Holiday heroes of Scottsdale answer the local call of duty

The Scottsdale Firefighters Association raised funds to donate hundreds of turkeys to the Vista Del Camino Food Bank. (Submitted photo)

The Scottsdale Firefighters Association raised funds to donate hundreds of turkeys to the Vista Del Camino Food Bank. (Submitted photo)

It’s important to help people less fortunate during the holiday season, members of the Scottsdale community say, an undertaking city organizations are attempting to tackle.

While many from the outside looking in may believe the community of Scottsdale to be free of concerns stemming from impoverished conditions, community leaders say that isn’t true.

About 8 percent of Scottsdale’s 226,918 population lives beneath the federal poverty line, according to the 2010 Census. A gross annual income less than $23,350 for a family of four is the median poverty line in the 48 contiguous states, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The long and short of it is we raised a bunch of turkeys for Vista Del Camino, the food bank there,” Scottsdale Fire Capt. Sasha Weller said. “The goal was to get them all the turkeys they needed to get through the holidays.”

Capt. Weller serves as the president of the Scottsdale Firefighters Association and in that capacity help spearhead an effort in partnership with Safeway Stores in north Scottsdale to raise funds to purchase turkeys ultimately donated to the Vista Del Camino Food Bank in south Scottsdale.

The Vista Del Camino Community Center, 7700 E. Roosevelt St., serves as an outreach hub that aids residents and provides services ranging from job search assistance to emergency food boxes, city officials say.

The Scottsdale Firefighters Association, over the course of two weeks, collected donations allowing the group to purchase 400 turkeys and provide a $1,500 donation to the Vista Del Camino holiday turkey drive.

“Every year we have grown our holiday program,” Capt. Weller pointed out in a Nov. 23 phone interview. “Last year, we have grown our holiday program. We have adopted a few families but we now want to turn this into an annual effort.”

Capt. Weller says he wants to help those caught in the cycle of poverty.

“It’s one of those deals where Vista Del Camino, they struggle every year during the holiday season,” he explained. “We want to help break that cycle. I think we will always have to be focused on it.”

Capt. Weller points out public safety officials are seeing first hand the kind of issues facing Scottsdale families who live below the poverty line.

“We are in people’s homes who are in a rough situation — there will always be an element of this but being part of a community is getting together to help these people,” he said. “Our hopes is if we can help break the cycle then people can get back on their feet.”

The Scottsdale Fire Department is hosting its annual toy drive this year offering free rides for toy donations. (Submitted photo)

The Scottsdale Fire Department is hosting its annual toy drive this year offering free rides for toy donations. (Submitted photo)

How you can help this holiday season

The city of Scottsdale offers outreach programs focused on those less fortunate throughout the community by offering these efforts:

Holiday Adopt-A-Family Program

This Vista del Camino Center program helps families and individuals facing challenges to have a happy holiday season by providing food and gifts for the holidays. For more information, call 480-312-0063.

Adopt-A-Senior Program

Scottsdale senior centers invite individuals, families, community groups and local businesses to make the holiday season brighter for isolated, homebound seniors. Participants can use a wish list to shop for a senior, donate items or gift cards. For more information, call 480-312-8465.

Scottsdale Fire Department Toy Drive

The Scottsdale Fire Department’s annual toy drive begins the day after Thanksgiving and continues through Christmas Eve. Citizens are encouraged to drop off new, unwrapped toys at one of Scottsdale’s 14 fire stations or the Police & Fire Headquarters Building, 8401 E. Indian School Road. For more information, call 480-312-1817.

Vista del Camino Food Bank

Vista’s food bank accepts donations of canned foods and non-perishable items. Items most needed include peanut butter, tuna, canned meat, spaghetti sauce, pasta, rice, dried or canned beans, jelly, soup, canned fruit, cereal and boxes of macaroni and cheese. Donations are accepted at Vista, 7700 E. Roosevelt St., and the Via Linda Senior Center, 10440 E. Via Linda. For more information, call 480-312-2323.

Free fire engine ride

Donate a toy and get a free engine ride. Children can ride free in a fire engine from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Target store, Loop 101 and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard. To participate, donate a new unwrapped gift for Scottsdale Fire’s annual holiday toy drive. Call 480-312-1817. Scottsdale firefighters will present the donated toys to the Paiute Neighborhood Center, a south Scottsdale community center that assists underprivileged children and teens at the conclusion of the event. More than 60 percent of the families served by the Paiute Center have an income under $15,000, and many of the children would not receive a gift for the holidays without programs such as Ride for Toys.

Toy donations are also being accepted at all 15 fire stations and the Wietzman Public Safety Building through Dec. 24. Find station locations at and search fire stations.

You can get information on all of these programs and more by calling 480-312-3111 or by visiting and searching “Scottsdale Shares.”

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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