MORENCI — Getting the word out about the long-term benefits of planned giving was the goal of Saturday’s Diamonds & Denim Benefit bash at the Morenci Club on Saturday.

And raising a little money, too.

Arizona Community Foundation of the Gila Valley hosted the event, which featured live and silent auctions, live music and dancing, and an opportunity to hear from those directly benefiting from ACF’s management of endowments to local nonprofit organizations.

Including Paulette LeBlanc, who spoke on two specific beneficiaries — First Things First and the Gila Valley Arts Council. First Things First sponsors kindergarten camps during the summer in local school districts to help preschoolers transition to kindergarten. One of those districts is Duncan, and LeBlanc introduced Natalie Baker, one of the kindergarten teachers who participated in the camp.

“It’s great for the children,” Baker said. “Seventeen of the 25 kindergarteners in Duncan attended the camp, and it does make a difference in easing them into education.”

For the Arts Council, LeBlanc explained that each performer the council brings in is also required to work with schoolchildren.

“It’s been very successful in bringing the performing arts to Morenci,” LeBlanc said, citing three examples — Everything Fitz, Jacome Flamenco and Vida Guitar — who engaged a total of 2,753 students during their visits to Morenci. Meanwhile, Duncan students take part in the bus-in to the David M. Player Center for the Arts in Safford to engage with the artists.

“And you’re getting a special sneak peek — we will be coming to Morenci on Jan. 14, 2020, for an evening performance,” she said.

Another major contribution ACF of the Gila Valley makes to the area is scholarships, and Ted Prina, president of the ACF of the Gila Valley board, said, “ACF put more than $600,000 into Graham and Greenlee counties for scholarships. There is money there.”

One of those scholarship recipients, Wesley Conyer, of Duncan, said he was initially hesitant to apply for scholarships through ACF.

“Coming from Duncan, I didn’t know if I was qualified or if I was wasting my time,” he said.

He soon learned he made the right choice in applying.

“I’m thankful, because they’re paying my way though college,” Conyer said. “I’m at EAC now and I’ll be going on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in December. When I come back, I’ll return to EAC, then go to NAU for biomedicine with the goal of going to medical school.

“I’m thankful for the people of Duncan — the community helped me get where I am today — and I’m thankful for the scholarships available. I think half my class wouldn’t be able to go to school without those scholarships available to them.”

Angie Laskarides, regional director for Arizona Community Foundation, explained that the goal of the event was to increase the public profile of ACF in Greenlee County.

“Not a lot of money is going in here in Greenlee, but people need to understand that the money benefits only Greenlee County,” she said.

Laskarides explained that the majority of money — about 80 percent — comes from planned giving. Planned giving is when a person adds a donation to a nonprofit organization in his or her will. That money goes into an endowment, and the nonprofit organization receives funding from the endowment’s investment returns, leaving the principal — the original donation — untouched in perpetuity.

“I’m here to help them understand there are tax advantages to planned giving,” she said. “ACF of the Gila Valley gives out about $300,000 here in Greenlee County, but people aren’t aware; it’s just quiet money.”

The Diamonds & Denim Benefit event raised about $12,500 last year, and Prina said he expects this year’s total to at least double that amount.

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