One of the biggest public events in the area is the Oktoberfest, held annually in support of the North Mohave Foundation (NMF) for the North Mohave Campus (NMC) of Mohave Community College (MCC), which is coming up on September 22. The Oktoberfest features delicious German fare, craft beer, a live polka band, and great company. The Mohave Foundation is a charitable foundation that is comprised of four chapters, one for each campus: Kingman, Lake Havasu, Bullhead City, and North Mohave. Funds collected by the foundation consist of membership fees, charitable donations, and corporate donations and sponsorships. What may go underappreciated locally, however, is the impact that the Foundation has had on the NMC and our image as a community in general. The Oktoberfest celebration is not just an opportunity for current members and the public at large to come together and have a good time, it is an opportunity to understand the mission of the foundation, see the impact it has, and hopefully lead to a larger membership base.
The NMF has led to some positive optics for our community. “There’s a perception that those who live in our area have little appreciation for education,” says Charles Hammon, Mohave Foundation Board Member. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The level of support for education in our community is very strong, and the foundation has been helpful in relaying that message. The recent accomplishments of the NMF are a testament to that. The sole fact that there is a college in a community of around 5000 people speaks to that appreciation. Throughout the history of the NMC there has been no shortage of dedicated and visionary individuals that have worked tirelessly to build and grow the influence of this institution. “Think about it, there’s a college in Colorado City. I grew up in Kanab. There’s no college in Kanab. To have a college in a city this size is just mind blowing,” says Hammon. The NMF recently met a major fundraising goal in support of a scholarship program called the Claude T Cawley Mohave Serves Scholarship. It also boasts membership rates that match some of the larger foundation branches. When examined from a broader perspective, these accomplishments send a clear message about our appreciation for education and our desire to see the institution grow.
Mohave County is one of the poorest localities in the nation. Kingman, Lake Havasu, and Bullhead cities are collectively ranked among the poorest metropolitan areas in the country, according to a 2012 survey based on U.S. Census data. The economic situation for people in rural areas is often worse, with even fewer good local job opportunities than their urban counterparts. Couple this with some of the lowest post-secondary educational attainment rates in the state, and one begins to see just how much of a benefit a community college can bring by providing, not only good quality two-year education programs to help people into good paying jobs, but also a cheaper route to a four-year degree. MCC partners with numerous colleges and universities to streamline the process of transferring to a four-year program. The benefits that MCC brings to the county are crucial, and the college relies on the Mohave Foundation to fill some of the funding gaps that arise from the economic realities we face in this area of the country.
Just over a decade ago, the NMF was a tool that went somewhat underutilized in our community. Around that time there were plans to build a new multi-use facility to house many of the programs provided by the NMC, including student recognition ceremonies, theatre, exercise programs, and other services. In the current buildings at the NMC, there is a multi-use space that quickly became exhausted by the needs of the nursing program alone, which is a major driver of the success of the college. This led to difficulties in justifying other programs that, although important, don’t make sense as competitors for the space. “We lost our ability to provide a lot of the programs that are valuable to the community,” said Dr. Carolyn Hamblin, NMC Dean. There was a push for a bond election to fund the new multi-use building that eventually failed. “We were all enthused; we had a lot of members who were enthused. But, it was a very discouraging meeting when we realized that there wasn’t going to be a building,” said Dr. Hamblin. Arguing for higher taxes to build a new facility in a remote corner of the county is a hard sell for taxpayers. Dr. Hamblin continued, “We said, well, how much is in our fund? And they said $14,000. There was silence.” Realizing that it wasn’t going to build a building, they decided to direct their efforts to providing a scholarship tailored to the needs of the community. That’s when Mohave Serves was born. The Oktoberfest was conceived as a membership drive to raise enough funds to support the Mohave Serves program for the NMC.
Of all community values, one could point to service as perhaps the most universally held value in the community. The scholarship was first thought of to fill an educational need that arises from that value of service. Large numbers of local high-school graduates dedicate years immediately following their graduation to missionary work. Some community leaders were alarmed with a trend they were seeing: of low educational attainment among those who served as missionaries. They were falling through the cracks as scholarships commonly available to them upon graduation would no longer be available after their missionary work was completed. “We wanted the emphasis of this scholarship to be on service to the community rather than grades. Academic scholarships were all we were giving,” said Dr. Hamblin. “There’s a lot of value in the character of someone who would donate their time for a year and a half, or more, to their community.”
With this purpose in mind, the NMF set its sights on raising a sum large enough that it could be invested with the returns funding the scholarship perpetually. The number they decided to shoot for was $80,000. This goal was met last year: an incredible achievement when you consider the small population the foundation was relying on for donations. “Mohave Serves is really a great program, and people aren’t aware of it. We raised more money in that small town than all of Kingman, Lake Havasu, and Bullhead City,” says Hammon. While corporate sponsorship made up the bulk of the funds raised, the value of individual membership cannot go overstated because it offers something more: symbolic value.
“I view it as so much more than a donation. It’s symbolic of who and what we are, our values as a community. Those values of building each other up and creating opportunities for people to succeed,” says Dr. Hamblin. The symbolic value of individual membership was expressed by Charles Hammon as well, “When we started we had about 20 members. After last year’s Oktoberfest, we have over 80 members. With a population base that is smaller than Kingman, the membership of our Foundation chapter is equal to that of the Kingman chapter.” A simple NMF membership is a powerful statement of what we value as a community. It helps send a strong message to the college and government officials that we—our community and our campus—are a worthy investment, and they are responding. We can see this with the $2 million multi-purpose building going in at the NMC. The same building that was mentioned earlier, that failed effort, is now becoming a reality, and is slated to be open in the Spring of next year. “We are so proud to see the community come together to foster this endeavor and see the growth of MCC in the northern area of Arizona,” said MCC Board President Phyllis Smith, at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new building. MCC President Dr. Michael Kearns said, “We are investing in the future of this town and the future of education in this area that’s going to be so necessary for the young folks who are packing those K-12 schools now.”
The impact that a simple $50 membership and involvement in the NMF has is huge! It can have, and has had, such a big impact on our community. Come for the excellent beer and food, sure, but make an extra effort to be a part of the foundation. That fifty dollars won’t go further anywhere else. For more information go to www.northmcc.com. Tickets and various membership options can be purchased there or at the event. Come to the Oktoberfest on September 22, 2017 at 6:00 P.M. Hope to see you there!