Profiles in Leadership

Learn more about our donors and partners and the positive impact their efforts are having on Arizona communities, demonstrated through their relationships with the Arizona Community Foundation.

Burton Family Foundation

The Burton Family Foundation invests in Arizona's workforce by supporting educational opportunities for students.

Daryl and Christy Burton with Year Up Interns

The Burton Family Foundation was established in 2015 at the Arizona Community Foundation. Through the fund, Christy and Daryl Burton were able to support Phoenix-area students through a generous grant to Year Up Arizona, a rigorous 12-month program that combines hands-on technical and professional skills development, stipends, professional internships, and college credits. This grant enabled students to participate in the Year Up program without concern personal financial debt.

Education and closing the opportunity gap are priorities for the Burtons, who chose to support students with a high level of financial need.

Meeting the students that participated in the Year Up Arizona program was inspirational and a strong endorsement for the future. They talked about their internships with excitement and hope for their future based on the skills they had learned during their first six months as students in the Year Up Arizona program.

- Christy Burton

Tony & Milena Astorga Foundation

The Latino community, education and services for children, and the arts are priorities for the Astorgas.

The Astorgas—Milena, who grew up in Mexico City and whose career path has included the arts, television and the family restaurant business, and Tony, an Arizona native who had a successful career as an executive with Blue Cross Blue Shield in Mexico and Arizona—enjoy time at the Phoenix Art Museum, where a gallery bears their name and where Milena is a Master Docent.

Tony and Milena Astorga have strong feelings of pride about Arizona. Stronger still is their desire to make life better for all Arizonans. Through the Tony & Milena Astorga Foundation established in 2006 at the Arizona Community Foundation, the couple funds organizations like United Way that provide and support education and social services for our children, particularly those from disadvantaged homes.

“We believe that our endeavors will help break the cycle of illiteracy-driven poverty, strengthen our communities and address the problem of the high dropout rate in Arizona,” Tony said, citing their active involvement with projects like the A Stepping Stone Foundation, which provides pre-school and family literacy programs to prepare children for kindergarten.

Another of the family’s favorite institutions is the Phoenix Art Museum, where a gallery bears their name and Milena is a Master Docent.

“The Museum helps educate our community, and quality art institutions are an indirect economic development driver for our state,” Tony said. “More importantly, the programs provide an opportunity for our children to learn and appreciate the history of art.”

The Arizona Community Foundation is yet another beneficiary of a relationship with the Astorgas, including Tony’s tenure on the organization’s Board of Directors. During the past 10 years, he has been vice chair of the board, chairman of the Finance, Administration and Budget Committee and treasurer. And Tony’s involvement in ACF’s Latinos Unidos initiative dates back to the launch of the initiative.

It’s all part of a way of life for the Astorga family, which includes daughters Tabatha and Farah, who are successor advisors to the Tony & Milena Astorga Foundation.

Phoenix IDA

The Phoenix IDA invests in programs to achieve meaningful change for residents, small businesses and communities.

The Phoenix IDA leadership includes, standing, left to right: Juan Salgado, Executive Director; Lydia Lee, Community Relations; C.W. Ross, Director with Fennemore Craig/legal counsel to the Phoenix IDA; James Barham, HR and Legal Affairs; and seated, left to right: Judy Bernas, Vice Chair; Christa Severns, Chair. Members of the Board not pictured are Sal Rivera, Barbara Ryan Thompson, Vanessa Valenzuela Erickson, David Lujan, Bruce D. Mosby, Charlene Tarver, and Marian M. Yim.

The Phoenix Industrial Development Authority promotes economic development by issuing private activity bonds that attract investment as a means of financing projects providing a public benefit. Once bonds are funded, the Phoenix IDA receives administrative fees from borrowers and a portion of the fees are reinvested into a fund at ACF for direct grantmaking that furthers community and economic development.

Established in 1981 by the Phoenix City Council, the Phoenix IDA has a long history of establishing public/private partnerships to finance projects for the benefit of the city’s and the state’s residents. A relationship with the Arizona Community Foundation that dates back to 2012 has allowed the Phoenix IDA to expand its impact and award grants directly to nonprofit organizations. Since then, the Phoenix IDA has awarded $2.35 million to support education, health care and affordable housing projects, including $856,550 from its two funds at ACF.

