Creating Pottery, Sparking Creativity and Supporting Nonprofit Organizations Valley Wide
Walking through the doors of As You Wish, a pottery painting studio, you are instantly hit with cool, damp air mixed with the smell of clay and paint. One wall of the studio is lined with shelves full of eclectic pottery pieces, ranging from vases to figurines, just waiting for someone with a spark of creativity to come along wielding a paint brush. Their studios are filled with color, beautifully painted pottery to inspire, and friendly faces to help you learn the ropes.
But what makes As You Wish truly shine isn’t just the creative outlet they provide for their guests, it’s what they are doing for their communities that is most striking.
Thinking Out of the Box
“We receive about 500 different donation requests each year, and that number keeps growing,” says Thea Schaeffer, the community outreach specialist for As You Wish. “There are so many wonderful causes out there and we find it difficult to pick and choose.”
Schaeffer has worn many hats since joining the As You Wish family in 2006. She was a part-time associate at the Scottsdale Desert Ridge Studio, a master glazer, a teacher, as well as a custom artist who painted samples, designed class projects and created one-of-a-kind specialty items for customers across the country. About two years ago she moved into her current position, where she continues to expand the As You Wish presence throughout the Valley.
There is a list of fundraising options on their website, including a Tile Wall Project, a 20 percent Give Back Event and a Family Fun Pass fundraising opportunity, but often times she thinks out of the box to help programs in need.
“I look at each request and try to find a way to say yes. In addition to getting asked for auction donations, we get some pretty unusual calls for help,” says Schaeffer.
For example, one of the groups the company supports is AZ Center For Afterschool Excellence, and for the past several years they have helped with the group’s annual conference by donating about 60 pieces of pottery, plus painting supplies, as well as glazing and firing. Kids from various schools within the Kyrene School District have painted these to create their masterpieces. And the finished products, which include all sorts of different objects like piggy banks and cups, are used as center pieces and later presented to attendees at the event.
Every year, As You Wish has a charity or two that they support and go above and beyond for to make a difference. They have been big supporters of the Girl Scouts Cactus-Pine Council, and this year, they have taken on Make-A-Wish Arizona. In addition to hosting Wish Granting Painting Parties for kids and donating items to their Wish Ball, they also offer opportunities for their employees to donate via a voluntary automatic paycheck deduction.
A Colorful Education
About a year ago, they were inspired to develop an awards program for kids called Wish Awards. Recently, they donated 300 vouchers to Canyon Rim Elementary, a Title 1 school in Gilbert. The school was looking for help with a summer incentive program in which kids can earn prizes for hitting academic benchmarks.
Kids, Valley wide, can receive a Wish Award for various achievements. The child is awarded a certificate, and with that, can paint a tiny tot pottery piece. The certificate includes studio fees, totaling a $16 value.
“This is completely free for a child who might not otherwise be able to experience As You Wish,” says Schaeffer. “There’s probably not a school in the Valley that we haven’t touched at some point, through auction donations, fundraisers or after-school programs.”
They are particularly proud of their relationship with the Scottsdale School District and the after-school enrichment classes they will provide beginning this fall. This is the third consecutive year that they have offered weekly after-school enrichment classes to several Valley schools, and while the program isn’t offered for free, the proceeds still benefit the school.
Inspired to Give
All seven Valley stores are family-owned by Scott and Lori Neff, who purchased the company from the original owner in 2007. As You Wish will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in September.
“Our customers have given so much to us over the years, and we want to give back to them and be part of their lives,” says Lori. “Giving back gives us a sense of gratification. We are all in this world together and must help each other out and work towards making it a better place.”
“Dogs, kids, families, you name it, we love them all!” says Schaeffer.
“Giving back opens the window to receive blessings. It makes you feel good personally, betters the community and it’s the right thing to do,” says Lori.