Home  »  HISTORY


1986 – The concept for PNA was born in the fall of 1986, when a small group of community leaders gathered to discuss 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.

1987 – In December 1987, with the help of a Phoenix Lions Club and a local social service agency, our first Christmas event was held in the recreation room of a local retirement community. Fifty homeless children, their families, and the facility’s residents attended.

1988 – Based on the success of that first Christmas party, the group decided to expand their efforts. 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 Greenway High School. The Maryvale Branch of the Salvation Army transported seventy-five homeless children to the event to decorate the tree and receive 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.

1992 – 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.

1996 – In order to more efficiently reach valley homeless children, PNA transitioned from the Salvation Army and adopted the Thomas J. Pappas School as the primary source of participants in our Christmas activities, a relationship that lasted through 2005.

2006 – Requests from the community had increased to the point that it now required multiple dates to handle everyone. 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”; our first event was attended by 500.

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” was expanded to now provide for impoverished children instead of focusing on just the homeless as had previously been the case. An entire month of full-day events are now planned annually to reach the poorest school districts throughout Arizona, serving an estimated 10,000 children annually.

Operation Arizona Gratitude became the “National Gratitude Project” when its mission was expanded to include events 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.

2016 – 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 thirtieth year, Positive Network Alliance, Inc. has truly “come of age,” becoming a model for successful grassroots outreach programs based on complete community collaboration.