For years the Ahwatukee Foothills community has been connecting and collaborating to serve its neighborhoods. Now, eight advocacy teams have been formed and they’re gearing up for another successful year of serving.

Sheila Coonen, founder of Connecting to Serve, invited a representative from each of the groups to speak at the Ahwatukee Community Network meeting on Tuesday. The Ahwatukee Community Network is a network of community action teams focused on Ahwatukee issues. Eventually, Connecting to Serve’s goal is to have community networks in neighborhoods across the Valley.

“I am overwhelmed,” Coonen said. “This started as a small group three or four years ago and so many people have stood up and been compelled to act. When a community decides to come together you’ll hear just the tip of the iceberg of what can happen when passionate people say, ‘Enough.’”

Foster Care

The most recent group to form is a group focused on the state’s foster care program. Over the holidays many community members, led by Andi Pettijohn of Ahwatukee Kiwanis, got together and provided much needed Christmas gifts for 46 boys in foster group homes.

A group is now meeting monthly to brainstorm ways to advocate for more mentors for youth in the foster care system, as well as unique ways to aid the local group homes.

Kids Meeting Seniors: Wise Guys

The Wise Guys group was started by a mom of two middle-school kids, who is also a volunteer at Pecos Senior Center. The goal of the group is to partner with the Pecos Senior Center to get more seniors mentoring youth in local middle schools.

So far there are seven seniors interested in meeting with kids and playing games during their lunch at the middle schools. Eventually, they’d like to work with teachers to set up times when a senior can be on campus just to talk with the youth and take on a sort of grandparent role for kids who need that guidance.

Community Garden

The Ahwatukee Community Garden has two demo beds at the Ahwatukee Swim and Tennis Center, 4700 E. Warner Road. They’re hoping to start a children’s garden at that location soon and eventually the hope is to have leasable garden plots at locations across Ahwatukee Foothills.

There are also some community garden beds at Esperanza Lutheran Church and a few small planters at the Pecos Community Center.

Senior Advocacy Group of Ahwatukee

The Senior Advocacy Group of Ahwatukee (SAGA) has had a busy year.

The group is focusing on education, service and support for seniors and their care givers. The education group hosted its first symposium with about 200 guests. The symposium provided seniors and care givers all the information they need to transition as they age. The group plans to host an annual symposium to continue to provide up-to-date information.

The service group created a Med Stats program. Working with local firefighters the group has created a program to help first responders find valuable information on health issues and medications that a senior inside a home might need, within seconds of arriving on scene. The program is free. Packets will eventually be available at many locations across Ahwatukee.

The support group is helping to compile a local directory for residents to find services they need in Ahwatukee Foothills.

Homeless Coalition

Many churches in Ahwatukee decided to ban together when they discovered there were 400 homeless children going to Kyrene schools. They did their research and found a program that best meets the needs of the homeless families in Ahwatukee. They discovered Family Promise, a program some churches in the area have already been participating in.

Family Promise has stringent requirements for families to be admitted to their care, but once a family is allowed into their shelter the families spend the days at school or searching for a job and they spend their nights in a local church with volunteers.

The Homeless Advocacy Coalition was able to sign up more churches in Ahwatukee with Family Promise to provide shelter for the families at night. The organization hopes to help twice as many families in 2013, which is good because the group believes the number of homeless children has doubled.

Alpha Program

The Alpha Program is a prison ministry. Volunteers from Ahwatukee Foothills are visiting with inmates in nearby prisons and mentoring them. The group has been around about seven years and has evolved to help inmates once they are released from prison as well to get back on their feet. The group is always in need of more volunteers.

Mission Africa

Mission Africa is a local group that raises money to help schools in Africa. The group sponsors kids with books and has also built toilets and a water pump in a few schools.

Locally the group has reached out to help the foster community. Through a giving tree they provided gifts for local foster kids.

Ahwatukee is filled with passionate people doing amazing things. Many of the advocacy groups highlighted at the Ahwatukee Community Network meeting came from churches, but are open to anyone. Many members are also members of the local Kiwanis and Rotary clubs.

For more information on any of these groups, email or call (602) 541-7440.

Retired Volunteers at Lomas

When Karen McComish retired as a teacher at Kyrene de las Lomas Elementary School she couldn’t stay away for long. McComish had always brought volunteers into her own classrooms to help struggling students with some extra attention, now she has organized a system that allows other teachers to have the volunteers they need. Local seniors visit the schools for a few hours each week and are partnered with a teacher to help tutor young kids in subjects they may be struggling with.

The program has been so successful McComish said she’s had requests to extend it, but she said her knowledge of Lomas has been key to partnering teachers with the best volunteers. All she needs now is more volunteers.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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