East Valley Women’s League a year-round Santa | Community | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

Members of the East Valley Women’s League recently put together care bags of toiletry items for kids transitioning out of the foster care system. 

It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that for the East Valley Women’s League, the giving part of Christmas is virtually a year-round endeavor.

The group of about 45 women from throughout the East Valley stages charitable activities annually for a various groups of people in need, mostly kids but also homebound women and cancer victims undergoing chemotherapy.

Launched in 2001 by two sisters, Tara Stainton of Tempe and Tracy Worischeck of Ahwatukee, the group is a qualified nonprofit in the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit Program.

That means donors can get a dollar-for-dollar credit on their state income tax payments that next year will be up to $470 for single and married/filing separately taxpayers and $938 for married/filing jointly.

The league is small for a reason and only women referred by a member are even considered for membership.

“We like to know the people that are coming into the organization,” said Nancy Mann of Ahwatukee, a member since 2014 who chairs community outreach for the group.

While the members like to socialize, she said, “We’re here also to work and get some work done and need some people that are going to be compassionate and effective.”

And work they do.

In 22 years, the league has raised over $1.7 million, including over $370,000 in scholarships. “In the past 22 years, we have impacted over 40,000 lives,” Mann said.

Members must belong to two committees and each committee is responsible for organizing one of the league’s annual charitable outreach efforts.

A retired pediatric nurse, Mann said she joined the league because “I have a special place in my heart for women and children, especially those that are underprivileged and need assistance.”

That same passion drives all the members of the league, who are led by President JoAnn Ott of Ahwatukee; Vice President Amanda Thompson of Chandler; Treasurer Audrey Cowley of Sun Lakes, Secretary Louise Austin of Tempe. Chandler resident Allison Walters-Aronson is the outgoing president.

Other board members including the founders also remain active, with Stainton heading the membership committee and Worischeck leading fundraising with MaryAnn Iannitti. Rosey Kerchal of Gilbert leads the league’s social media operation.


Jean Shapiro of Ahwatukee directed members of the East Valley Women’s League on what to do as they put together care bags of toiletry items for kids transitioning out of the foster care system. 

The group may be best known for the Cinderella Affair, which gives high school seniors and juniors a chance to get a free new or gently used prom dress in early spring.

“Since its inception in 2002, we have given away over 17,000 dresses and served approximately 16,000 girls,” Mann said. “The young ladies also receive shoes and jewelry to complete their prom look. Approximately two thirds of our students are either special needs or from Title I schools.”

Working with Men’s Warehouse, the league gives some boys similar help through its Suit Up Incredible Teens for Success (SUITS).

“Each year, 50 high school seniors are selected by teachers and administrators at East Valley Schools based on need, character and contributions to their community to receive a new suit, shirt, tie, belt and shoes,” Mann explained.

“They’re suited up from head to toe and it just it brings a tear to their eyes,” Mann said. “It brings a tear to our eyes, too.”

She recalled one boy returned to speak to the group last year. “He talked about how it touched him and his family and he how he couldn’t wait to go out into the world. He was really excited.”

Help for teens and young adults doesn’t end there.

The scholarships that the league awards go to students attending Arizona universities, community colleges and trade programs at community colleges.

“The scholarships are awarded based on financial need, community service, and academic performance, Mann said. “Many single, working mothers rely on these funds to pursue their dreams of a college education.”

Recently, the women gathered at a Chandler member’s home to complete their KIT (Kids in Transition) Program, which “gives foster teens without permanent placement the dignity of good hygiene,” Mann said.

The league provides full-size toiletries and other necessities to teenagers who spend the night at one of the Department of Child Safety’s after-hours facilities because they don’t have a home of their own.

“It gives them a sense of independence and autonomy, Mann said. “It also gives these young people the ability to manage how they present themselves, feeling that they are cared for and a feeling of self-worth.

“And during this difficult transition, many factors and situations make them feel like they’re out of control. So caring for themselves gives them a better feeling of control.”

The league also has helped 1,269 pregnant high school students and their families support and encouragement to graduate.

“Our volunteers provide books to encourage the young moms and dads to read to their kids at home, as well as an annual technology scholarship to a deserving student continuing his or her education after high school,” Mann said.

For adults, the league runs a weekly outreach to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, bringing them companionship as well goodie bags filled with lotion, blankets, snack bars and activities to help them pass the time during treatments.

Homebound women also have been recipients of its generosity.

“Over the years, nearly 4,000 women have received needed household or personal items as well as home visits that support their emotional needs by knowing someone cares,” Mann said.

To support all its efforts, the league has a spring fundraiser, which next year will be a cornhole tournament.

But it also is supported through the donations from business and individuals.

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