By Steve Rivera –
A Couple Helping Kids
When Jeannie Davis handed the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson’s Chris Serrano a $30,000 check just days before Christmas in 2003, she saw the immediate impact.
“She started to cry,” said Davis. “She said, ‘You’re going to save us.’ ”
And so started a relationship that has gone on for nearly 15 years with gifts that have totaled nearly $2 million.
“I didn’t understand how impactful it was,” Davis said.
But the Boys & Girls Clubs have always known, since the money goes to programs to help Tucson’s youth become strong and resourceful adults.
Before the donation in 2003, the clubs were going to cut programs and perhaps do without the annual holiday shopping spree.
“The gratification was immediate,” Davis said. “They said they could do things with that money immediately.”
Tough times called for good, giving people. The Davises were the right people at the right time and have been there since.
“They’ve been critical to our success through the years,” said Debbie Wagner, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson.
For all their efforts and generous donations, Jeannie and Cole Davis have been named by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson as the ninth recipients of the Click for Kids Award. It was created in 2009 and is the clubs’ highest recognition and expression of gratitude.
“They are making a difference in the lives of our kids,” Wagner said.
They will be presented the award in October at the 26th annual Tucson Steak & Burger event that also honors the club’s outstanding youth of the year.
The Davises – who have been married for 43 years and consider themselves a retired business couple – have donated more than $10 million through the years (a conservative estimate) in Tucson, including large personal donations to the University of Arizona.
“The Davises have had a tremendous impact not just on the University of Arizona and the athletics department, but the community,” said Erika Barnes, UA senior associate athletics director. “We are all so fortunate that they choose to call Tucson home.
“You can always find them at different community events and games, wearing the colors and making others smile. Their personality is contagious.”
Their giving has become contagious as well. They’re known as “Pied Pipers” for others helping the clubs.
“(They) are well respected in the community and have helped set us apart from many other charities,” Wagner said. “Because of the Davises’ support of the University of Arizona, we have been able to reach many donors that we might not have been able to get in front of. We love their support and the fact that every time we meet they are encouraging and kind about our progress.”
Wagner said the two have become “great mentors for us in giving us advice on how to do that. We’ve been able to touch some new donors who might not know about us. It’s starting to yield some results.”
Wagner estimated they’ve helped get donations in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars and “we’re building on it. We are seeing the results.”
The point is the Davises get what it’s about in their giving. It’s been that way since arriving in Tucson from Elk Heart, Indiana and after finding their vacation-turned-retirement home in 1999.
“When you come from Indiana, it’s all about the weather,” Jeannie said. It soon turned out to be about the people AND the weather.
“We’ve been philanthropic for a long time,” said Jeannie, a retired attorney. “Early on we didn’t know much about the Boys and Girls Clubs.”
That was until they saw a story in a newspaper about the need for money.
“We try to help the disadvantage youth in the community we live in,” said Cole.
They are doing just that, according to Wagner, who nominated the Davises for the award.
“Jeannie and Cole Davis are helping to transform the lives of at-risk youth in Tucson,” Wagner said in her form to nominate the couple. “Their outpouring of generosity in funding new training for the staff, new innovative academic programs, athletic programs, the arts and so much more. They closely follow the organization and their use of funds, leadership and staff. They are involved and interested in making the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson a stellar program.”
It’s for the children. They now have grown children and know the importance of having resources.
“We still like kids even though we had kids,” Cole said, joking.
Jeannie, jokingly, quickly chimed in, “We now have grandchildren and they’ve restored our faith (in youth).”
Part of their hope is for the programs to eventually produce strong leaders for the community.
“It’s those leaders who give back to the community,” Jeannie said. “It’s a win-win for the community.”
And it’s all for the “betterment of the community,” Jeannie stressed.
“But for services like this, these kids would be takers, many of them, and living off the community instead of participating in the community,” Jeannie said. “It’s important for us to break that cycle for those kids who don’t have that ability to go to college or to learn and develop and to change it and break it.”