Each holiday season, Town of Sahuarita employees look for a way to give back to the community. Typically, they participate with Toys for Tots. But this year, they weren’t able to connect with the charity, leaving employees to find an alternative way to help out.

What they are doing has already produced a lot of happiness, with more to come.

Sahuarita human resources technician Katrina Sosa and director Michelle Malott reached out to Walden Grove High School counselor Tammy Nation and asked if there were kids at the school in need.

“They said they wanted to do something different this year for the community,” Nation said. “They asked if we have any students that were in need, and I said, ‘Absolutely.’”

The students were overwhelmed when they heard the news.

“When the students found out that they got to make a list of items they wanted, they were over-the-top excited for it,” said Sahuarita High School Principal John Kneup, who worked with Nation to bring the project together.

“The tears often flow in my office, and when they found out about it, there were tears of joy,” Kneup said. “They were just so happy, they couldn’t believe it.”

He said he spoke with many of their parents as well, who were all grateful for what the town was doing.

They sent over a list of five names and Malott placed them on an office wall for anyone interested to pick one and help out.

“The names just flew off the wall,” she said. Encouraged by the response, she reached back out to the school and got three more names, this time from Sahuarita High School.

The students were told to put things on their list that they normally wouldn’t get, such as specialty foods or school supplies, along with a gift.

“One student asked for notebooks, pencils, highlighters and chocolate,” Kneup said. For her gift, she asked for a Nook electronic reader.

“She was worried the tablet would be too expensive, and asked if it was OK to put on her list,” Kneup said. “I told her the only way to find out is to put it on there and see what happens.”

Another student asked for underwear, Kneup said.

“It really makes you take a step back and realize what you have,” he said. “Makes you realize what so many of us often take for granted.”

The simplicity of the items the students were requesting struck Malott as well.

“One girl was asking for fresh fruit and veggies for her food items,” Malott said. The H.R. department decided to take her list as soon as they saw it, she said.

“We saw what she was asking for and we said, ‘She’s ours. We will take care of her,’” Malott said.

Town employees gathered up all the items on Friday and took them over to Nation and Kneup for distribution to the teens this week.

“I don’t think this kind of thing happens everywhere,” Kneup said. “It just validates and verifies what a special place we live in.”

Malott said she wasn’t surprised that town employees stepped up, but one aspect did make her take notice.

“I was expecting the names to be picked up by a department or group of people, but many of them were selected by individuals,” she said. “Our judge took one, the police chief took another – they all really took this on.”

Although the employees are giving gifts, they feel like they are receiving one as well.

“To be able to help the the community that we live in and work for is really heartwarming,” she said. “We are so happy to help these children who otherwise may not get a gift under the tree.”

Town employees made a big impact with their generosity, Kneup said.

“These are kids that, if it wasn’t for this, they weren’t going to have a Christmas this year,” he said.

Andrew Paxton | 520-547-9747


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