“The partnership with the Arizona Community Foundation provides the Phoenix IDA with valuable guidance in investing its funds where they are most needed, while providing the biggest impact to the city of Phoenix,” said Juan Salgado, Phoenix IDA’s Executive Director. The Phoenix IDA accepts funding requests in three priority areas: educational initiatives and collaborations in schools; programs that facilitate jobs in health care and increase access to health care; and economic and community development programs for affordable housing, economic success for the working-poor and workforce development projects.

Among its most significant achievements, the Phoenix IDA led a funders’ collaborative of public and private interests to respond to an urgent need. Through Rapid Re-Housing, a program managed by Valley of the Sun United Way, more than 250 individuals were transitioned from homelessness to a stable housing situation in less than six months.

Tempe Community Foundation

Innovative human service programs receive funding in a process with a high level of citizen involvement.

Members of the Tempe Community Foundation Advisory Board, pictured left to right, are: Linda Redman, Vice President; Kate Hanley; Woody Wilson; Louraine Arkfeld, Secretary; and Michael Rooney, President. Not pictured are Chris Gonzalez, Valerie Trujillo, and Mayor Mark Mitchell.

In partnership with the Tempe Community Council, the Tempe Community Foundation serves as a centralized giving vehicle for Tempe residents who want to support a wide range of local human services programs. Although the TCF was initially established in 1992, several years passed before an advisory board formed and commenced a tenfold growth in assets, to over $1.2 million today.

Since inception, the TCF has invested $203,765 in community programs serving people of all ages, implementing a collaborative and inclusive process. “With its unique emphasis on including residents in the decision-making process, Tempe Community Council assures consistent community input, oversight and accountability for the TCF,” said Advisory Board Member Kate Hanley.

A recent sampling of grants awarded includes $3,000 to Removing Barriers to Quality of Life, a day program at The Centers for Habilitation. The grant helped 76 Tempe residents with disabilities overcome a variety of barriers to social interactions, with many demonstrating dramatic improvements.

Tempe Community Action Agency received $15,000 to expand evening food pantry hours from one to two nights per week. With evening hours, working poor families gain access without having to take time off from jobs. Nearly 10,000 additional people received food during the fiscal year following the expansion in hours.

Tempe Neighbors Helping Neighbors received $15,000 and thanks to these funds, the agency has increased by 28 percent the number of people—mostly older adults living alone on fixed incomes—receiving help with home maintenance, transportation, friendly visits and calls, technology and pet care.

Next year, the TCF’s Advisory Board will mark 25 years since inception by celebrating its past achievements and embarking on a new set of goals. One of those goals includes refining the TCF’s grantmaking strategy for greatest impact, focusing specifically on incubating innovative new programs and expanding successful programs to serve more clients in need.

Wallace & Ladmo Foundation

Together, we create.

Pat and Duffy McMahon enjoy many memories of their start in Phoenix. On the side wall of the First Studio building, a mural of Wallace, Ladmo and Gerald marks the original home of the long-running show, Wallace and Ladmo.
If you didn’t grow up with “The Wallace and Ladmo Show,” you have surely heard of it. It was one of those marvels of early television with humor so universal, it lasted through several decades. In 1954, the show began on KPHO-TV with one character. Wallace was played by Bill Thompson, who worked in the studio and art department. Ladimir Kwiatkowski, a camera operator, soon joined the fun as Ladmo.

A few years later, the station hired a young news anchor and weatherman, Pat McMahon. He often watched Wallace and Ladmo from the sidelines and as more and more sketches required three characters, Pat became a regular. One of the many characters he created was Gerald, a spoiled brat the studio audience loved to hate. Pat remains a popular radio and talk show personality in the Phoenix area.

