Niya Davis, 16, kept her mouth shut and her feelings hidden within the four drab walls of the shelter she lived in. It wasn’t until she found songwriting that she was able to be herself.
Now in high school, Davis has written three music books and volunteered for Free Arts, a Phoenix nonprofit that helped her believe in her own worth.
“I had so many thoughts in my head but no place to put them. Free arts gave me that outlet and I had confidence in myself,” she said.
Niya and Free Arts are among hundreds of Arizona residents and nonprofits who have received Season for Sharing grants over the past 25 years. Since 1993, Season for Sharing has awarded grants totaling more than $64 million to hundreds of state agencies that help those in need.
CONTINUED: Season for Sharing, a great way to help Arizona’s most vulnerable
25 years of Season of Sharing
These grants are made possible through the generous donations of community members who contribute to the campaign sponsored by The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. Matching contributions from the Gannett Foundation and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust round out the donations.
You can donate to the 25th Season for Sharing campaign from November 11 to January 31.
Last year, Season for Sharing raised $2.2 million, all of which went to agencies that help Arizonans.
Your contributions fund local nonprofit organizations that help children and families, boost education, and provide support and services to older Arizonans.
Arizona Republic Editor Greg Burton said Season for Sharing is exactly the kind of work newspapers should be doing.
“We have served this great state for more than 125 years and are committed to seeing all Arizonans prosper,” Burton said. “Helping our most vulnerable citizens brings us closer to that goal.”
Where the season of sharing began
Season for Sharing was inspired in 1993 by a chance encounter between Republic Publisher Louis A. “Chip” Weil III and Charlie Brumback, CEO of the Tribune Companies and the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.
Weil sent a team of Republic employees in Chicago to learn more about the foundation’s grant program. Gene D’Adamo, who worked on events and community outreach, was part of this team. They returned to Phoenix and launched Season for Sharing in two months. It was a frenzy.
“It was like drinking from a fire hose. We rushed.” Adamo said.
The newsroom, marketing and publicity departments worked together on a campaign that was new to the public in many ways.
There was no old donor base to contact and azcentral.com did not exist. The internet was still in its infancy. The season of sharing kicked off just before Thanksgiving with stories and ads in The Republic. Readers were invited to donate money and their donations would be matched.
“Now you hear a lot more about matching campaigns,” D’Adamo said. “At the time, it wasn’t the kind of fundraising that people usually did.”
In this inaugural year, Season for Sharing raised $1.6 million to help more than 100 valley nonprofits.
“It was so humbling, and it really showed the power of public trust in the newspaper. They had never heard of the campaign before and had no idea what we were talking about,” said D ‘Adamo.
“People made their donation and trusted us to deliver it to the organizations that needed it most and needed it most.”
“Seeing the results…was exciting”
Amy Carlile was that of the Republic feature editor at the start of sharing season. His department was tasked with writing stories that gave readers intimate insight into where their gifts went.
“It’s been an exciting time for many nonprofits here that may not have been served by this type of fundraising before in the Phoenix area,” Carlile said. “Season for Sharing created a funding opportunity they didn’t have.”
Season for Sharing has quickly become a newsroom tradition.
“Everyone understood its value to the community. It added something to our plate, but seeing the results of the work was exciting,” Carlile said.
The Arizona Grantmakers Forum is an organization that promotes philanthropy throughout Arizona. President and CEO Laurie Liles said Season for Sharing is a success in many ways.
“Season for Sharing creates an opportunity for philanthropic organizations to collaborate for the greater good,” Liles said. “This shows Republic Media’s ability to not only report on our community’s issues, but to identify and galvanize support for solutions.”
Mission in the desert: helping the elderly
The Desert Mission Adult Day Care Program is a senior enrichment facility that provides daily activities for seniors. Organizers were unsure how they could fund the program this year.
“We thought about cutting entertainment and reducing outings. It saddened us because these are things our attendees look forward to,” said Anne Paulus, Phoenix program director.
Their $5,000 Season for Sharing grant pays for live music performances, Wii bowling, an electronic bingo program, trips to local attractions and restaurants, meals, and art and dance lessons.
“These are people who don’t really come out in the community anymore. We could play a long song, but to have an artist come in and sing for them is like the difference between turning on your radio and going to a concert,” Paulus said.
The program gives caregivers some respite. About 40 people a day participate in the program.
“Being a 24/7 caregiver is exhausting, so our program gives them some downtime so they can take a few hours off and tend to their own needs. We serve participants and caregivers,” Paulus said.
“You can really count on the Season of Sharing to be there. It makes a difference in the activities every year.”
Salvation Army: Helping families with meals, toys
The Salvation Army has received Season of Sharing grants since 1993. The organization used its $50,000 grant last year to help fund its Christmas Aid program which provides meals to families and toys for children.
Over the past six years, the program has provided more than 6,000 holiday meals at the Phoenix Convention Center, 2,000 meal-on-wheels deliveries and toys for more than 50,000 children.
But it costs to make it all happen every year.
“There’s so much to do to get the toy to the child. It’s all the incidental costs of buying bags, boxes, hiring staff and transportation,” Major said. Nancy Dihle, director of the Salvation Army’s Metro Phoenix program.
“We’ve been able to meet the needs of a community that has grown exponentially through a generous community and we couldn’t do what we do without the continued support we’ve had with Season for decades.”
Free Arts: Helping Traumatized Youth
For 25 years, Free Arts has served children who have experienced trauma from abuse, neglect and homelessness. The Phoenix-based organization partners with shelters, treatment centers and group homes to help children across the Valley heal through art and mentorship.
His $12,500 Season for Sharing grant last year helped him run art, theater and hip-hop camps and bring in local artists who teach art classes. Free Arts provides an environment for children to learn new artistic skills and express themselves through art as a form of therapy.
“Free Arts has grown from that first year with five volunteers to now over 800 volunteers and serves over 8,000 children a year,” said program director Jessica Flowers.
“Just in the past two years, we’ve seen kids who have been in our program who are now young adults, come back and volunteer their time and work as contract teacher artists.”
Niya Davis said learning to write her feelings into a song at Free Arts allowed her to release pent up feelings that she couldn’t let out in the shelter. During a Free Arts camp, she learned to play the piano freestyle to accompany her lyrics. Now his mentors are helping him find a studio to record his songs.
And just as volunteers have helped her, Davis has returned to Free Arts to help young people like her.
“I’ve always thought that if someone helps you, you help them back,” Davis said. “They’ve really been a big part of my life, and if I can help them in any way or share my story, I can do it for them.”
How to donate to Season for Sharing
There are four ways to donate:
- Complete the online form at sharing.azcentral.com.
- Use coupon on 4A of The Arizona Republic and mail your donations to PO Box 29250, Phoenix, AZ 85038-9250.
- Text “share” to 91-999 and click the link in the text message.
- Click the “donate” button on facebook.com/seasonforsharing.
Where does the money go
Everything stays in Arizona. One hundred percent of your donations and matching funds go directly to state nonprofits. All overhead and fundraising costs are paid by The Arizona Republic/azcentral.com.
Match your donation
The Gannett Foundation and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust will multiply your gift by matching your donation 50 cents on the dollar up to $600,000.