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Jul 1, 2011 No Comments ›› drhiss

PNA was born in the fall of 1987, when a small group of individuals gathered in a restaurant one evening to visit over some dessert. Their discussion soon focused on the needs of the homeless and underprivileged living in Arizona. The consensus was that the only way to effectively address these issues was for the entire community to become involved as a collaborative effort. Subsequent meetings were held and plans developed to hold a Christmas party for the homeless. In December, with the help of a local Lions Club and a small social service agency, the celebration was held in the recreation room of a local retirement community. Fifty children and their families attended.

Based on the success of that first Christmas party, the group decided to expand their efforts in 1988. The event was renamed “The Homeless Christmas Tree Celebration” and moved to Wesley Bolin Plaza, a memorial park located across the street from the Arizona state capitol building. A 20-foot tall evergreen was donated and planted on the site by Whitfill Nurseries. At its base, a granite marker was placed proclaiming it as the “Homeless Christmas Tree.” Ornaments were made by a local high school. Seventy-five children participated in decorating the tree and receiving a toy from Santa. Arizona Public Service (APS), Arizona’s largest electricity utility, supplied a bucket truck to lift the children to the top of the tree to decorate the uppermost branches and position the star.

Three years later, the continued success and expansion of the Homeless Christmas Tree Celebration required a formal management structure. As a result, on February 11, 1992, Positive Network Alliance, Inc. was registered as an Arizona nonprofit corporation.

By 2006, the numbers served at the event had grown so large that it required multiple dates to handle everyone. A total of 1,300 impoverished children attended. In addition, a representative from the Veteran’s Administration met with PNA and requested that an additional event be held for the children, spouses, and families of our deployed military. PNA responded by adopting the Arizona Army National Guard and creating “Operation Arizona Gratitude,” which was attended by 500.

In 2007, on its 15th anniversary of becoming established as a nonprofit corporation, PNA filed for and received its 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service. In addition, both events were restructured and renamed to better reflect the populations currently being served.

The “Christmas Tree Project” will now provide for impoverished children instead of focusing on just the homeless as had previously been the case. Fourteen full-day events are planned for fourteen different schools, serving an estimated 7,500 children.

Operation Arizona Gratitude became the “National Gratitude Project” when its mission was expanded to includeevents and services nationwide. The target group was also expanded from just the Army National Guard to also include the Air National Guard, Marine Corps Reserves, Army Reserves, Air Force Reserves, Naval Reserves, and Coast Guard Reserves.

Today, individuals, families, businesses, schools, churches, and service organizations across the state actively support the PNA projects. The Lions Clubs have been joined by Kiwanis and Rotary with their official sponsorship and endorsement of PNA’s efforts. In this, its twenty-fourth  year, Positive Network Alliance, Inc. has truly “come of age,” becoming a model for successful grassroots outreach programs based on complete community collaboration.