It almost did not happen. If one person had not picked up the phone, if another was not looking for a new nonprofit partner, and especially if it was not for the sheer commitment to the mission to the teens of Arizona, then Help & Hope for YOUth would have never become an initiative of the Arizona Youth Partnership. Then a once-in-a-generation pandemic hit and suddenly everyone was talking about mental health.
“If there is one benefit to the pandemic, it is that it has pushed mental health to the forefront of a lot of people’s minds,” said Cindy. Together, AZYP and Help & Hope for YOUth can impact young people state-wide, increasing the conversation and reducing the stigma around mental health.
When Lori Malagone, CEO of Arizona Youth Partnership, received a sudden phone call in late June of 2020, she thought it was a wrong number and almost didn’t pick it up. “It was so nice talking with Cindy,” said Lori. “Just in that first conversation, it was great to talk with someone who understood the language. We both could tell there was a good fit from the first moment.”
Nine months after that first call, Lori and Cindy have still never met in person. “We have had an incredibly effective transition team,” explained Lori. Between early discussions with the Arizona Together for Impact fund, having a consultant join the transition early in the process, and constantly going back to the alignment of the two missions, Help & Hope for YOUth has made a nearly seamless transition. “The number one thing for us has been connecting the dots between mental health and the work AZYP does,” Lori elaborated. “Help & Hope for YOUth joining AZYP allows both groups to expand prevention. Once we start making the connections between all of the different partnerships we have, we can start doing some really innovative work.”
For Lori and Cindy, this works because Help & Hope for YOUth can retain its autonomy. Given that AZYP operates more like a coalition than a singular organization, Help & Hope for YOUth can grow and expand in its mission, while receiving assistance from AZYP’s organizational backbone. Cindy explained, “That was always our fear: that we would become less important, or just another program. Lori and AZYP understood the mission and the need for autonomy.” Both groups are incredibly comfortable with the balance, and their teams could not be more excited for the growth that can be accomplished as partners.