School is out in Goodyear, just like it is through most of the Valley, so keeping children active during the summer becomes a challenge.
Yet, at the Park Shadows Country Homes apartment complex there is a woman who does a lot more than help children kill time on their summer break.
"Does anybody else want to be pink?" asked Pamela Graham. "Which blue?"
Graham has somehow captured the attention of this group of students with a little paint and wood.
"Now it's OK if you get this on your fingers. If you get it on your clothes, mom might be a bit upset," Graham told the children as they got their instructions for building some wooden cars in the same style as the Cub Scouts' Pinewood Derby competition.
The complex was selected to be part of the federal lunch program that ensures kids receive a balanced meal even during summer break.
But Graham and the folks at Park Shadows Country Homes have taken it a step further, providing daily activities, 2 1/2 hours of instruction and fun, where parents know their kids won't be lounging on the couch glued to the TV.
"She's excellent with the kids," said fellow volunteer Kimberly Hoffman.
"She's so kind; she gives of herself and she cares about the children tremendously," said Vickie Sweet, a parent whose two children take part in the program.
But Graham isn't a billionaire, and as such, has to rely on donations to keep her arts and crafts going.
The budget is tight.
That's why Hoffman thought Graham would be the perfect recipient for this week's CBS 5 Pay it Forward award of $500.
"I think she's going to be shocked because we sat down and looked at stuff at the beginning of the program, saying I wish we could get this but that's way too much money," Hoffman said.
Hoffman and CBS 5 met Graham at the apartment complex during a session with the kids where they were constructing their Pinewood Derby cars. That's where Hoffman let her in on the surprise.
"Pam, because you are helping out so much with the summer lunch program, I want to pay it forward and give $500 to the summer lunch program."
"Thank you!" a visibly excited Graham said. "We can order things straight from the catalog! Wow, I didn't even know. This is so cool."
CBS 5 thought $500 might help Graham with a week's worth of classes.
But her emotional reaction was more understandable when she said that amount of money can keep her kids wrist-deep in paint and fun for the next two years.
"Amazed. I did not expect something like that," Graham said as she choked back tears. "Frankly, I thought it was going to be more kids. I just …"
In reality, Graham said she would be fine with more kids taking part.
It was obvious that for her, this program is more than a summer diversion.
She said she wants the children to end their summers armed with as much knowledge and confidence as she can pack into a fast-paced afternoon.
"I like the kids, and I believe in them," Graham said. "I want to be able to give back to the kids and let them know that they can do anything if they put their minds to it.
"It's just amazing. Thank you so much."
Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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