Wallace and Ladmo encouraged local musicians and other young talents, including Arcadia High School student Steven Spielberg, who appeared on the show with excerpts from his latest homemade films. Alice Cooper and Stevie Nicks are among the children who filled the gallery and guests included Jack Benny, Mohammed Ali, Steve Allen and Waylon Jennings. “The Wallace and Ladmo Show” ended in 1989 and for most of its run was broadcast on weekday afternoons, usually live.

Earlier this year, Pat’s wife, Duffy, established the Wallace & Ladmo Foundation because, she says, “We envision an Arizona where all children can participate in being creative.”

The foundation will provide scholarships, grants and other incentives to help Arizona children who want to participate in creative arts such as dance, music, performance or acting, visual, computer graphics, culinary, writing in all genres, sculpting, painting, cartooning and photography.

Wallace, Ladmo and Gerald will soon be memorialized in yet another work of art when a life-sized sculpture is installed next to the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.

Prescott High School Alumni Half Century Club

Together, we rally.

Members of the PHS Alumni Half Century Club Steering Committee, all of whom have chaired the annual luncheon, include: Pat Stotts, ’60; Deborah Walker, ’54; Jane Orr, ’63; Janet Matli, ’53, the 2015 Chair; Marilyn Henze, ’56; Shirley Ballew, ’58; Pat Crespo, ’55; and Howard Hinson, ’64. Not pictured are: Kathy Pessin, ’57; Patty Rummage, ’59; Linda Turner, ’61; and Rick Rodarte, ’62.
After gathering on a fall day in 1978 to reminisce over a simple meal under a friend’s carport, a group of 14 Prescott High School alumni vowed to meet again the following year. In each of the 37 years since, joined by an ever-growing list of their classmates, the group has kept the tradition going.

Today, the luncheon has become a cherished annual social event in Prescott, uniting some 600 PHS alumni. And, the social gathering has a philanthropic purpose: attendees contribute financially to provide college scholarships for graduates of their beloved alma mater.

During this year’s luncheon, the Class of 1965 was inducted into the Prescott High School Alumni Half Century Club. As usual, the Pride of Prescott High School Band delivered a rousing rendition of the PHS fight song and the celebration was extended by individual class reunions coinciding with the main event. 

Since the luncheon’s oversight and planning requirements have continued to grow—and the scholarship program along with it—the chairs of all previous luncheons formed a steering committee that now meets twice a year. Their fall meeting includes a review of the luncheon’s financial report and the election of a new chairman. In the spring, scholarship applications are reviewed.

The group turned to the Arizona Community Foundation of Yavapai County for assistance with awarding scholarships, establishing the PHS Half Century Club collaborative scholarship fund. Based on their grade point averages, community involvement, financial need and personal goals, 21 PHS graduates were selected to each receive a $1,000 scholarship for the 2015-2016 academic year.

“ACF of Yavapai County has become an important partner for our scholarship program,” said Janet Matli, 2015 steering committee chair. “And we hope to continue this fine tradition for many years.”

Proceeds from the annual luncheons, gifts from PHS alumni, and the power of endowment will, indeed, make it possible for generations of Prescott High School graduates to receive college scholarships.

Dawn and Michael Kennedy Family Fund

Together, we inspire.

With a signpost guiding them, the kids of Vista College Preparatory are getting help for the journey from Dawn and Michael Kennedy. 
Dawn and Michael Kennedy have always been active in their support for their community, devoting their efforts to crucial issues and organizations they admire. But after their accountant suggested the Arizona Community Foundation, the couple discovered they could enjoy their charitable giving even more.

The Kennedys credit ACF with making the process easy. They are inspired to be conscientious about their choices for their fund, and to remain mindful about how they can do the most good.

Dawn had been an attorney with DeConcini McDonald Yetwin & Lacy, P.C., when her philanthropic interests led her to a position with the Brophy Community Foundation in 1999. According to Mike, it was the catalyst behind the couple’s interest in improving education in Arizona. Currently the organization’s director of corporate tax credits, she has also served on boards and committees for numerous nonprofit organizations.

As a founding board member, Dawn’s work with Vista College Preparatory, a public charter school for Kindergarten through 5th grade students that was approved in 2013, is among her proudest volunteer projects. Located in south Phoenix, the school emphasizes character education and college preparation. As a member of Vista College Prep’s governing board, Dawn is a familiar face at the school—among the students as well as the staff.

