In recognition of the invaluable contribution of their time, efforts and expertise to their communities, 11 SRP employee volunteers were awarded the SRP Presidents’ Volunteer Spirit Awards. These dedicated employees have given countless hours of their time to help families put food on their tables; provide guidance to Latino youths as they prepare for college and give children with special needs horse therapy rides.
“Each year SRP recognizes inspiring employee volunteers who give of their time to helping Arizonans through a wide variety of community organizations,” said Rosemary Gannon, manager of SRP Community Outreach, who added that SRP employees and retirees, with help from their friends and families, donate thousands of volunteer hours a year to their communities. “Strong, thriving communities rely on the volunteer efforts of individuals like these recipients.”
This year, in addition to the SRP Presidents’ Volunteer Spirit Award, SRP employee Kyle Bridges was honored with the Karl F. Abel Volunteer Recognition Award for his sustained leadership role in addressing significant human service needs in his community. The late Karl F. Abel, a Glendale resident who served as president of SRP from 1972 to 1982, was a strong community advocate and provided volunteer leadership to numerous organizations.
The 2013 SRP Presidents’ Volunteer Spirit Award honorees and the nonprofits they assist are:
Chandler resident Holly Schaefer – AZ Happy Tails Animal Rescue
Holly Schaefer is a founding member of AZ Happy Tails Animal Rescue, which was established in 2009 to rescue and find loving homes for animals that are stray, abandoned or at risk of euthanasia. To date, AZ Happy Tails has rescued and found homes for more than 400 animals. Schaefer is responsible for all animal intake and adoption decisions, and she coordinates with foster homes to supply them with food and bedding and help with any other needs they may have.
Gilbert resident Barbara Sprungl – The Centers for Habilitation (TCH)
The Centers for Habilitation (TCH) provides promotes independence for Arizonans with developmental and physical disabilities. In 2010, Barbara Sprungl joined TCH’s board of directors, and she volunteers more than 20 hours a month. She chairs the Fund Development Committee and is vice chair of the Finance, Governance and Executive committee. She volunteers for fundraising events and helps with everything from setup and operation to planning. Sprungl implemented a new formal fundraising model and trained the rest of the board on the new approach. In 2012, she raised $12,500 for the Monster Mash Sponsorship Committee.
Glendale resident David Larson – Cactus High School Robotics Team
The Cactus High School Robotics Team is experienced in building, maintaining and operating robots. David Larson has been a mentor and coach since 2009 and volunteers an average of 67 hours a month. Because of his time investment, the robotics team has shown dramatic improvement. Larson readies the team for FIRST Robotics competition and this year they built a robot that plays basketball. Larson also holds workshops for welding, tube and wire soldering, painting, and many other skills. He also started a safety program, complete with a study guide and an exam for the program.
Mesa resident Kyle Tilghman – American Youth Soccer Organization — Region 1079
The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) provides soccer programs for children ages 4–19 and Region 1079 is the largest soccer program in the East Valley. The region is run completely by volunteer coaches and referees, and a number of volunteers dedicate a lot of time to securing soccer fields and marketing the organization. Kyle Tilghman has been a volunteer coach with AYSO’s Region 1079 since 2006. Six years ago, he was volunteering three hours a month, but over the years, he has taken on more responsibilities. In addition to coaching and refereeing, he serves as the coach administrator for the region.
Peoria resident John Buonagurio – Theater Works
Theater Works is a nonprofit performing arts organization that has been serving Peoria and the West Valley for more than 25 years. John Buonagurio is a volunteer of nearly three years and is chairman of the board. He also serves on the Governance, Development and Artistic committees. It has been a challenging time for Theater Works, like many other arts organizations, as support at all levels has waned because of the recession. Buonagurio’s leadership over the past few years has brought continuity to Theater Works during a time of change and challenges.
Peoria resident Mark Burkhart – St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance
St. Mary’s Food Bank alleviates hunger by gathering and distributing food to two-thirds of Arizona’s 15 counties and is committed to volunteerism, building community relationships and improving the quality of life for Arizonans in need. Mark Burkhart has planned and managed a golf tournament that raises between $10,000 and $15,000 annually. Burkhart is dedicated to St. Mary’s and knows that every dollar he raises means seven meals for the hungry. In the 10 years he has been coordinating the golf tournament, he has helped St. Mary’s serve more than 900,000 meals.
Peoria resident Jim Custis – Joni and Friends Arizona
Joni and Friends Arizona works with local churches and organizations to form outreach programs for those who face the daily challenge of life with a disability. For the past six years, Jim Custis has been fundraising for the organization’s Family Retreat program, which provides a respite for families affected by disabilities. Custis and his family have raised more than $20,000 and spend about 15 hours a month volunteering with Joni and Friends and one week of vacation every summer serving families affected by disabilities.
Peoria resident Christopher Rodriguez – AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute
AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute prepares Latino/Latina youth, beginning as high school freshmen, for college admissions and graduation. Christopher Rodriguez fundraises, serves on the board of advisors and uses his bilingual skill to help Spanish-speaking parents understand the benefits of AGUILA and the importance of higher education for their children. He’s also a mentor, helping these students pursue their goals of higher education. Rodriguez is dedicated to this program because he knows many of the youth who attend AGUILA will be the first in their families to attend college.
Phoenix resident Shari Brady – Arizona FIRST Lego League
Arizona FIRST Lego League (FLL) is a robotics program for students ages 9–14 that promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects. Shari Brady began volunteering when she was an ASU student and continues to volunteer about 17 hours a week. She serves on the Advisory Committee, which plans regional tournaments and helps develop volunteer recruiting strategies. This year, the tournament was expanded to include remote northern Arizona teams, allowing a number of school teams from Native American communities to participate without long travel times to tournament venues.
San Tan Valley resident Kyle Bridges – Epic Food Mission
Epic Food Mission provides hope, help and support to families facing financial difficulty in the Queen Creek/San Tan Valley area. Every first and third Saturday of the month, Epic Food Mission provides food boxes, baby food and personal hygiene items for distribution to those in need. For five years, Kyle Bridges has volunteered with Epic Food Mission, serving as the organization’s distribution coordinator. He is responsible for organizing 50 volunteers and six team leaders to prepare hundreds of care packages for families. Bridges donates 50 hours of his time each month. For the past three years, he has also found time to volunteer with Compassion Connect, which helps unite and mobilize local churches, nonprofits, schools, and businesses to provide free dental and medical care for underserved populations.
San Tan Valley resident Marty Sonnenberg – Angel Acres Inc.
Angel Acres Inc. is a program created by Marty Sonnenberg in 2003, successfully combining her love of working with special-needs children with her love of working with horses. Every year from October through May, Sonnenberg and other volunteers teach grooming and horse therapy riding as part of a six-week program. During that time, Sonnenberg donates nearly 90 hours a month to keep program costs low and allow all the funds raised to go directly to the program. To date, the program has helped more than 446 children and given more than 2,680 therapy rides.