Thomas Botz is fulfilling his service mission by volunteering at local nonprofits. Photo by Dottie Farrar

Thomas Botz, of Patagonia is a young man on a mission. 

He prefers to be called Elder Botz, “elder” being the title conferred upon young men reaching the age of 18 who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church.

Depending on the day of the week, Botz can be found volunteering at local nonprofits, including the Patagonia Creative Arts Association (PCAA), the Patagonia Museum, the Patagonia Library, Borderlands Nursery and Seed, or the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. 

A 2022 Patagonia Union High School graduate, and class valedictorian, Botz is fulfilling his church’s directive that all men reaching the age of 18 must serve a two-year mission, either one of service or proselytizing.

A sincere and focused young man, he chose a service mission, and after a series of interviews and assessments with church leaders, a group of people including his parents, church leaders and representatives of nonprofits in the community, met to explore various opportunities and needs around Patagonia which would match Botz’s talents and sensibilities. 

“Wherever I am volunteering, I do whatever is needed at the time,” Botz said. At the Sonoita Creek Preserve he is “getting rid of giant reed weed, cutting the plant low and digging it out.” Maintaining the grounds is part of his job at the Patagonia Museum, along with recording the number of visitors. Curator Linda Shore said, “Elder Botz is an incredibly impressive, exceptionally self-motivated, hard-working young man. Patagonia is really lucky to be able to take advantage of his talents.”

At the library, Botz is taking inventory of sections and moving boxes in preparation for the annual book sale, a huge undertaking involving hundreds of hours of volunteer labor. At Borderlands Nursery and Seed he is repotting seedlings and “moving heavy stuff.” The Creative Arts Center has him moving supplies, setting up easels, and, again, “whatever is needed at the time.”

Botz is a gifted artist and is painting art panels for the windows of the new Train Caboose Visitor Center. Plastic covered the old windows, and it was suggested to Tom Shore – who has managed the transformation of the caboose – how wonderful it would be to paint murals to put over the window openings that would depict what a worker in the caboose would see from a given window wherever the train stopped. Given the diverse scenery and train stations along the tracks of the Southern Pacific, this idea seemed like a perfect opportunity for a local artist to create imaginative pieces showcasing Southern Arizona. 

Cassina Farley, Director of the PCAA, told Shore that Botz was the right person for the project. She says, “I am personally happy to have Thomas at the art center. As a kid he expressed himself in ways that were inspiring. I feel honored to now be a part of his journey into adulthood. He and his brothers are great people and Patagonia is lucky to have them.”

Botz began his service mission journey in November 2022. He receives close support from his sponsors, the Santa Cruz Elders, along with the local nonprofits, and has weekly virtual meetings with his mission companion, who is in Tucson. 

A benefit of working with the Patagonia organizations means that Botz can live at home, with his parents and brothers, with whom he is very close. He has ample free time for study and reflection, keeping him spiritually connected. Botz welcomes the challenges he encounters. “I am learning my strengths and weaknesses and what I need to work on,” he says.

Botz is always mindful of his service missionary purpose: “Our purpose is to help others come unto Christ by serving them as the Savior would. We serve voluntarily in charitable organizations, church functions, and within the community. We will minister in His name to the one just as He did, expressing his loving kindness.”

His plans for the future include attending Hunter College Arizona in Tucson to study animation and maybe even another year of service. “Who knows?” he says.