
"The Mogollon Sporting Association is a perfect example of how a group of dedicated individuals can have a very positive effect on wildlife and people as well," Hirsch said. "Their program to utilize youth volunteer labor not only gets the job done, but also instills an appreciation for the great outdoors in these young people."
The MSA was nominated for the award by the Arizona Game and Fish Department which often works hand-in-hand with the association in wildlife habitat rehabilitation projects.
Entering the hall of fame is not the first honor the MSA has received.
Two years ago the organization received the Arizona State Schools Public Relation Association's Award Of Merit for its longtime support of school programs.
MSA president Judy Baker traveled to Phoenix Metro Tech to accept the prestigious award.
"We are thrilled and honored to receive the award," she said at the time. "But we don't do it for the recognition, we are just trying to help out schools and the wildlife."
The MSA was founded in 1991 when a handful of movers and shakers on the Rim Country sports, cultural and business scene huddled over cups of coffee inside Country Kitchen.
There, the five founding members --raig Swartwood, Gary Barcom, Mike DeWees, Ted Pettet and Jim Spencer --aid the foundation for an association that they said would support Payson schools, local youth programs, the town economy and outdoor conservation projects.
Since its founding, the association has earned about $450,000 at its annual spring banquets.
Following each banquet, the profits are tallied and the MSA governing board gathers to consider 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 annually sponsors high school athletic tournaments and makes donations to conservation and wildlife causes in the Rim Country.
At Payson High, Rim Country Middle School, Tonto Basin and Pine, there's nary a coach or club sponsor who hasn't asked for, and usually received, money to fund their team or clubs and programs.
In addition to the donations, MSA members often join forces with game and fish officers, PHS athletes, forest service employees and other volunteers to participate in cleanups, build wildlife guzzlers (watering stations) and rebuild fences.
The success the MSA is now enjoying with its hall of fame induction and award of merit comes as no surprise to one of the founders -- Craig Swartwood.
"I was confident it would do well," the former Payson mayor said. "I think all of us (the founders) were."
Hall of fame honors issued
Set to be inducted into the Arizona Outdoor Hall of Fame with the MSA are Anita McFarlane, Senator Robert Cannell, Marvin Robbins and Pete Cowgill.
McFarlane, of Sedona, is a long supporter of wildlife causes who has worked closely with the Arizona Heritage Fund and the Audubon Society.
Cannell was a supporter of the state's wildlife resources while serving in the Arizona Legislature.
Robbins is an activist in wild turkey conservation and an avid hunter and sportsman.
As a writer and editor for the Arizona Daily Star, Cowgill covered the outdoor beat.
Wildlife for Tomorrow, which sponsors the hall of fame, was founded in 1990 and works closely with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, businesses, corporations and private citizens to ensure the future of Arizona's wildlife resources.
The organization has plans to build a $7.5 million conservation and education center near the intersection of Interstate 17 and Carefree Highway.