United Way Grant to support the Monster Exchange pantry at EA

Lori Dugan Photo/EAC: Eastern Arizona College received a $32,750 grant from the United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties last week that has been earmarked to support the college’s Monster Exchange food pantry. Pictured are, from left, Clare Santas, Americorps Vista; Denise Benton, United Way executive director; Amanda Patterson, United Way grants manager; Danny Smith, United Way board member; Patti Wren, EAC student life administrator; Todd Haynie, EAC president; Charmaine Chidester, EAC director of grants; Hannah Webster, EAC grants assistant; Rachel Richardson, EAC Monster Exchange manager; Susan Wood, EAC vice president of academic and student affairs; Heston Welker, EAC vice president of administration; and Eric Bejarano, SBDC director. 

By Hannah Webster/EAC

THATCHER — Eastern Arizona College received a $32,750 grant from the United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties last week that has been earmarked to support the College’s Monster Exchange food pantry. 

Patti Wren, EAC Student Life administrator, opened the Exchange in the Spring of 2020 to fill the void left when the Student Learning Center (SLC), which offered students access to a limited supply of food, moved into the newly renovated library. Wren started planning the Exchange at the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit, positioning it to fill a need for student access to nutritious food, toiletries, and clothing.

The Federal Government’s temporary COVID-19 stimulus monies, provided through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding, helped get the Exchange up and running. Additionally, support and donations from the community and several organizations made the Exchange possible during this time of crisis. The pandemic and federal funding has since ebbed away, but not before exposing needs in the education, health, and income of students.   

EAC continues to utilize partnerships with Bashas, the Graham County Gleaning Project, the Gila Valley Food Coalition, Our Neighbors Farm and Pantry, The Salt House, and the Lion’s Club Pow Wow. The Exchange also accepts donations from the community of clothing, school supplies, and toiletries, as well as cash, to renew supplies when donations fall short. These partnerships and donations are greatly appreciated as they have helped to curb hunger, clothe bodies, fill backpacks, and maintain hygiene. In 2021 alone, the Exchange served more than 400 students over the course of just under 3,000 visits and has set a goal to increase the number of students served by 10% this year.

 “Since starting the Monster Exchange two years ago, I have received several comments from EAC Alumni expressing how grateful they are that we offer this service to our students,” stated Wren. “Knowing we are actively able to assist our students physically, emotionally, and academically makes our efforts completely worthwhile. The Monster Exchange is one important way we focus on student success here at EAC.”  

EAC director of grants, Charmaine Chidester, expressed gratitude to all the contributors to The United Way, “We want to acknowledge and thank Freeport-McMoRan and their employees, the City of Safford and their employees, and all others that donate to the United Way. The grant enables us to continue this important wrap-around service for our students.”

Monster Exchange is open Monday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and is available to all EAC students. For more information contact Monster Exchange manager, Rachel Richardson, at (928) 428-7027 or Rachel.Richardson@eac.edu.