“The kids touch your heart, whenever you’re there,” said Mike.

From Mike’s perspective, involvement in sports represents a significant pathway for children and youth to capitalize on what they learn in school. While the Kennedy children were growing up, Mike coached year-round baseball and has been President of the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation since its inception 18 years ago. A member of The Thunderbirds, Mike co-chairs the annual Thunderbird International Junior golf tournament held at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale. He chaired the 2007 Super Bowl XLII Host Committee and the Phoenix Open in 1994. Professionally, he serves as counsel to a variety of business clients and Arizona sports teams as co-founding partner of Gallagher & Kennedy.

As a natural reflection of the interests of both Dawn and Mike, education and sports are the center of attention for their donor advised fund at the Arizona Community Foundation.

Forest Highlands Foundation

Together, we amaze.

Jean Brown, Martha Stoneberger, Bob Golub, Jeff Schrock, Mary Robinson and Richard Russell are among the dedicated leaders who guide the Forest Highlands Foundation’s grantmaking in the Flagstaff area.
Forest Highlands Foundation has been making a difference in northern Arizona since 1999. Beginning with one meaningful project to establish the Olivia White Hospice House in Flagstaff, organizers have gone on to raise $4.7 million for the fund established with the Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff.

Members of Forest Highlands, the first gated golf community in the Flagstaff area, set themselves apart when it comes to helping local nonprofit organizations. Their generosity, combined with proceeds from sponsored events, has produced more than $4 million in grants for projects that focus on health care, social services, education and opportunities for disadvantaged youth.

A short list of recent grant recipients includes funding for a Housing Solutions of Northern Arizona low-income housing project; support for the Flagstaff Family Food Center after the closure of a food bank distribution center; proceeds from a golf tournament for first responders and firefighters to purchase equipment following the Slide Fire in Oak Creek Canyon; and sponsorship and hosting for the Flagstaff Shelter Services’ annual dinner.

In addition to gifts from members, annual fundraisers help to grow the Forest Highlands Foundation’s fund while building awareness about its work. Driven by dozens of volunteers, the popular events include a golf tournament, a summer raffl e program and an evening dinner and auction that sells out every year. 

Volunteers are also fundamental to the group’s grantmaking process, which relies on both a core group of participants for continuity and new members with a fresh perspective. 

ACF of Flagstaff enjoys relationships with a growing number of collaborators, organizations that join together in the annual competitive grants process. Forest Highlands Foundation was among the first to join in the process. Its advisory board members actively participate in the grant application review process and monthly nonprofit site visits.

Several Forest Highlands residents have their own donor advised funds, further powering the community’s philanthropic impact.

Sedona Public Library Foundation Fund

Together, we engage.

Executive Director Virginia Volkman and President of the Board of Trustees Pat Jansen are rightly proud of the services the Sedona Public Library provides for residents throughout the region. 
In 1958, the Friends of the Library established Sedona’s first library with donated materials. Today, 125 volunteers provide nearly half of the staff hours required to keep the Sedona Public Library running smoothly.

Staff and volunteers are always available for the usual activities related to library cards, the care and repair of reading materials and guiding people to the library’s sections. But the library means much more to the communities it serves, including the Village of Oak Creek, which has had its own facility since 2005.

While residents are drawn to the library in increasing numbers to access job-hunting resources, the Internet, computer training and entertainment services, the library hosts more than 950 programs each year for children, teens and adults. The library’s calendar includes a variety of sessions for bilingual patrons. 

Because the Sedona Public Library is part of the Yavapai Library Network, its patrons have access to some 2 million items, all of which can be reserved using 24-hour online access.

“Back in the 1980s, we never imagined e-books and online databases,” said Executive Director Virginia Volkman. “By the time our dream facility became a reality, we filled it with books, e-audiobooks and DVDs, and the card catalog was replaced with an electronic system.”

