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First Things First Yavapai Region honored with Eddie Basha Award for Leadership and Service

Community volunteers from the First Things First (FTF) Yavapai Region were honored Thursday, Aug. 18, at the organization’s early childhood conference for their collective work to improve support services for families with young children.

The FTF Yavapai Regional Partnership Council, made up of volunteers, received the Eddie Basha Regional Partnership Council Excellence Award for Leadership and Service.

The members of the FTF Yavapai Regional Council are:

  • April Hepperle, Chair
  • Sherry Birch, Vice Chair
  • Joe Donaldson, member
  • Steve King, member
  • Vickey LaMotte, member
  • Tammy Lee, member
  • Billi Jo Stedman, member
  • Kathy Watson, member

Also seated on the regional council at the time of nomination, but whose terms expired recently, were Nancy Chopko, Rebecca Serratos and Ophelia Tewawina.

The annual award from the state’s early childhood agency recognizes one of 28 regional councils from across Arizona for inspiring its local community to unite and promote positive and lasting change on behalf of young children, thereby enriching all of Arizona.

Brandon Basha, the eldest grandson in the Basha family, presented the award online to the community volunteers at the virtual FTF 2022 Early Childhood Summit.

He applauded the council “for their systems change approach to improving health and family support services in their region.”

The work started when the regional council began to examine opportunities for transformational change or a culture shift in how health and family support organizations approach the delivery of services so that families can more easily find and access the services intended to support them and their young children.

Although there are services available to families with children who need them, often families don’t know about them.

“Families are not being referred to those services in a way that enables them to follow through,” said regional council member LaMotte. “In our area, there’s a lot of children with developmental needs and we all know that the research shows that if you have interventions earlier in life then the outcomes are much better.”

What resulted from months of poring over regional data was the FTF Yavapai Regional Council entering an agreement with Northern Arizona University Center for Health Equity Research this year to develop a Children’s Health System Collective Impact Initiative. Among the project goals is to enhance the children’s health system in Yavapai County, including supporting efforts to recruit and retain pediatric, family medicine and mental health providers. Also, to improve economic opportunity, affordable housing, transportation, food security, physical activity, and educational opportunity in the region.

“It’s a good example of everybody doing their best to do what’s best for the community and a true example of systems change in Yavapai County,” former council member Serratos said.

Prescott Valley Mayor Kell Palguta, whose office submitted the regional council’s award nomination, commended the members of the regional council and their work.

“A systematic change doesn’t happen overnight. But we look back at today and a year from now we can see how far we’ve come,” Palguta said. “And that’s what this group does, they do amazing things. They all need to be applauded.”

The FTF Yavapai Region covers all of Yavapai County, plus the city of Sedona, including the part that lies in Coconino County. The Yavapai-Apache Nation is included in the FTF Yavapai Region.

The award is named after iconic Arizona businessman, humanitarian and staunch advocate for public education Eddie Basha, who spent his life championing children and the communities that nurture them. Basha was one of the primary proponents of the ballot measure that created First Things First, Arizona’s statewide agency that funds early education and health programs to help kids enter kindergarten ready to succeed. Basha was one of the movement’s fiercest champions.

“My grandfather believed that it is everybody’s duty to help build strong families and strong communities in Arizona,” Basha said. “He made it his mission to ensure that funds were available to support our state’s youngest children. That’s why our family is so honored to have this award presented in his name.”

Ofelia Gonzalez is a public information officer at First Things First. You can reach her at​

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