We Have Already Unwrapped Gifts

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Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

On this perfect morning before the great celebration, we have a confession to make: We have already opened our gifts. In truth, we have opened them afresh every morning all through this year.

How else to describe the sight at first light of the Mogollon Rim, swaddled in snow or arrayed in monsoon thunderheads?

How else to describe the chance to live in a place where the Food Bank, Payson Helping Payson, the Christian Clinic, the Mogollon Health Alliance, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Humane Society of Central Arizona, Habitat for Humanity, the Payson Senior Center and a dozen other charities can all find support from a community brimming with generosity?

How else to describe the selfless courage of the volunteers who turn out again and again for the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Squad — or the officers and firefighters who rush to danger without hesitation?

How else to react to the sound of the East Verde River in the dark and the glint of last light off the pools of Tonto Creek?

How else to express our debt to the pioneers and settlers who prepared this paradise for us?

How else to capture our feelings at an elementary school concert, at a high school play at the voices of the children of this community.

How else to describe our feelings about the readers whose steadfast support has sustained the Payson Roundup for more than 75 years.

All gifts, beyond price — what Corinthians calls the “unspeakable gifts.”

So thank you, Rim Country — for the gifts you have lavished upon us all this year. We’re unspeakably grateful — and full of the hope and joy of the season.

We hope that you’ll forgive us: We just couldn’t wait to open them.

Big dreams abound

Dream big. But keep track of your feet. That could serve as the motto of the Mogollon Health Alliance, which continues to work diligently and shrewdly on behalf of this community.

The Alliance has for years raised money to fund projects to serve the health needs of this community. But more recently, the Alliance has broadened its focus.

For instance, the Alliance has been working diligently on landing a mega-grant to turn Payson into a telemedicine hub for much of northern Arizona. MHA narrowly missed landing a $30 million grant earlier this year — but is working on applying for another round of funding.

That grant would allow MHA to set up a telemedicine clearing house here, which would allow doctors and nurses in rural areas to undertake real-time consultations with specialists all over the country. In addition, the system would streamline the use of digital medical records and medical testing.

Moreover, the Mogollon Health Alliance has teamed up with local schools to help students. Earlier this year, the Alliance landed a $250,000 federal grant to provide teachers with cutting edge technology to promote online classes and distance learning. The money will likely provide screens and computers and servers so that teachers can enhance their lessons with presentations online — whether it’s a guest lecture or a science project.

Most recently, MHA got a $45,000 grant from the Fiesta Bowl Charities for the same purpose. Only about one in 10 of the groups that seek funding from Fiesta Bowl Charities makes the cut. This year, that includes Payson.

In this case, MHA will team up with the University of Arizona to administer a grant that will benefit schools in Payson, Pine and Tonto Basin.

As if that’s not enough balls to juggle, the Mogollon Health Alliance also provided the financial umbrella through its tax-exempt status to help quickly raise money to cover pre-development costs to buy land for a university campus in Payson.

Clearly, the Mogollon Health Alliance has grasped the essential truth: Our health and our future depend on supporting education — and in a community like ours, the good guys don’t compete — they help each other out.

Smart: And very dexterous — to stay focused on the stars without losing track of your feet.

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