Each year, the PRT honors members of our communities who have made a difference in our lives. The individuals and organizations featured here stood out for their commitment and their tireless efforts during these difficult times. But so many people have stepped up to help their neighbors this year, and it was really difficult to choose just a few honorees. To our health workers, volunteers at the Senior Center, at the Fairgrounds, at all our local churches, the Patagonia Town officials and staff, and many more, please accept our gratitude for all you have done. You all help to make this an amazing place to live. 

Photo by Robert Gay

Bob Brandt

By Lynn Davison

You have probably seen Bob Brandt around Patagonia, a guy with a crisp walk and an enviable supply of white hair, always going somewhere. Bob plays many roles in our community. When he sees something that needs doing, he steps up. When asked to take on a volunteer job, he is likely to say yes. Bob is leading the community effort to restore the option of recycling to the people in Patagonia. He is the acting president of the Board of Directors of CHOP, the local nonprofit dedicated to bringing more affordable housing to Patagonia. He is a docent at the Patagonia Museum, volunteers for the Visitors Center, is a member of the Dirtbags (a volunteer group who design, build, and maintain hiking trails locally), and a driver for the Senior Center. Bob also writes for the PRT and is a past president and current member of the PRT Board of Directors. 

Coming from his roots as a Pennsylvania farm boy, Bob especially likes getting outside and doing some physical labor. He is the kind of guy who signs on to help roll a giant cistern up a big hill at Deep Dirt Farm. He is not the kind of guy who seeks the limelight and, in fact, will be a little embarrassed to be acknowledged here. 

While it seems like Bob is investing all his time contributing to the Patagonia community, that’s not altogether true. He has a “day job” working part-time for Wildlife Corridors and he still gets out hiking regularly with his wife Ann. 

What sets him apart is a strong commitment to be of service, to help out, to give something back. Thanks Bob, in so many ways you are making our community a better place. And thanks Ann for giving him some space to do so. 

Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Kenny Hayes and Mary Faley

by Sarah Klingenstein

Strong leaders share certain traits, and we all know them when we see them. Those who study leadership tell us that leaders need to be courageous decision-makers, while having the ability to make those they lead feel heard, understood, respected and valued. 

Photo by Marion Vendituoli

The PRT honors Superintendents/Principals Kenny Hayes of Patagonia School District and Mary Faley of Sonoita/Elgin School District, who have shown those traits in abundance, as they have been tested in the fire of COVID19 in the past year. The community has watched these two leaders take on the drastically altered world of education that COVID has brought to their doorsteps. 

Beginning in March, when schools were closed the day local districts went on spring break, Hayes and Faley took on this new reality. As Ron Pitt, Head of the Patagonia High School Board, described, “Kenny Hayes contacted every organization that had to do with schools and health, searching for advice, personal protective equipment, in-service education for staff on distance learning. Very quickly, he presented five scenarios to the Board, and this as a newly hired Superintendent who was still acting as an Assistant Superintendent while teaching courses. It was trial by fire.” 

Faley similarly worked through the issues, setting teachers up with distance learning training through ASU, creating protocols with staff for distribution of learning devices and other materials, and creating criteria for in-person vs. distance learning. “I’ve learned a lot about the spread of disease, HVAC and water systems. Even seemingly small decisions like hand sanitizers are more complicated than one would have thought, as there are skin sensitivities and storage,” she said. 

In late spring, both leaders and their teaching staffs began planning for the fall. A statewide summer surge made the decision to open in-person or not very last-minute as opening days approached. Leaders met, and continue to meet, regularly with County Health and the County School Superintendent’s Office personnel. 

While they have made different decisions along the way as to in-person/hybrid/distance learning, Faley and Hayes have each taken into account the opinions and needs of all community stakeholders. According to Sonoita/Elgin Board President Ginny Cosbey, “Mary has a way of dealing with people so respectfully. She listens well, synthesizes the facts. She’s honest; she’ll tell you what she thinks, but when you know you’ve been heard, you feel respected. She looks at things from all sides and she and the Board come to mutual decisions.” 