Early leaders understood the need to plan for the library’s long-term stability and since 1964, a Board of Trustees has directed facility expansions, changes in location and advancements in technology. Part of that long-term planning included creating a dedicated endowment fund to help support library operations forever.

Pat Jansen, president of the Board of Trustees, said “When we established the endowment fund with the Arizona Community Foundation of Sedona in 2001, we secured the Sedona Public Library’s financial future forever.”

As further evidence that the Board of Trustees and the Friends of the Library are doing things right, Library Journal gave the Sedona Public Library a Star Library rating in 2014.

Sierra Toyota Fund

Together, we share.

Under Elsie MacMillan’s leadership, Sierra Toyota’s customer service ranks the dealership among the nation’s top two percent. Sierra Toyota was named Large Business of the Year by the Sierra Vista Chamber of Commerce, and more than 30 nonprofit organizations have received support through the Sierra Toyota Fund since 2011. 

Along with their certainty that giving back is good for the whole community, Elsie and Paul MacMillan have confirmation that it’s also good for business. Their company, Sierra Toyota, is known for outstanding customer service, ethical business practices and charitable giving throughout the Sierra Vista area. As president of the dealership, Elsie proudly sees a return on investment in that reputation.

Elsie’s auto industry experience dates back to the mid-1980s in New Jersey. In 2005, her second year of ownership of Sierra Toyota, Elsie increased revenues by nearly 7 percent, and did it in a way that earned her the Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona’s Business Ethics Award.

Like the region’s other major businesses, Sierra Toyota is asked to support local causes in a variety of ways. Just when Elsie began to see a need for a more focused approach to distributing their charitable dollars, she discovered that Toyota USA offered a way to substantially increase the amount of money Sierra Toyota distributes to local nonprofit organizations. The Sierra Toyota Fund that the MacMillans established with the Arizona Community Foundation of Cochise grows with annual contributions from the business, a corporate match from Toyota USA, and earnings that are invested back into the fund.

“We have continued to increase the amount we invest back into the community,” Elsie said, “and our fund makes it easy for us to direct resources where they can do the most good.”

ACF’s online tools make it easy for Elsie to identify and review qualified nonprofits and recommend grants for programs and projects that matter most for the area’s residents.

Since 2011, the causes that have mattered most for the Sierra Toyota Fund are related to services for children, education at all levels, support for Veterans and active-duty military, and fundraising for a variety of organizations that people rely on during tough times.

Education Foundation of Yuma County

Together, we learn.

Pictured outside Yuma’s historic post office, now owned by the Gowan Company, are Tom Tyree, Yuma County Superintendent of Schools; Helen Coffeen, Principal, Centennial Middle School; and Amanda Stoermer, Principal, James D. Price Elementary School. They are among 12 members of the board that oversees the Education Foundation of Yuma County.

Established in 1988 to recognize excellence in education, the Education Foundation of Yuma County supports the profession of teaching and raises public awareness of the value of education. Relying entirely on volunteers from business and education sectors in the Yuma area, the group’s resources are also aimed at building public support for education. 

Each year, the Education Foundation accepts nominations for the Yuma County Education Hall of Fame. The six categories for consideration are designed to honor not only educators, but people educated in Yuma, organizations that have contributed to the quality of Yuma County education and school district employees. The Education Foundation is widely recognized for its success in highlighting these achievements at the annual Yuma County Teacher of the Year Banquet, an event presented in partnership with the Rotary Clubs of Yuma County.

An annual competitive grants process through the Education Foundation of Yuma County gives teachers in all of the area’s schools a chance at mini-grants of up to $500 to help fund special projects in their classrooms. A committee reviews the applications, which require specific learning objectives and an assessment of each funded project’s results.

Some of the creative ways that Yuma County teachers have used these grants include historical simulations that transport students into the past to experience social change such as the Industrial Revolution, National Geographic Education Programs that combine geography and world events, and a review of political cartoons in American history.

The Education Foundation’s board of dedicated Yuma County superintendents, principals and college professors established a nonprofit endowment fund with the Arizona Community Foundation of Yuma to help sustain these activities and further develop their philanthropic agenda.

