Connecting to Serve is encouraging Ahwatukee Foothills residents to "Give to Love, Love to Serve" this weekend with a benefit dinner at Lexus of Chandler on Saturday.

The event will focus on sharing "stories of how ordinary people are leading extraordinary efforts to address unmet needs in our community," said Sheila Coonen, executive director of Connecting to Serve. "Our hope is to inspire more people to get involved. We want to empower people to discover their purpose by serving others - but we also welcome financial support."

Connecting to Serve has been growing in Ahwatukee since 2007. It was started by Coonen and other community leaders to bring concerned groups together around a cause. Since its beginning the group has led numerous initiatives, including an encore literacy program, a financial awareness series, a food pantry consolidation, a human trafficking initiative and the development of a homelessness coalition, Coonen said. This year's theme of "Give to love, Love to Give" embodies CTS' purpose.

Festivities for the annual benefit dinner will be hosted by Channel 5 news anchor, Sean McLaughlin. Local entertainers, Sugahbeat and Arizona native Zoe Noell, will be performing.

Along with Lexus of Chandler, Alliance Bank of Arizona, Ahwatukee Lion's Club and Salt River Project are helping sponsor the event.

Individuals, businesses and service groups were invited to sponsor tables. Sen. John McComish sponsored a table. He and his wife, Karen, have been heavily involved with CTS.

"Ahwatukee Foothills is a unique place, blessed with many talented people and community resources," McComish said in a statement. "However, we are not exempt from any of society's many ills. I support Connecting to Serve's efforts to empower and connect people in need with community resources."

The benefit will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 12. Tickets are $100 per person, and all proceeds will go toward CTS' mission of promoting community service.

Tickets for the event are available for purchase by contacting Sue Martinez at (480) 231-6242 or For more information, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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