MARICOPA — When Matthew Lemberg and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Casa Grande Valley announced on Feb. 10 to a room full of Maricopa parents, kids and community members that their community would soon have its own after-school program, nobody realized what was in store for the next few months.
The global pandemic affected everyone in some way, and this organization’s ambitious plans to expand into Maricopa were tested.
“The last three months have looked very different and have limited what we could do in Maricopa,” Lemberg, the organization’s executive director, said in a recent interview.
But the outlook for the expansion changed when another local organization stepped up and offered to provide funding as a springboard to get the project back on track.
Pinal 40, a fraternal organization that benefits local youths, education and agriculture, committed $37,000 for the expansion. “We know they’re a great organization and we wanted to help them expand,” said Bobby Wuertz, a Realtor and Pinal 40’s president-elect.
“They gave us incredible flexibility to move forward with this,” Lemberg said. “Because of these funds we are able to continue with our original timeline.”
The goal of the contribution was to encourage others to donate and support a Maricopa club, Lemberg said. “They wanted to maximize the funds by having their contribution turn into more,” he said.
Pinal 40 has contributed over $200,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs over the last six years, President Dennis Dugan said. And the organization started because a group of local businesspeople wanted to give back to the youth of the community.
About 20 years ago, Dugan and his brother, Tom, both dairymen, held a St. Patrick’s Day party at McMashers in Casa Grande with “a few friends.” It grew each year with the help of agriculture and dairy vendors. “It got so big we had money left over after the events.” So the leftover money should be given back to the youth of the community, Dugan thought.
That made him realize there was a desire for the business community to support youth, so in 2014, he and others called a meeting to turn his idea into a local 501(c)(3).
They formalized the organization and hired a professional event director to plan a raffle, golf tournament and gala — now a signature event with over 600 attendees.
“We modeled it after the Diablos in Tempe, Compadres (in Chandler) and the Thunderbirds (in Scottsdale), they’re the largest one.”
Six years later, the group of 40 Pinal County businessmen has donated over $860,000 to local youth organizations, agricultural organizations and students through agricultural scholarships.
“We would’ve given out over $1 million, as of this year, if it weren’t for the virus,” Dugan said.
Each member has to raise $5,000 per year. “They’re required to raise the money for the youth of Pinal County.”
“If it weren’t for the Boys & Girls Clubs, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing,” he said.
Lemberg said Pinal 40 is the clubs' largest non-governmental financial supporter. “During the time (since Pinal 40’s first contribution), we’ve introduced two clubs in Casa Grande. A big part of that was the financial support of Pinal 40.”
And now, with the help of Pinal 40, they are the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sun Corridor, serving kids in Casa Grande, Arizona City and soon in Maricopa.
For Wuertz and other members, supporting the organization is seen as an investment in the future of Pinal County. “We believe they’re a great organization that really gives children opportunities and a great place to grow.”