Pappas Kids

By on Jun 30, 2023 in Giving

Let’s head west and introduce you to the Pappas Kids Schoolhouse Foundation of Coolidge, Arizona, founded in 2005. Pappas Kids believes that education is the only way to break down the barriers that poverty and homelessness create. Pappas Kids strives to open the doors of educational opportunities to homeless, underprivileged, at-risk youth and families under the poverty threshold.

Pappas Kids, child with books

The organization offers educational enhancing assistance programs to underserved children throughout Arizona, all of which are intended to alleviate obstacles that prevent children from completing their education.

“One of our most notable types of support is our private school tuition scholarship program. This gives children an opportunity to decide what type of educational environment would best help them succeed,” said Dayna Sandoval, executive director of Pappas Kids.

In addition to scholarships, Pappas Kids ensures children are adequately equipped and prepared for school by distributing more than 9,500 backpacks filled with school supplies throughout schools and communities across ten counties statewide. Pappas Kids partner with military members, public safety officers and school district officials to help distribute this assistance successfully.

“It is our mission to alleviate obstacles that prevent these children from being successful and confident academically, and we believe that lessening their worries in the classroom, at home and during the holidays helps them not only have a more enjoyable educational experience but increases the likelihood of continuing their journey academically,” shares Sandoval.

Pappas Kids distribute gifts that promote family togetherness, literacy and healthy problem-solving, creating a memorable tradition for children and families to cherish for years. These gifts include:

  • A book for them to read together (promoting literacy)
  • Board game (promoting healthy problem-solving)
  • Soft blanket and stuffed animal
  • Hot cocoa
  • Popcorn
  • Cookie Tin
  • Gift card (to help establish traditions)

These gifts provide an opportunity to create a healthy, happy and memorable “family tradition” and something that, sadly, these families Pappas Kids supports cannot establish themselves due to socioeconomic hardships.

Funding from Yardi assisted with providing 60 of these family gifts and brought so much joy and hope for children during the holiday season. Watch a video of the kids enjoying these gifts:

In addition, Yardi’s funding left over after the holidays helped purchase 840 new backpacks for Pappas Kids “Back 2 School” programs.

“Your kind efforts have quite literally touched the lives of nearly 900 children throughout Arizona, and for this very reason, we are forever grateful for you,” shared Sandoval.

Pappas Kids are working to strengthen their programs as many of its older students sought assistance for tutoring, hygiene items and technology. Many of these children are considered youths on their own (YOTO). Since they financially support themselves, they find it difficult to afford the most basic personal necessities as state assistance only covers a little. Pappas Kids aims to build a new network of support that would aid in the tutoring needs of high school students to ensure they receive their diplomas.

Pappas Kids, child with stuffed animal

Michael’s Story

Pappas Kids have been fortunate to be in the lives of children in need throughout Arizona for over 18 years. Through these years, countless students have touched their hearts and inspired them to continue advocating for youths. Sandoval shares one of her heartfelt stories with us, which brings a true sense of inspiration to her still to this day.

Sandoval was volunteering at the Thomas J Pappas School for homeless youth in downtown Phoenix when she met Michael. She would sit and play games, read or be an ear for students. When she talked with Michael, she asked him questions that many of us have been asked as children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She never anticipated Michael’s response, “I want to be in jail.” Completely bewildered, she asked him why he would want to be in jail. He went on to say that he wanted to be in jail so he could have a bed with a blanket every night to sleep with a roof over his head and would never have to worry about getting three meals to eat a day.

Sadly, Michael did, in fact, end up being incarcerated. Years passed, and Sandoval received a call from a man asking for Miss Dayna. When she said that was her, he paused for a moment. He wondered if she remembered him from Phoenix and that he was the boy who always remembered her kindness with snacks and listened to him talk and joke with him, constantly reminding him that he was important and deserving of wonderful things. “That person was you, Miss Dayna. Those memories saved my life. Since being incarcerated at age 18, I have turned my life around. I completed educational programs while incarcerated, and once released, I pursued a degree in Child Development. I am now a social worker assisting children that remind me of my younger self, lost, confused and filled with a sense of abandonment.”

“Despite all obstacles, Michael would go on to change the lives of others, and we are beyond honored to have been even a small part of his journey,” shared Sandoval.

Volunteer Opportunities

Pappas Kids will fill the “Back 2 School” needs for more than 9,500 children in the upcoming months. Volunteers will assist with filling backpacks that are essential for the success of its distributions statewide. The need for volunteers for school supply kits is constant since they distribute thousands of these kids during the year. Around the holidays, volunteers may join Pappas Kids in putting together “Thanksgiving Boxes” and “Family Tradition” gifts. Find more information on how you can help with these gifts.

“We want to thank each and every member of the Yardi family for their kindness, generosity and support. Pappas Kids would not have been able to accomplish supporting these children without you,” exclaimed Sandoval.

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