Help for refugees in Phoenix, an Eagle Scout rank and a driver’s license.
Queen Creek teenager Ben Rogers is working on a project that will help him accomplish all three goals, and he needs the public’s support to achieve all three in that order.
Ben, 15, is a sophomore at American Leadership Academy High School in Queen Creek and a member of Boys Scouts Troop No. 668, also in Queen Creek. He is the third oldest of six children ranging in age from 6 to 19 — five boys and one girl — in the Rogers family, he said during an interview.
Involvement in both the Boys Scouts and Cubs Scouts of America runs in his family. His father, Steve, and his older brothers — Mason and Zach — are all Eagle Scouts. Mr. Rogers’ parents required him to earn his Eagle Scout rank before he could get his driver’s license, and it’s a requisite he and Ben’s mother, Monica, have passed on to their sons.
“Once they get their driver’s license, kids get too busy so we want our children to focus on community service before that,” Mrs. Rogers said during an interview.
Aspiring to earn the rank Eagle Scout comes with requirements of its own. Not only must Boys Scouts earn a total of 21 merit badges but they also must plan, develop and lead others as part of a service project helpful to any religious institution, school or their community, according to the U.S. Scouting Service Project website: http://usscouts.org.
The idea to produce a musical showcase as a service project came last year from Ben’s mother, who suggested her son draw on his theater experience. Ben has been active on stage since the age of 8 and he fondly remembers dancing in the show “Jungle Book” at the grand opening of the Queen Creek Branch Library in November 2008.
“I was the first kid inside the doors when they opened,” Ben said, smiling.
Since then he has appeared in musicals such as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “The Music Man,” Shakespeare’s “12th Night” and Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
A wide variety of ALA student and local performers will be showcased during the Welcome to America Project Benefit Showcase. It will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, in the ALA High School auditorium, 23908 S. Hawes Road in Queen Creek.
Ben expects the show to last 60-75 minutes. Scheduled to perform are the ALA Ballroom Team, backup ballroom team and pre-ballroom team, the future Eagle Scout and driver said. In addition, the school’s Hip-hop Crew and Inspire Choir will take center stage.
Two singers with local ties who also will perform that night have gained popularity thanks to their YouTube videos. Evie Clair and Josh Mortensen will each perform solos as well as a duet.
Evie, 12, is an Arizona singer and musician who has been performing since she was 2, according to her website: www.evieclair.com. She got her public start as Molly in the musical “Annie” at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert when she was 8. She performed the national anthem at an Arizona Diamondbacks game, released two original pop singles, won in her category at the 2014 Arizona’s Rockin’ with Talent and received one of three judges choice awards in a world-wide contest for her cover of “Glorious,” according to her website.
Josh is a 13-year-old singer, musician and actor from Gilbert, according to his YouTube page.
Welcome to America Project
Ben likes that his choice of a musical fundraiser is a little outside the box for a service project. So is his project’s beneficiary, he said.
“I have decided to be a little unconventional with it and put on a benefit concert to raise donations for refugees coming into America and the Phoenix area with nothing but the clothes on their back and maybe a suitcase,” Ben wrote in an e-mail to the Queen Creek Independent when he asked for help in promoting the benefit showcase.
The topic of refugees immigrating to Arizona may be controversial, Ben said, but he has experienced the families and individuals from Syria, Afghanistan, Burma, Somalia, the Congo and other nations firsthand and knows the impact the donations can make on their lives.
The Rogers family donates some time each month to the Welcome to America Project. The nonprofit organization is composed of a network of volunteers who work with local social service agencies to help refugee families get started by donating furniture, household goods, clothing and a warm welcome, according to its website: www.wtap.org.
Since 2001, more than 2,000 families have been helped and thousands of people have volunteered in some way, according to the website. The Welcome to America Project is one of several nonprofit organizations to which the Rogers family donates its time, Ben’s mother said. Mrs. Rogers said volunteering teaches her children to be service-oriented. She chose nonprofits such as WTAP, Feed Our Starving Children and Queen Creek-based Pan de Vida because they allow children of all ages to volunteer and help, she said during an interview.
She had heard a lot of negatives voiced toward refugees and wanted to humanize them, have her children see their plight, and she found the Welcome to America Project.
“This organization allows even our 6-year-old to go and see how much we have and how much of a difference we can make,” she said.
WTAP Executive Director Collin Cunningham was thrilled to hear her organization had been designated as the recipient of the donations.
“I love when young people reach out to us and want to have an impact in their community,” Ms. Cunningham said during a phone interview. “Ben had a creative idea and he put in into action.”
WTAP sees about 12 families per month and about 150 families per year, about 25 percent of refugees coming to Arizona, Ms. Cunningham said. The organization is working hard to help even more families, she said. The donations from Ben’s showcase will help because refugee families arrive with very few possessions, she said.
The WTAP warehouse is at 2420 W. First St. No. 67 in Tempe. Its main office number is 602-490-0088. For more information about the organization, visit www.wtap.org.
Instead of selling tickets to the showcase, Ben is asking patrons to contribute household and other items that he can donate to WTAP. Among the most needed items are clothes-drying racks, twin sheet sets and stock pots, Ms. Cunningham said.
“These are items that rarely get donated but most refugee families really want to help them survive or because of what they bring to the family,” Ms. Cunningham said. “For example, a stock pot is important to feed a large family and a clothes-drying rack helps to save on utilities and dry clothes for a large family.”
Other items the organization can use include: new or gently used household items such as vacuums, coffee makers, dishes, bath towels, hygiene products and twin sheet sets, as well as school supplies and cash and gas cards.
In addition, donations may be dropped off between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sept. 26-30 to the front offices of both ALA High School campuses: 23908 S. Hawes Road in Queen Creek (phone number 480-987-4500) and 850 W. Combs Road in San Tan Valley (phone number 480-344-9898).
Ben called the refugees he has met “amazing.”
“You don’t realize what a privileged life you lead until you meet them, that something as simple as a ball can bring such happiness to a little girl, like the girl I met who was hobbling on her foot because it was injured by shrapnel,” he said.
Sometimes translators help with their conversations, while some of the immigrants can speak English. Always, Ben said, the refugees express their appreciation in one way or another.
“They are extremely grateful that someone cared enough to give them some things. There are a lot of tears,” he said.
If you go
What: The Welcome to America Project Benefit Showcase, featuring performances by the American Leadership Academy High School’s ballroom dance companies, the Hip-hop Crew and Inspire Choir, as well as YouTube singers Evie Clair and Josh Mortensen, who will perform together and separately.
When: 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 24.
Where: American Leadership Academy High School auditorium, 23908 S. Hawes Road in Queen Creek.
Why: Eagle Scout project by ALA student Ben Rogers to supply refugees in the Phoenix area with clothing and household goods.
Cost: Donations of new or gently used household items such as vacuums, coffee makers, stock pots, clothes drying racks, dishes, bath towels, hygiene products and twin sheet sets, as well as school supplies and cash and gas cards.