Several overall themes stand out with these two leaders. They have both shown the courage to make hard, sometimes unpopular decisions; and the courage to really listen to every staff member, parent, child, and board member and take their needs into account, knowing that not everyone will be happy. 

Neither educator is one to stand alone in the limelight. Faley sees her school as a team, with each person having his or her own area of expertise.

“Leonard Sadorff, Facilities Manager, and Annette Koweek, science teacher and School Nurse, especially work closely with me on all important decisions. They share the load,” she said. 

Hayes performs a lot of the elementary and high school principals’ roles in Patagonia. Because of that, he relies on his leadership team: Michael Young, Ann Gortarez and Anelie Olivarria.

“There’s a lot of knowledge and experience there and, because I never like to make decisions in a vacuum, they are critical partners. And I must thank my wife and fellow educator Journee Hayes, for all her support,” he said. 

Faley and Hayes also acknowledged the support they receive from their boards, and both are quick to commend all staff members for rising to the occasion this COVID year. And they long to be with their teams and students again in the ways they are so used to.

Hayes said, “The staff and I miss the students. Even when they are on campus, we haven’t seen them in the way we are used to. While six feet doesn’t seem that far, it is when you want to help a student with a tough assignment or help a first grader open a lunch container. None of us envisioned our profession being this way.” 

So here’s to leadership, and to getting through this year, and on to a fresh beginning next fall. Let’s hope we can be closer together and more like normal, which will certainly seem extraordinary. 

Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Gardenia Lamadrid Moffet 

By Pat McNamara

Developing the monthly Sonoita Produce on Wheels and Sonoita Community Market, where local businesses can share their products with the community, hosting a toilet paper drive during the first weeks of COVID and chairing the community Halloween Party at the Fairgrounds are just a few of the contributions that Gardenia Lamadrid Moffet, along with her husband Tom, has made in the relatively short time that they have lived in Sonoita. She has also partnered with the Fairgrounds to organize and provide complimentary rootbeer floats for events, and Tom coached the Elgin girls basketball team last year. The couple have obtained a large freezer located at the VINE Church, where she and her husband are co-pastors, which they plan to fill with frozen meals that will be available to the community. To top off her already busy schedule, Moffet also is in charge of, and responsible for, the growth of the Harvest Home Schoolers, a Christian based education co-op open to the public for families in the community. 

Moffet married young, and raised and home schooled her five children. When her marriage dissolved she went back to college as a non-traditional student, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and mass communication. 

Throughout this time, Moffet kept remembering the book that she had read as a young runaway, “The Power of Positive Thinking,” and what peace those words from Norman Vincent Peale brought her. Following that calling she found her home in the Foursquare Church Denomination where she studied to be a pastor. She met her current husband Tom when he officiated at the wedding of her best friend and they were married in 2018. Shortly thereafter, they came to Sonoita as pastors for Harvest Christian Church, which they rebranded in August 2020 as the VINE Church. Their focus is community service, outreach and unification within the Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin area. 

Moffet’s goal is to bring the local population together to celebrate service to others and provide low-cost produce for those in need as well as anyone who wishes to partake. She believes that, “When people come together in unity, God gives them a specific blessing.” 

Moffet also stresses that their congregation is eager to help anyone within the community to celebrate “serve days,”which Tom oversees, where people gather to help those in need with yard work or other maintenance projects. For more information, visit VINEchurches.org or email theVinechurches@gmail.com

Photo by Marion Vendituoli

Mtn. Empire Rotary Club 

By Marion Vendituoli

The PRT wants to recognize the Mountain Empire Rotary Club (MER). This group of only 10-14 volunteers has worked tirelessly to support our communities in so many ways. 

