Contributed Photo: Greenlee County Volunteer of the Year Leslie Ray, left, poses with Arizona Community Foundation of the Gila Valley Board Member Stephen Ahmann, right. Ahmann presented the award to Ray at the Greenlee County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.
Contributed Article By Stephen Ahmann
GREENLEE COUNTY – Arizona Community Foundation of the Gila Valley Board Member Stephen Ahmann presented the Greenlee County Volunteer of the Year award to Leslie Ray at the Greenlee County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. The following are his remarks at the presentation.
“I am bursting with pride to have the honor to be here with you today for two reasons:
- As a board member of Arizona’s premier philanthropic organization, the Arizona Community Foundation, I am here today to award their annual Greenlee County Volunteer of the Year award to:
- Our own amazing energizer bunny, the director of Clifton’s Office of Tourism, Ms. Leslie Ray.
For the past forty years, the Arizona Community Foundation has been listening, learning, sharing, and engaging with our friends and neighbors to partner in making all our lives better through philanthropy. We work on that mission through numerous field offices having gathered almost a billion dollars in assets in order to support over 1,700 Arizona charitable funds with grant, scholarship, and loan distributions of over $700,000,000.
Additionally, ACF shines a light on exceptional volunteer organizations and individuals that go above and beyond to make our towns and state the wonderful place it is to live and work.
I first became aware of Leslie’s desire to be of service when she volunteered as secretary of the Greenlee County Tourism Council when I was the organization’s chairperson. Our association grew when she became Director of Clifton’s Office of Tourism, Her insight into the demographics and volume of visitors to Greenlee County was invaluable in assisting the tourism council’ strategic planning. While this is a salaried position, Clifton’s Town Manager continually reprimanded Leslie for ‘voluntarily’ working without pay to ensure the center was open and fulfilling its mandate. Her mission, to catapult Greenlee County from ‘Best Kept Secret’ to ‘Must check Out’.
For example, when Freeport McMoRan Inc. (FMI) announced intention to close the scenic overlook into the mine as part of the realignment of U.S. 191, Leslie furnished mine liaison Emily Mutab with statistics underscoring the importance of the overlook to tourists. Through their efforts, the overlook remained open and plans for a second overlook were undertaken. And, when the regional director of Arizona’s Department of Transportation announced budget cuts that could close U S 191 between Clifton and Alpine, Leslie reached out to her contacts with NASCAR affiliate ISM Raceway in Phoenix to stage a Greenlee County special. The raceway placed a pace car at Clifton’s visitor center along the highway to help draw attention to the approximately 10,000 vehicles that daily travel through the town. As you know, plans of closing U.S. 191 have been ‘tabled’.
Ms. Ray arranged for the Director of the Office of Tourism to visit Greenlee County and address the tourism council. His visit helped educate attendees to better utilize the state department’s services. One specific example was learning how to place upcoming county events on the state calendar. Instant free publicity greatly increased attendance for events such as the Colors of Copper art show.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that among all these other feats, Ms. Ray voluntarily coordinated the American Red Cross blood drive visits to Greenlee County. Under her leadership, the Greenlee County drive has been one of the most fruitful for the Red Cross.
Finally, while the recent COVID 19 pandemic has closed all state offices (tourism) Leslie Ray has personally kept visitor information on the door outside the Clifton office, answered email and phone messages, and continued to promote tourism to Greenlee County.
Despite serious health issues, you cannot keep Leslie Ray down. Thank You Leslie for your tireless efforts on behalf of us all.”