Rita Richards wanted to make sure the homeless have water in their hands to survive the heat when triple-digit temperatures arrive this summer.
Through an organized local donation drive, Richards collected approximately 3,300 water bottles that were distributed Friday morning to Southwest Behavioral Health's Homeless Outreach program.
The Corte Bella resident collected cases of water from the community for a month.
"Many of us are very fortunate to have water and beverages on days like this but a lot of people are not, so we try to do what we can to help," Richards said.
Richards has been collecting water for the organization for five years and received a total of 15,000 bottles since she began the annual drive.
"All of this is due to the generosity of the residents who live here in Corte Bella," she said. "I'm glad they go out and buy water for those who need it."
Her donation program, titled "Water Drive to Survive," benefits Southwest Behavioral Health's Homeless Outreach effort, a nonprofit mobile program that delivers water, T-shirts, shoes, sunscreen and other supplies to homeless individuals throughout Maricopa County. Many of the recipients suffer from mental illness.
"Any place that you go water is needed, but with this unbearable heat over the next few months it's important to get water in the hands of the homeless," Richards said.
Southwest Behavioral Health workers were at Richards' Corte Bella home to load a delivery truck with the 100-plus cases of bottled water.
Ken Curry, program director for Southwest's Projects for Assistance in Transition from the Homeless (PATH), said he's grateful for Richards and Corte Bella's water donations.
"This is a big benefit for us, because it directly goes out to the homeless and people on the streets who are thirsty," Curry said.
Curry said he's appreciative that Richards took the initiative to help the organization.
"She is very valued to us because she really cares about people and this proves it," he said.
In addition, Curry said he hopes other organizations take notice of Richards' efforts and follow suit, whether they help Southwest or other charitable groups.
"The homeless are at great risk in Arizona summers," said Curry. "Rita's efforts are transforming how we are working with other neighborhoods, churches and businesses in the community."
Many large donations often are difficult to transport downtown, Curry said, but Southwest Behavioral Health is willing to arrange for pick-ups.
For more information and tips on organizing a neighborhood collection drive, call 602-393-9930, ext. 3444.
Mitchell Vantrease can be reached at 876-2526 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.