SAFFORD — When Patti Wren learned she had been nominated as one of the Gila Valley’s 15 Over/Under 40, she said her first thought was, “Seriously?”

“I do things behind the scenes. I try to stay there,” Wren said.

She said she was relieved she was unable to participate in the annual banquet at the Branding Iron Steak House, where each nominee’s accomplishments are extolled, thanks to her son quarterbacking Thatcher in the 2A Playoffs last Saturday.

But her absence didn’t stop her from being named the Gila Valley’s 2019 Individual of the Year.

“To me, the best part was reading about all the other nominees and all the things they’re doing quietly. They’re like me. They don’t need recognition; they just do what they love to do,” Wren said.

Wren works at Eastern Arizona College, where she impacts young adults as student activities facilitator, the swimming pool manager, the student government sponsor, the intramural supervisor and the E-sport supervisor.

She also helped students found the ASEAC Ribbon Club, which sponsors events such as the Halloween Spooktacular, Friday Night Lights Flag Football Tournament, Superhero Mayhem and the Go Gold 5K Childhood Cancer Run, all to raise funds for local families with children dealing with serious medical issues.

But it’s her work away the college that has had significant impact on the Valley. She and her family turned a personal tragedy into the #SaveaSkyler kindness campaign, which teaches children to not bully and how to deal with bullying when it occurs.

Other nominees included: Graham County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vance Bryce; SEACAB, GWP and GFWC Woman’s Club of Safford volunteer Susan Elsberry; self-described stay-at-home mom Britnie Gonzales; Thatcher High School girls soccer coach Luke Hatch; Graham County Chamber of Commerce Marketing Director Brianna Morris; Clifton Visitor Center Manager and blood drive coordinator Leslie Ray; Safford Lions Club, Graham County Substance Abuse Coalition and Project Luke Christmas Blessing volunteer Jon Stewart; and business owner and former Duncan Mayor Billy Waters.

Guest speakers for the evening included Jenny Howard, owner of Ginaveve’s Marketplace, who encouraged entrepreneurship, and Freeport-McMoRan’s Sean Wenham, last year’s Individual of the Year. Wenham also encouraged investing in one’s self, as well as volunteering in the community.

The event was sponsored by Valley Telecom, CMI, Eastern Arizona College, III Counties Distributing, Eastern Arizona Courier and The Copper Era.

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