Kathy Donaldson: Scottsdale’s unsung community hero

It is so wonderful to know that one or two individuals can have a remarkable and lasting impact on their local community just by caring and doing good deeds for others.

This simple premise was the cornerstone for one Scottsdale charity that has changed lives for so many Arizona families and children in need since its founding in 1998.

Dan Shufelt

Dan Shufelt

Patty Neroni was dying at way too young an age from breast cancer.  What turned out to be the night before she died, her sister, Kathy Donaldson asked her “How can we pay tribute to your memory after you’re gone?”  Patty’s response – “Do ONE GOOD DEED a day for someone else and DON’T take credit for it!”

This should be a life message for every one of us, so simple and basic – in effect, just be nice to others, not because you’ll receive recognition, but because it’s the RIGHT THING to do!

Kathy and her husband Paul (now deceased) have truly acted on that promise they made to sister Patty.  They decided that the best way to make sure that Kathy and Paul weren’t being recognized was to create a charity to do the good deeds – this was the birth of Arizona Helping Hands in 1998.

Over the years, the good deeds have been countless, some simple, some very complex.  Through these many years, Kathy has been instrumental in the organization’s activities.  In the early years, the Donaldson house was devoted to the cause.  Their living room was a meeting room, their dining room a board room, their spare bedroom an office, their garage the warehouse where toys were stored for our Holiday Toy Drive.  Totally immersed in charitable activities, doing it all, as Kathy likes to say “with a pure heart to help the little children.”

Despite devoting thousands of hours to Arizona Helping Hands, Kathy has never taken one cent in compensation.  She’s donated her time, her amazing talent and her heart to this cause.  Some of the good deeds were seemingly so far out of reach of a small group of volunteers (our first employee wasn’t hired until 2009).

Consider our most notable request – to provide a medically equipped van to a young man with muscular dystrophy to enable him to fulfill his dream of obtaining a college education.  On such a limited budget this seemed an impossible task, but Kathy took it on.  We were successful in providing Michael Wogan with a van to go to and eventually graduate from ASU – with honors.

Tragedy took Mike from us on Sept. 16, 2011 when he was killed as a spectator at the Reno Air Show.  We believe that today he is an angel overseeing our day to day activities.

From that major good deed to help one remarkable young man, to the tens of thousands of children who have benefited over the years with gifts at the holidays through our Holiday Toy Drive, to today when Arizona Helping Hands is recognized statewide as a leader in providing basic essential needs to boys and girls in foster care.   That initial premise to do One Good Deed a Day still drives us forward.

Kathy Donaldson’s heart and spirit is still the engine behind this small group of dedicated individuals who seek to make lives better for Arizona’s children and families, one child, one dream, one family at a time!

Life today is very complicated.  Egos, daily stresses, international and local issues seem so daunting.  Isn’t it so good to know that one individual with a pure heart to help the little children and a promise that continues to be fulfilled of doing One Good Deed a Day can change our community for the better?

We believe that we are all here to make improve our world for those who follow.  Kathy Donaldson is a hero to all of us at Arizona Helping Hands and all who have had the privilege to know and learn from her example.  What will your GOOD DEED be today?

Dan Shufelt is president and CEO of Arizona Helping Hands in Scottsdale. For information on this topic or to contact the author email dshufelt@azhelpinghands.org. Learn about Arizona Helping Hands at www.azhelpinghands.org.  Read more of Dan’s blog posts at http://www.azhelpinghands.org/blog-post/

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