Debbie Middleton finds Mesa teeming with opportunities to dive in and get involved in helping others.
“You can get into things so easily by just talking to people,” said Middleton, who will be honored in February as the 2007 Mesa Woman of the Year.
Five letters supported the nomination of the 20-year Mesa resident from Ajo.
Ginny Domer, president of the Mahnah Club, writes in her letter that Middleton is someone who intends to make a difference in the “lives of people from babies to the elderly.”
Mountain View High School Principal Craig Luketich calls Middleton “the voice of patience and reasonableness,” a “trusted and tireless worker” and widely respected for her deftness to “bring the best out of people.”
Middleton, 55, has devoted her skills to the YMCA, Model Legislature, International Student Friendship Program at Central Christian Church, Mesa Unified School District, Mesa Symphony, Girl Scouts, Phoenix Zoo, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Mesa Country Club, Save the Family Foundation of Arizona and other groups.
“Debbie’s dedication to the homeless families with children we serve is unparalleled,” said Andrea Sok, Save the Family’s volunteer director.
Middleton has donated more than 800 hours to the group, coordinating 300 Christmas sponsors and 150 Thanksgiving sponsors who deliver help and gifts to homeless families.
“She is incredibly positive and someone you are drawn to,” said Danny Dodson, executive pastor of Central Christian.
Middleton said her volunteerism in Mesa started 17 years ago when she joined the Mahnah Club.
“It’s been the biggest influence just in who that I am,” she said.
When a team from Mesa’s Man and Woman of the Year Committee showed up at her door to tell her she was this year’s recipient, Middleton said she was “pretty shocked,” then felt humble to join the ranks of so many Mesa leaders honored in the past.
“Those are people I have always admired and aspired to,” she said.
She counts numerous past recipients as friends.
Middleton’s guiding philosophy for volunteering is to employ the gifts God has given her.
“I just feel that where there is a need, please ask me,” she said. “That is how I have always looked at things.”
Just as many Arizonans never seem to get around to visiting the Grand Canyon, Middleton said many Mesans pass up the chance to serve others as volunteers.
“It is just amazing what some of the opportunities are you will just miss,” she said.
About the award
History: The Mesa Man and Woman of the Year tradition began in 1935, when then-Tribune owners Charles and Florence Mitten began presenting an award to one outstanding person. In 1967, the award was changed to recognize both a man and woman each year.
Criteria: Those nominated must have shown a record of leadership and excellence, set positive examples and have committed a greater-than-usual amount of time toward volunteer service.
Banquet: This year’s award recipients will be honored at a dinner 6 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Hilton Phoenix East/Mesa, 1011 W. Holmes Ave. Tickets are $45 and may be ordered by calling (480) 969-1818.