“We wanted to establish a foundation that would help us do more with our assets, while keeping us prepared to collaborate when matching-fund opportunities come our way,” said Tom Tyree, Yuma County Superintendent of Schools and board member for the Education Foundation of Yuma County. “A fund with ACF of Yuma was an easy choice.”

Ronald A. Martin Family Fund

Yuma developer leads by example
in family, business, and philanthropy

The Martins are well known for getting people to follow their lead in making Yuma County such a great place to live. There is much to be proud of for Ron and Stephanie; Jason and Brady, who are not pictured; and Jennifer and Jeffrey.

Ron Martin is a big believer in giving back and paying it forward, and he demonstrates it both in actions and words. The pride he and his wife Stephanie feel for Yuma County is contagious. Ron has an easy time convincing people to rise to the challenge when he sees a need.

It happened when volunteer hours, goods and services—along with $450,000 in community donations—helped create the Stewart Vincent Wolfe Creative Playground, one of the nation’s largest creative playgrounds, designed by Yuma kids and built by community volunteers. And that’s just one of a long list of community projects he has stewarded.

A local developer, Ron was instrumental in the construction of the John Boemer Sports Complex at Yuma’s Kofa High School along with two dozen other businesses. And last year, Ron challenged fellow builders to join him in constructing a home and turning the proceeds from its sale over to the Yuma Veterans Fund managed by ACF’s Yuma affiliate. Community donations for that project alone totaled $100,000.

Since the Martins established the Ronald A. Martin Family Fund nearly nine years ago, nonprofit organizations throughout the area have benefited. The fund provides annual support to programs for youth, education, health and emergency services. Ron was recognized during the 2006 Heart of Yuma awards as Philanthropist of the Year, and again in 2013 when he received the Yuma Veterans Fund Award for spearheading the construction project.

Support for local schools is what Ron finds most fulfilling. The Yuma County Education Foundation recently demonstrated their gratitude during the Yuma County Teacher of the Year awards banquet, where Ron was honored with the Frances Woodard Award, recognizing individuals who were educated in the Yuma County school system and have positively impacted the community.


Geile Charitable Foundation

Giving is a team effort for Flagstaff family

With grateful hearts, Bob and Sharon Geile and their daughter, Kim Bayer, are generous in their support for the community and their beloved high country surrounding Flagstaff.

Robert and Sharon Geile and their daughter, Kimberlie Bayer, make a great team. It is evident in the operation of their Flagstaff business as well as their support for local charities. Each of them has talents and interests that guide their business decisions and inspire their acts of kindness through the Geile Charitable Foundation they established in 2011 as a fund of ACF’s Flagstaff affiliate.

While Bob keeps track of the fund’s financial activity, Kim and Sharon focus on emerging needs in the Flagstaff area that they can address through the fund’s grantmaking. They maintain relationships with organizations that provide services for individuals and families in crisis and also help to rally volunteers. Kim, who was a teacher in the Las Vegas school system for more than 20 years, has a special interest in supporting educational programs.

The success of their SuperPAWN chain of stores has provided the means for the family to be exceedingly generous in their community. Sharon and Bob’s sons, Eric and Greg, are also involved in philanthropy, serving as advisors to the family’s fund. Greg founded the Rollin’ for Niños Foundation, whose mission is to change the lives of Tucson’s children in need.

“In our business, we meet so many people who desperately want to provide for themselves, but are unable to because of financial barriers,” said Bob. “We feel an obligation to help those who cross our path to be more independent and to succeed.”

Among the many beneficiaries of the Geile Charitable Foundation, the Holy Trinity Catholic Newman Center holds special significance.

“Newman Center fosters the faith, values and virtues that we want to be shared, specifically with young people,” Sharon said. “Newman Center has proven itself in training leaders who seek to build community partnerships with all students.”


Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Scholarships help prepare future Latino business leaders

Respected as a key force for business growth, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is led by Gonzalo de la Melena, Jr. (seated); and (left to right) Mónica Villalobos,James E. Garcia, Susette Coumides, and Alika Kumar.

The Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has been part of the state’s business scene for more than six decades. Through its AZHCC Foundation, the organization is making an investment in the future success of Latino businesses.

The Emerging Business Leaders Scholarship is among four AZHCC programs that provide about $135,000 in college scholarships annually. The goal of the program is to support and guide the next generation of business owners, managers and leaders for a better Arizona.

AZHCC Foundation’s Scholarship Fund, which was established at the Arizona Community Foundation in 2011, provides $5,000 awards to business majors in their third year of study at an accredited Arizona school. Scholars may qualify for an award in the same amount for a subsequent year of study, bringing the total award to $10,000. To date, 16 scholars have received funding.

As part of the Emerging Business Leaders Initiative, each student also has an opportunity to be paired with a mentor and work as an intern with the Chamber or one of its member businesses. Additional services are available in partnership with the Helios Education Foundation and College Success Arizona (formerly Arizona College Scholarship Foundation).

“There are few things more vital to the future of Arizona than ensuring the education of our children—all of our children,” says Gonzalo de la Melena, Jr., Chamber President/CEO. “It’s important to Latino youth, who often face an uphill challenge in our education system, but it is equally vital to our state’s long-term prosperity.”


Jodi Padgett, Professional Advisor

Jodi Padgett and Charlie Taylor include discussions about philanthropy in conversations with clients of Taylor & Padgett Wealth & Legacy Strategies.

If variety is the spice of life, Jodi Padgett is someone who finds plenty of zest. From the vantage point of her busy office in Prescott, or her small ranch in nearby Skull Valley, Jodi maintains balance in her life with passions that include advising clients, growing grapes and devoting time to favorite causes.

Jodi has served on the Arizona Community Foundation’s Investment Committee since 2004 and was recently elected to the Board of Directors. She also chairs the advisory board of ACF’s affiliated Yavapai County Community Foundation, serves as treasurer of the Highlands Center for Natural History, and serves on the Preventative Elder Abuse Council.

Over the years, she has referred clients to the Yavapai County Community Foundation for the charitable aspects of their estate planning, resulting in the formation of millions of dollars in new charitable funds to serve the community.

A partner in Taylor & Padgett Wealth & Legacy Strategies, Jodi has been involved with the practice for more than three decades. She is a Certified Financial Planner® and holds an MS in Financial Planning, College of Financial Planning. Referring to herself as a philanthropist in progress, Jodi leads by example on the path to leaving a legacy, both personal and financial. Educating her clients in endowment possibilities is important to Jodi.

“The tax dollars we can’t take with us, or leave to family, are the perfect fit for endowment opportunities where the money can serve the local community.”

Polk Family Fund

Tom and Sheila Polk and Tom's parents, Gene and Barbara Polk, pause in the shadow of Cowboy at Rest, a bronze sculpture they helped bring to the Courthouse Plaza in Prescott.
Ties to Arizona are strong for Gene and Barbara Polk, Prescott residents since they arrived as young newlyweds in the 1950s. They raised their children, Julie, Ken and Tom, to share their respect for the generations of Arizonans who came before them, optimism about the future, and commitment to giving back.

The Polk family is known for stepping up whenever help is needed, from the arts to historical preservation to education to the environment. Gene and Barbara’s children are carrying on the charitable tradition, with plans to pass the torch to their children and grandchildren as well.

Barbara’s lifetime commitment to children’s issues has left its mark with area nonprofit organizations. She served on the Board of Directors in the early years of the Arizona Community Foundation, and she and Gene were instrumental in establishing ACF’s affiliated Yavapai County Community Foundation. Today, Gene is a trustee of the J.W. Kieckhefer Foundation, while Tom, a local attorney, is a trustee of the Margaret T. Morris Foundation. Barbara and Gene recently established the Polk Family Fund, a donor-advised fund at YCCF, with their grandchildren named as successor fund advisors.

To celebrate Barbara’s generous spirit, Tom and Gene endowed the Barbara Jean Polk Spirit of Volunteerism award with the Prescott AWEE to recognize local volunteers. Tom’s wife, Sheila, Yavapai County Attorney, participates in the annual awards event.

