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Record number volunteer for AWC Day of Champions
For 18-year-old Bree Tibbs, volunteering at the Yuma Community Food Bank on Friday was personal. The Arizona Western College volleyball player knows what it's like to rely on nonprofit agencies for help.
“In the past, a place like the food bank helped me a lot. I was homeless for a little while,” Tibbs explained. “Then my brother and I got an apartment and the food bank helped us a lot.”
So it was with great pleasure that Tibbs took part in the seventh annual AWC Day of Champions Friday. “It was pretty fun. It's always nice to be doing something for someone else.”
Newly arrived from Utah, Tibbs said getting involved also helped get to know her new community a little better.
Tibbs had plenty of company as a record number of volunteers — 383 —participated in projects across Yuma and Imperial counties.
Standing side by side with the AWC volunteers were over 80 employees of the four Yuma County Walmart stores, 23 from Sam's Club, 20 from Outback Steakhouse and four from Pepsi-Cola of Yuma. About 15 members of the AWC facilities staff, photography department, Sodexo-AWC Dining Service and nine bus drivers also volunteered.
They worked on 32 different projects for nonprofit agencies throughout Yuma, Wellton, Somerton, the Foothills and El Centro, Calif., over the span of four hours.
They helped Amberly's Place, American Red Cross-Imperial Valley Chapter, Yuma Parks and Recreation, Precious Treasures, Girl Scouts of America-Rio Colorado, Yuma County Library District, Crossroads Mission and its thrift store, Habitat for Humanity, Yuma Community Food Bank, Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Clubs of Yuma, Greater Foothills Helping Hands, town of Wellton and Yuma Conservation Garden.
“It's amazing how everything seems to come together and how anything that might even remotely seem like a problem gets solved very quickly because of the teamwork we have throughout the day,” AWC athletic director Jerry Smith said.
AWC football player Cameron Ryan, 20, helped paint the basketball gym at the Boys and Girls Club. He saw it as a chance to “give back to the community that's given so much to the (athletics) program.”
The project helped him learn “how important it is to come together as a community, even though everyone is from different places.”
Retta Springer of Sam's Club enjoyed working side by side”with student athletes and getting to know the other corporate volunteers.
Noting that she taught a student to use a hammer, she pointed out that the project not only allowed student athletes to give back but also pick up some hands-on skills.
However, the bottom line is that it makes a difference for the community, Springer said. “It's the largest volunteer community project in the county. For one day, we make a difference for other people.”
Afterwards, Outback Steakhouse of Yuma fed all 383 volunteers. Restaurant owner Derek Gurney said he was happy to feed the student athletes after they worked for “four to five hours in the heat.”
Outback has been involved in the Day of Champions since the beginning. “It started with 100 people and this year it's 350-plus. It's nice to see it grow,” Gurney said. “We've gotten proficient in providing over 350 meals in under 30 minutes.”
He's especially proud of the lesson the volunteers learn. “In this day and age and especially with the economy, people are struggling more than ever. It's good to teach kids that when they have free time, always help people in need.”
“They learn to work together,” said Tom Minnick, AWC football head coach. “Like any sports, it's about teamwork, getting the job accomplished. Some get to be leaders. Everything they learn in athletics — discipline, leadership — they can use out in the real world.”
Sponsors and corporate partners KBLU, KTTI and KQSR provided public service announcements in the weeks leading up to the event; Walmart and Sam's Club, breakfast bags and ice chests; Southwest Gas, equipment and work gloves; and Pepsi-Cola of Yuma, water throughout the day.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6856.