MER donated funds to the Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center this past spring to help director Anna Coleman provide meals to children and their families, and they baked goods to add to the meal packets. They donated $500 to Elen Kentnor and Mimi Henley who made thousands of masks that were distributed throughout Arizona. When the Patagonia schools went to distance learning, the Club donated $3,000 to buy eight chromebooks. When the Elgin School needed to purchase protective cases for chromebooks, they donated $3,000 to buy the cases. 

In addition, they run the Student of the Month program at PUHS, have sponsored scholarships for high school students to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy, a four-day leadership development program, and they also fund two $1,000 renewable scholarships for high school seniors. 

“Our big thrust is literacy,” MER member Anne Gibson said. The club donated books that were handed out to children this summer in a program run by the Patagonia Library. They have donated books to the Patagonia and Elgin Schools and to the home school consortium in Sonoita and give every student a book on his or her birthday. The Club also provides every third grader in the area with a dictionary, and Gibson, Sue Archibald and Reba Webber read to students at the Patagonia School. For their efforts, MER won a district-wide Rotary Literacy Award for their programs, highlighting their efforts in the schools. 

MER also built the Fred Sang Memorial Rotary Park in Sonoita, help at the Produce on Wheels at the VINE Church and have donated live capture traps to the Patagonia Animal Control officer. They donated to the Junior Rodeo, to a woman’s shelter in Sierra Vista and to the Patagonia Senior Center. They also held a breakfast for the staff at local schools. 

Under the leadership of Clare Bonelli, they have also organized recycling events. They hope to have one recycling event in Patagonia and one in Sonoita every three months. 

Their work is funded through Rotary grants and their annual fundraiser. Last year they held a successful casino night at the Sonoita Fairgrounds, and this year plan to hold a golf tournament in the spring. at the Benson Golf Club. This small group of dedicated volunteers continue to work hard to support a multitude of local causes, driven by a belief shared by Gibson, that “we have to do everything we can to build our community at the ground level.” 

Jim Staudacher and Faith Coburn 

By Patra Kelly

Jim Staudacher and Faith Coburn became participants in produce distribution for the East Santa Cruz County Community Food Bank in 2016. They had been receiving produce and donating regularly when Clark Lydick and Judy Saber, organizers of the Food Bank program for many years, invited them to become more involved. Later Jim and Faith became Food Bank Board members and Jim has been the Board’s president since October 2019. 

Jim described their work as volunteers in distribution as “a unique experience. It is rescuing produce and making it available to people in the community. So much food goes to waste.” He explained that produce crosses the border shipped in pallet increments, but pallets often break. Produce companies turn over boxes from broken pallets to Borderlands Produce Rescue, who makes these boxes available to the Food Bank. Also, some produce arrives too ripe to be shipped farther north, but still in good condition and is offered to the Food Bank. They take both organic and non-organic, though they prefer organic. 

Distributing produce is a natural outgrowth of their work in Viroqua, Wisconsin, where they live during the summer months. In 1999 they bought a small farm to grow organic produce and in 2005 began selling it each summer, which they still do. Their philosophy is that organic produce needs to be made available and affordable to everyone. In order to keep prices down and cover costs of the farm, Faith worked full time for the U.S. Department of Justice as a crime victim specialist, providing services to victims of federal crimes. She continues this work, but now from home. 

During the COVID crisis, they have adopted standard sanitizing procedures. Faith bags the produce for people, who stay safely distanced. Their goal is to safely bring food and people together. They are doing their own research, adjusting the procedures, and giving out masks and hand sanitizers. Jim said, “We find the entire process to be so rewarding. So many times, people thank us for what we do.” 

Produce is delivered by the Food Bank every Monday morning from 10:30 to 11:30a.m. outside the Patagonia Senior Center. On the second Wednesday of the month they distribute canned food and dry goods next to the Catholic Church on Rothrock Ave. They also help with distribution on Thursdays of special food boxes delivered by Dr. John Arnold and his foundation PEPP, outside both the Patagonia Senior Center and the Patagonia Youth Enrichment Center.