“It’s easy to brag about Yavapai County and the people who live here,” said Tom. “It makes us proud to be part of the good things that happen.”

QU Scholarship Fund

The Founding Five of the QU Scholarship Fund are Joey Thybo, Kevin Axx, Shel-Don Legarreta, Stacey Jay Cavaliere and Mike Gorman (not pictured).During a conversation about doing more to give back, Drs. Shel-Don Legarreta and Kevin Axx experienced an epiphany that set off an unlikely series of events—with surprising results.

Kevin was transforming his annual birthday celebration around the pool into an opportunity for a growing number of interested friends to combine resources for local charities. Meanwhile, Shel-Don had been mentoring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth enrolled at Q High, an online high school operated by the nonprofit one n ten. The two hatched a plan to generate support, through social gatherings, for the continued studies of Q High graduates.

When they took their idea for a scholarship fund to one n ten, Kevin and Shel-Don found an ally in program director Stacey Jay Cavaliere. Their friend Joey Thybo, a banking professional, offered financial guidance, and another friend, Mike Gorman, brought professional fundraising expertise. The Arizona Community Foundation’s scholarship office provided the final piece of the puzzle, and the QU Scholarship Fund was born.

They launched their first event in 2012 and far exceeded their own expectations. About 275 people attended the pool party and their gifts, small and large, added up to more than $13,000.

With a combination of monetary awards and mentoring, the QU Scholarship Fund promotes scholastic achievement among Arizona LBGTQ youth, and scholarships have already been awarded.

“We’re changing things for youth who have no support system to fall back on,” said Kevin. “And in the process, we’ve been changed by the experience.”

Verne Smith, Professional Advisor

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, Verne Smith strives to make it a reality for everyone he encounters.More than 30 years ago, Verne Smith was drawn by the beauty and quality of life in Sedona and relocated his family and a successful insurance services career from California to Arizona. Over the years, Verne offered comprehensive financial planning services and he practiced as a licensed securities professional, a registered investment advisor and registered principal.

Verne’s commitment to community is equally enduring. Shortly after his arrival in Arizona, Verne co-founded Sedona Jazz on the Rocks and founded the Sedona Youth Activities program. He was a trustee of Orme School, a central Arizona college preparatory boarding school, and he was a driving force in establishing the Sedona Community Foundation, an Affiliate of the Arizona Community Foundation. He served for a decade on ACF’s Board of Directors and is a charter member of the Professional Advisory Board.

ACF’s Black Philanthropy Initiative has made great strides thanks to Verne’s enthusiastic and vocal support as a member of the BPI Task Force.

Verne leads by example. Recognizing that education is a hallmark to achievement, he earned a master’s degree in investment management. Because peace of mind is a worthy aspiration, Verne shows people how to plan for financial security. And, he helps his clients understand how philanthropy is a tool for serving Arizona’s long-term needs.

Wick Family Foundations

As newspaper veterans, philanthropists and leaders, the Wick brothers inspire others with their creativity, compassion and commitment.Newspapers are at the center of the Wick family’s impact on this state, particularly in southeastern Arizona. There is Wick Communications, the publishing company founded there in the mid-1970s by two Ohio newspaper veterans, that has grown to include publications in 12 states. There are generations who count a Wick family member among their treasured friends and respected leaders. There are nonprofits who serve communities in the area, thanks to the Robert J. Wick and Walter M. Wick Family Foundations.

Newspaper veterans themselves, Bob and Walt learned a thing or two about leadership from their father and their uncle, who made a mark long before they arrived in Arizona as the first American reporters to venture out of Moscow to provide post-war coverage of the Russian states. Like their dad, Milton I. Wick, Bob and Walt are Arizona Newspaper Hall of Famers.

And like their children, they are members of the Wick Communications Board of Directors. The Wick brothers influence the world in ways beyond their leadership as journalists and the impact is reflected in their philanthropy. The foundations each of them established with the Arizona Community Foundation in the mid-1990s demonstrate an emphasis on scientific study, literacy and academic pursuits, the relationships between nature and the arts, and a concern for underprivileged neighbors.

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