By Kathryn M. Miller
For the past two summers, Sunnyslope High School senior Fanny Salgado has volunteered at the Assistance League of Phoenix. The student says that she wanted to find a nonprofit that aligned with her personal goals and was welcoming, and the organization has been just that.
Assistance League of Phoenix has been in the Valley since 1961.
“Our mission is really to improve the lives of children through philanthropic programs,” CEO Aimee Runyon said. “Our biggest being Operation School Bell, where we provide new school clothing wardrobe to children living in poverty. We serve over 100, and I think we’re at almost 130, Title I schools in the Greater Phoenix area.”
Smaller programs include the HUGS program, providing bears to children in crisis; a book program that provides over 20,000 books to Title I schools; and Wee Help, providing a layette with the basic necessities that a mother needs to take her baby home from the hospital.
The nonprofit also runs a Thrift Boutique at 7044 N. 7th St., which is its biggest revenue generator.
“We wouldn’t be able to generate as much revenue if we weren’t able to keep the overhead costs so low and we’re able to do that because we have so many wonderful volunteers that spend their time there helping us,” Runyon said.
The organization is largely an all-volunteer organization, which is where Fanny comes in.
“My dad always told me, ‘The more that you give, the more you get back.’ There’s just like a circle; kindness always returns back to you in different ways,” Fanny said.
As a volunteer, Fanny sorts school uniforms and gets them ready for the Operation School Bell Delivering Dreams buses and assists with donations at the thrift store, among other duties. She volunteers six to eight hours per week during the summer and will donate about 350 hours this year.
“Volunteering is important to me because I want to grow as a person,” Fanny said.” I am a shy person but volunteering has helped me get out of my control zone. It’s also made me aware of my circumstances and how lucky I am. I love helping people and seeing the smiles on their faces. It makes me feel more purposeful in a world filled with unknowns.”
Runyon, who has been in the nonprofit industry for 30 years, gets emotional talking about Fanny’s service, and has even committed to help the teen find college scholarships and success beyond high school.
“It is amazing that a teenager has decided, I say this to her all the time, that she has chosen for the last two summers to spend her time volunteering, to giving back to this community.
“I just think she is an incredible example, and I hope people are inspired by her as I am.”
As the organization kicks off Operation School Bell this month, their goal is to serve 11,000 children. Volunteers are needed more than ever, whether individuals, groups or families.
“There’s no piece of the work that we have here that’s too small,” emphasized Runyon. “It all adds up and without all of those small pieces, we could never serve the kids the way that we do.”
To learn more, visit www.alphx.org or call 602-944-7636